On Sweating

The official temperature in Shanghai has been hovering around 39C for a few weeks now, but only because city employees get to go home if the official thermometer crosses the big four O. Unofficial thermometers have been well above 40C when the sun is out. Recently Shanghai has also had the pleasure of Beijing quality smog, making visibility low and causing general malaise. We are all suffering through it; the white shirts that go translucent just by riding the metro, the sticky skin and that general desire to just get back in the shower every minute of the day.

I’m from Tucson, Arizona, which is famous for a few very old things and peoples (oh and old people), and infamous for many modern things (with a few exceptions). Tucson is not the hottest place in Arizona, or in the United States, but with a good chunk of the year spent above  37C (100F), it isn’t the nicest place to be.

Oh but it is a dry heat!

I won’t pretend to compete with the dirty south america/asia, but it rains every afternoon from mid July to September. Sometimes the rain doesn’t even hit the ground. We get our fair share of soggy heat. Oh, and my family didn’t have air conditioning until I was a junior in High School. We used to go visit flower shops just to stand in the cold room. I saw Robin Hood, Men in Tights 15 times, just for the AC in the theater (and Dave Chapelle).

My point is not that Tucson is the most hellish place on earth — even my rebellious teenage self wouldn’t have said that — but to lay the groundwork for the following statement: I know how to be uncomfortably hot. With this knowledge, I give you my secret:

Everyone else is hot too. Talking about it makes it worse.

I admit, it’s not actionable advice, it’s more advice to be inactive. Don’t talk about it. It’s like complaining about traffic, or bumpy roads, or too much MSG, or people who don’t own deodorant on the metro — focusing on it won’t make it go away, and talking about it just annoys the people in earshot.

  • Hydrate, wear a hat, and remember the oasis on the horizon isn’t there — or isn’t the right kind of oasis.
  • Know your limits, take 30% off the top, and understand what it might feel like to die, so you don’t.
  • Someone should explain to me why old Chinese men tie a hot towel around their wrists.
  • Iced Tea is delicious, but doesn’t hydrate as well as water.
  • The whole spicy foods and hot tea help you stay cool is bogus.
  • Sports Drinks will eventually destroy your kidneys.

Other things to keep in mind before complaining about Shanghai heat are the people in Pakistan, China, Africa, Russia and elsewhere who can’t escape the heat and its effects. Yeah, that’s right. I’m a downer. This is all linked together and we should all be very, very worried. If you want to complain, I suggest channeling that unhappiness into helping those who really need it in Pakistan or Africa (I couldn’t find reputable organizations collecting money for Russia or China), or get involved with your favorite local Climate Change action group. There are plenty of them.

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