With much of the country in the clutches of a tenacious heat wave, we tend not to give a second thought to the "heat problem" in Florida.

International Drive, in downtown Orlando.

But Tampa-based Auto Club South, which provides road service for AAA members throughout Florida, reports that Orlando's summer heat wave has been overtaxing its operations there. In addition to out-of-town vacationers, there are about 168,000 Auto Club South members living in the Orlando area, according to Cindy Sharpe, the company's public relations director.

Overheating, busted fan belts, broken hoses and dead batteries account for the most common service calls, she said. But measures to overcome the service shortage will not be implemented until at least September.

AAA members who rent cars have their choice of using the car rental company's designated road service provider (if any) or Auto Club South, Sharpe said.

Generally, if a call cannot be serviced within 90 minutes, an Auto Club South dispatcher will alert the caller, and he or she will have the choice of waiting longer for service or contacting a different provider.

The member's local AAA will reimburse the member "for the reasonable, prevailing commercial rate" for services rendered. Some members are not aware of this option, Sharpe said.

Auto Club South, beginning in September, will retain preferred service providers in the Orlando area. These providers will not service members of other motor clubs, she said.

In addition, Auto Club South plans to have its own fleet of up to six tow trucks and light service vehicles augmenting the services of its authorized providers.

Some advice: Remind fly-drive clients to bring along a cell phone if they plan to do any extensive driving in Florida. Often, cell phones can be rented through the car rental company.

Dog daze

Yes, summertime, and the livin' ain't easy, and our four-legged friends are suffering too.

Dog bar.

Insider spotted the "Dog Bar" pictured here on a sidewalk in New Hope, a popular tourist spot in eastern Pennsylvania. We were pleased that a Good Samaritan had remembered the water needs of Ben, Wylie, Harry, Murphy and assorted other canine friends.

Can't win for losing

New Jersey lately has been in the throes not only of a heat wave but of one of its gargantuan state lottery payoffs, during which nonplayers must endure endless lines in stores, with players at checkout counters painstakingly reciting numbers based on grandchildren's birthdays, license-plate numbers and beloved old addresses.

It was in one of these lines that Insider heard the following:

"What's the definition of 'state lottery'?" a nonplayer in line asked of no one in particular.

"It's a tax on people who can't do math" was his own answer.

Skeeter beater

Visitors to coastal Georgia's Chatham County will be heartened to know that one man's sacrifice is their relief from the insidious multitudes of Asian-tiger and salt-marsh mosquitoes.

That man is 28-year-old Barry Salley, and his formal title is land rate person -- in lay terms, mosquito counter.

Each day he goes to 39 sites throughout the county and reports the number of mosquitoes that land on him in 60 seconds. This number, called the land rate, is used for what he calls "strategic decisions in mosquito control."

We had to ask: How much blood does he think he's lost during his two years on the job?

"I would guess almost a quart; well, maybe a pint," Salley said. Either way, we'd be itching for a career change.

Wild West Country

With the solar eclipse approaching southwest England for its Aug. 11 landfall, the British Horse Society, based in Warwickshire, is recommending that riders stay out of the saddle between about 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. that day.

"Some highly strung horses may get alarmed by the darkness," the society said, pointing out that no horse alive will have experienced an eclipse before (as if that might make a difference).

The society further recommended that if riders "have to be out" that morning, "they must make sure they and their horses are wearing fluorescent and reflective gear."

So, if riding to hounds (aka fox hunting) is, in Oscar Wilde's beautiful phrase, "the pursuit of the uneatable by the unspeakable," might not chasing eclipses on horseback be something like "the pursuit of the decandescent by the fluorescent"?

The mighty Quinn

We are acquainted with a grandmother who took off in a newly rented car with 8-year-old grandson Quin in tow.

He looked at the digital clock and asked questions about it. She explained that it told the time though it did not look like a clock on the wall. She also noted that it was not quite correct. She told Quin the clock was a few minutes slow.

Concerned, he asked her, "Why didn't you get a car that works?"

A-one, an' a-two ...

When the children were young [Bertha] had a peevish way of disciplining them. ... "If you don't eat the nice breakfast Mummy has cooked for you before I count three," she would say, "I will send you back to bed. One. Two. Three!" ... So it went on through the bath and bedtime and one two three was their lullaby.

- John Cheever,
"The Fourth Alarm"

Insider and a companion -- another Cheever fan, as it happens -- were reminded of the above during a crossing from New Jersey to Delaware aboard the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.

It was a Saturday morning, and many families with children were aboard, and barely 10 minutes out into Delaware Bay, we'd already heard two different instances of "one-two-three."

We fell into one of those desultory shipboard conversations, wondering about the origin and universality of the one-two-three strategy. We remarked on the mystical properties of threes and agreed there probably was no culture on Earth where mothers gave their children till the count of four.

As we stood at the gunnel rail, we were half aware of two preschoolers, a boy and a girl, racing and chasing each other about, to the occasional blandishments of their mother, in French. (Cape May is a popular vacation spot among Quebecois, and it is not unusual to hear French spoken there.)

Sure enough, in the fullness of time, we heard the mother call out, her voice raised for emphasis: "Regine! Robert! Une ... deux ..." And by trois, les enfants were sitting, purposefully still, on a bench, one each side of Mom.

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