Acclimate? Ventilate!

When we first arrived in Sri Lanka, it was hot. I sweated like a pig, especially after my walks to and from campus. “No problem,” people told me. “You will become acclimated soon enough.”

Next week, we will have been in Sri Lanka for five months. Some of you have seen a photo that Kris sent out which shows the results when I simply walk across campus. Those of you who have not seen the photo may get a mental picture from one person’s reaction to the photo: “It looks like he sprung a leak.” So I have officially lost hope in the process of “acclimation.”

In blue collar, American English we have a phrase that, if said in anger to a stranger is extremely rude, but if said humorously to a friend might simply be considered “earthy.” It is said in response to someone pushing some unwanted thing at you, or metaphorically, asking you to endorse an unwelcome idea or plan. You simply tell your partner in the conversation to “stick it where the sun don’t shine.”

I have been pondering this phrase lately for a medical reason. I know that the phrase most often refers to a portion of the anatomy where “the sun don’t shine” because it is actually interior to the body. However, I would like to generalize it to that portion of the nearby anatomy where “the sun don’t shine” because of a nearly universal custom, for both men and women, that this area of the body should always be covered with clothing.

Now my recent near obsession with this region of my body has less to do with the fact that “the sun don’t shine there” as with the fact that, and for the same reasons,  “the wind don’t blow there.” And in a hot, humid, tropical climate like Sri Lanka, that means that “the skin don’t dry there.” And that means, well, I think you all know what that means. I have a condition roughly equivalent to one that my mother last treated me for in 1954.

Kris and I refer to the process of encouraging “the wind to blow there” as “ventilation” and we are both spending an increasing amount of time “ventilating” as the weather warms up. So I now often wear a sarong at home. Often only a sarong, if you catch my drift. Which reminds me, where did the phrase ” going commando” come from? Do commandos not wear underwear? I would think commandos would wear bullet-proof underwear. We do not let Little Leaguers play catcher without a cup, but we send our troops to battle without even that amount of protection? What sense does that make? Oh. Nevermind. There is a discussion on the origins of the phrase “going commando” on Wikipedia. See also: True Scotsman. Pick your favorite explanation for the phrase’s origin. Is there anything that Wikipedia does not cover?

I also spend time that I refer to as “worshiping the air conditioner.” We have no “temple of the air conditioner” at home sadly, so I save this for a hotel room or other public building. In Sri Lanka there is a common type of air conditioner that is is mounted about seven feet off the floor of an office or hotel room and the cold air is directed generally downward. This is the ideal “temple” for my worship rites. I stand immediately in front of the air conditioner and raise my arms, hands pointing at the air conditioner. I then bow slightly at the waist, up and down,  to the air conditioner god. If I am worthy, the air conditioner god will blow cold air down my sleeves, drying my axillary regions.

I have mentioned that I walk to work pretty much every day.  Another act of ventilation occurs when I arrive at my office. I close the door to my office. I turn the ceiling fan to “H” for “hurricane.” I stand directly under the fan. I then assume the Kung Fu fighting posture called “The Stork,” where my arms are raised to the side, elbows slightly bent, hands at shoulder level, fingers splayed and pointing directly downward, feet placed a shoulder’s width apart. I hold this pose for about fifteen minutes until my shirt has mostly dried and I feel presentable in public.

Please excuse me. I have to go apply my medicine. Kris and I hope that, wherever you are, you are all well ventilated.



1 Comment

  1. Matt said,

    March 7, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I only experienced a week of conditions like you describe while a camp counselor out in the Ozarks. Day in, day out, I would certainly fare no better than you describe.

    On a humorous (and related) note, let me just say that you have also reminded me of “The Scotsman.”

    As a point of comparison, we wandered around yesterday marveling at how “warm” it was in Meadville. It was the second day in a row that we had no snow, and the temperatures had fully stretched up around 12C/55F. It was like summer had come to the snow belt…

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