By Wayne Chan, AsAmNews Humorist
I am an expert in climate change.
No, not THAT kind of climate change. Not the kind of climate change that’s on the news every day. To be specific, I’m talking about air conditioners, particularly when it comes to travel.
Inevitably, when we get together with friends and talk about travel, while everyone else will talk about, say, the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, the incredible beauty of Hawaii’s beaches, or the lights of Paris, many of my most vivid memories are with how unbelievably comfortable the air conditioning was AFTER visiting one of the world’s most noteworthy attractions.
Oh sure, I’ll do my best to come up with some traditional anecdotes so my friends won’t look at me in complete bewilderment. I’ll say, “You know, I had no idea that the pyramids were that tall!”, but deep down inside, I was thinking, “the airflow coming down from the sixth-row seat of the tour bus literally blew my mind.”
You may ask, “Why do I have such a fascination with air conditioning?” Well, you can blame my parents.
As a child, most of my summer breaks were spent traveling in Asia. Usually China or Taiwan – that was the destination. You might say that I should appreciate how lucky I was to go on such extensive travel as a youth, and you’d be right. I had many adventures and much to be thankful for.
But let me just give you the bottom line – Asia in the summer is hot. It’s sweltering hot. Imagine walking around Las Vegas in the middle of July but forced to walk around with smoking hot towels draped all over you while you’re mandated to guzzle down a boiling hot cup of tea – it’s that kind of hot.
My most memorable trip was in the 80’s, and this time, not with my parents. As many Chinese-American youth will be familiar with, my parents sent me on The Love Boat.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Love Boat, this is a summer trip for Chinese American teenagers to travel to China to attend Chinese language courses as well as tour parts of their ancestral history in the country. Learn about Chinese history and improve your Chinese language skills. That’s what it’s supposed to be.
For a bunch of 16-year-old kids, it’s more like a hormone-driven dating free for all. Don’t forget that we’re already sweltering in Beijing in the middle of August and covered in smoking hot towels. We’re basically walking tinderboxes. I heard tales of students spontaneously combusting in the searing heat of the afternoon.
But back to the air conditioning.
At this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that while on my summer sojourn to Beijing, I did get to visit The Great Wall. It was an amazing sight. I would provide more details but I didn’t see that much after 45 minutes walking up some of the steep staircases on the wall in the blistering heat, I spent the rest of the day luxuriating in the cool air-conditioned confines of the tour bus.
And it wasn’t much better when we got back to campus. Five of us to a small dorm room, with small non-descript windows, mosquito netting draped around each bed to keep us from being eaten alive, and most importantly, no air conditioning.
In fact, the only place on campus that did have air conditioning was the classroom, where we would spend a few hours every day going through Chinese language class. I remember going through Mandarin pronunciation drills, but mostly I remember the gentle hum of the air conditioner as it quickly tempered my hormonal fever pitch into a more manageable status.
One evening, suffering through another night of mosquito-infested dragon heat, I started talking to Jeremy, one of my roommates, and we came up with a brilliant idea. If we don’t have air conditioning in our dorm, why don’t we try sneaking into the classroom and sleeping where there was air conditioning?
So, late that night, we crept out of our heat inferno dorm room and quietly made our way to the classroom building. We got to our classroom, and immediately discovered that the door was locked. But being the resourceful, air-conditioned-starved students that we were, we noticed that the transom window above the door was slightly ajar. I managed to boost Jeremy up, so that he could climb in the classroom and unlock the door. Voila! Nirvana!
What added to our luck was that the classroom had an adjacent bathroom and shower. So, not only were we about to sleep in climate controlled bliss, we would be freshly showered as well. We each took a shower, and with bedding we had brought with us, Jeremy and I laid in our makeshift beds literally giggling like school girls at our ingenuity.
Think of it! All our ignorant fool schoolmates were suffocating in their dorm-like furnaces while Jeremy and I were whiling away our night in the luxury of our air-conditioned bastion. We were the Kings of the Palace!
It started slowly. I felt a tingling in my feet. Soon, my feet felt I was walking on pins and needles. Then, all of a sudden, it was like my feet had been set on fire. I started maniacally flopping back and forth under the sheets.
At one point, I frantically turned to Jeremy and yelled, “Jeremy! What is going on with my feet!?!”. I soon discovered that he was going through the same thing.
Apparently, the cleaning crew sprinkled some disinfectant on the shower stall, and that’s where the burning was coming from.
I’m just thankful that the bathroom had a shower and not a tub.
I don’t even want to think about what else could have been burning.
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