A sweltering Saturday afternoon. Lane closures on the interstate and rolling back-ups on main arteries were preventing me from getting to the restaurant where my sister, Linda, was waiting.

To say I'm not at my best in the heat is an understatement. Above 90 degrees, I wilt like a corsage after the prom, with one foot planted in the grave and the other on a banana peel. I get crabby, too.

So you'll forgive the fact that I contributed to global warming that day — which is pretty ironic — by burning a half-tank of gas keeping the car's air conditioning blasting. Otherwise, I might have spontaneously combusted, leaving Linda to find out on the evening news.

When I arrived at the restaurant Linda expressed concern at the sight of my beet-red face. She suggested a margarita for its restorative properties, but I was driving, so I opted for the biggest glass of ice water the waitress could carry.


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After lunch, Linda proposed we go shopping at Loehmann's, where fashions are out of my price-range, yet close enough to it that I can pretend I'm not getting the torn, bleach-spotted designer jeans merely because they make me look fat.

She also recommended we walk, "for exercise." Surveying the vast parking lot between us and Loehmann's, I pointed out that this walk would be more like a suicide mission. But, for some reason, I agreed.

The sun was a white-hot ball of blinding fury and the asphalt over which we trudged radiated heat upward, making it worse. My knees began shaking but I thought, "Keel over now and Linda will never let you forget it, the way she never lets you forget the time you laughed so hard, you spritzed milk all over her cake." (That was on her birthday, two years ago.)

The soles of my sandals caught fire and I began trying to catch butterflies that — according to Linda — weren't really there. I pleaded to turn back, but she intoned the magic words: "They're having a sale."

Clearance items were discounted another 60 percent, she said. But I was shooing imaginary birds out of my hair, so she added, "We get another 10 percent with my customer card."

Still a football field away, I saw sunlight reflecting off Loehmann's glass doors and I vowed to get there ... or die trying. Once in the air conditioned store, it hit me: While I'd crawled the final 20 feet on all fours, liquefied brains leaking from both ears, Linda had strolled the whole way without breaking a sweat. What a difference four years makes, I mused ... then burst into tears.

I almost got heatstroke, but it was worth it. I found three adorable items — the original prices of which added up to nearly $200 — for 38 smackers. That alone gave me strength for the trek back to our cars.

The heat index reached 107 degrees that day; but even if I'd known that before we began our death-defying slog, I'd still have done it. Because if there's ever a Bargain-Hunters Hall of Fame, that purchase will put me in the running, and future generations will honor me as an icon of frugality when making frivolous purchases.

And isn't that what it's all about: fame?

Email Cathy Drinkwater Better at cbetter@juno.com.