Monday, September 13, 2004


Sometimes I wonder how I ended up living in a country where the weather is so determined to make my life uncomfortable. Why couldn't I have chosen a place with more congenial weather? I'm fretting over this today because classes start on Thursday, and we haven't yet had the few days of comfortable weather that usually precede the new semester, in which I rush around and get six weeks of procrastinated work done. It's still horribly humid, horribly hot, and impossible to sleep comfortably. And it's predicted to stay like this for the next week at least. If it does I'll be starting the new semester horribly unprepared. I'd intended to get started on organising things today, but it was just too damned hot and sticky to move.

Maybe tomorrow, but I doubt it. I'll need total panic to get me going in this weather, which means Wednesday will be a nightmare.

This is happening partly because this is a particularly nasty summer, partly because one of my universities is starting back a week earlier than it used to and earlier than any of the others, and partly because of the same changing climate patterns that are causing the ridiculous number of typhoons coming our way this year. But I don't care what causes it. All I know is that the weather here is not suitable for normal human beings like me.

In summer I suffer from prickly heat because of the heat and humidity. In winter I get static shocks off everything because it's so dry. There is one particular doorknob at one place I work which I cannot avoid, and which I regard with dread whenever I approach it, winter or summer. It has given me such huge jolts that I have dropped everything I'm carrying, screaming, and has made me permanently wary. I have amazed colleagues with the huge spark that leaps from the doorknob to me (or is it vice versa? I'm always too shocked to notice) when I touch this doorknob. They've never seen anything like it.

The static shock thing can be embarrassing in the classroom, as well as very inconvenient. It gets tiring trying to explain to students that you didn't just throw the chalk into the air because of a sudden attack of joyfulness: it was the chalk ledge, giving you a large and sudden zap. I used to go through a lot of chalk like that until I learned the trick of picking it up delicately, in my fingernails. But still, I sometimes forget, and yet another nice new piece of chalk flies through the air, shatters on the floor, and the students giggle nervously.

I've decided to get a new hard drive for my Powerbook. The one I have my eye on is a 60 gig Hitachi drive, 7200 rpm - the fastest and biggest my little computer will handle, I think. (I have only 6 gig now, so it will feel like real luxury.) But The Man will be swapping out the drive for me. I'm not risking frying the computer with my static buildup, even in this humidity. I've never met anybody who gets shocks like I do. I think I have a built-in static electricity generator.

I may be offline for a day or two while this job is being done. I don't know how long it will take, but I want to get it finished before Thursday.

A long time ago I did a job for a large electronics company here, an intensive English language course for an employee who was going to be working abroad. You would know the name of the company - it's a big one. The guy I was teaching five days a week/three hours a day turned out to be both intelligent and funny, for which I was grateful (you can get some dull ones who make the 15 hours a week feel like 15 painful years). He was an electronics engineer, and he was amazed by my ability to build up static. He told me I would be banned from the factory where they manufacture electronic parts. The workers in there have to wear a static strip to drain static from their bodies, but he reckoned I would be a risk even with the strip. He knew a lot about electricity but found me puzzling, and kept asking me questions about what my clothes were made from and what I ate and so on. Everyone wore slippers in the company building, so shoes weren't the problem. He'd make me take the slippers off and then walk over and touch the coffee machine. Or he'd ask me to stand still for a while then touch something. And then walk five paces and touch it again, and yelp. He was fascinated by my electric properties. I could work up a blue spark in five paces, and he thought it was hilarious.

I mostly found it irritating. I wanted him to tell me how to stop it from happening. But he didn't know.

But at least he did teach me how to get a coffee from the machine without getting a jolt that sent me reeling across the room, and I've been using his method ever since.


Anonymous said...

It's the silk knickers.

Badaunt said...

Have you been stalking me? How did you know about my -

Oh, the static, you mean.

Actually, In winter especially I try to wear things that are not supposed to build up static. It doesn't help much, but if I wore silk knickers they'd probably be peeling me off the ceiling every five minutes.