Friday, May 11, 2012

Ask an offensively sweaty gweilo anything

As summer approaches on the little subtropical island upon which I now live, temperatures are rising. They are not now, nor will they ever get to be what I call “Abu Dhabi hot,” which is in the range of 115 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. But Hong Kong is subtropical—that’s why there is so much lush vegetation everywhere—and that means enough humidity to make a guy like me perspire in the act of tying my shoe.

And because I am generally much bigger than the locals, that means I am a large pillar of sweat walking among them, riding the MTR with them and crowding onto a ding-ding with them. Contact is assured, and assuredly unpleasant for them. I’m sure they were wondering what the deal was (Did he just run a marathon? Does he have a high fever?), and that has led me to write this, the first of an occasional series in which I, the offensively sweaty gweilo, answer these types of questions, asked and unasked. So without further ado, let me mop my brow and begin.

Q: Dear Offensively Sweaty Gweilo,
Why are you sweating all over this ding-ding? There is a pleasant breeze, you’re wearing short sleeves and sitting still. Help me understand this.

A: Ah, you probably saw me on Thursday. You see, Mrs. Blog and I (who is a gweilo, but most certainly not an offensive one in any way) were doing some painting. And as the bedroom neared completion, we realized that we needed one more liter of this very specific Sudan Sand color. So, long story short, I walked all over our neighborhood, then the next neighborhood over, and finally two MTR stops away to get the right stuff. And, well, motion generates heat. It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation. Sorry if I slimed you.

Q: Dear OSG,
I, a native Hong Konger, walk everywhere. There is great public transportation and the city is full of places to go. Yet I manage not to collapse into a puddle of saltwater. What’s the deal?

A: Well, I have a theory. You know how you will sometimes frustrate me by meandering along the sidewalk when I am in a hurry to get somewhere? I think you’re walking more slowly, consciously or not, to save energy and thus get less hot. I, on the other hand, bounce along on my freakishly long legs and get my metabolism all worked up. So maybe if I worked a little harder at going native, I could work a little less hard at not dripping sweat.

Q: Hey, OSG,
When I get hot, I just take off my shirt. You have probably seen me in the market, on the street, riding a motorcycle and in the mall. It’s a good solution.

A: And a fine solution it is. I have no problem doing this when I am, say, working around the house or playing basketball. But there’s something a little odd about being in a shopping mall without your shirt that I can’t get past—sorry. (Although I did once go to a New Zealand grocery store barefoot.)

Q: Dear OSG,
Since you are so comically oversized, do you ever have problems with the dimensions of everyday life here?

A: Hey, thanks for the non-sweat-related question. And the answer is yes. The ding-ding, for instance, has a ceiling that is probably about six feet tall. Maybe a little less. Which means if I’m not sitting on one of the benches, my neck is bowed down like a sad giraffe. The MTR is fine, except for the doorways—I have to duck about an inch. I was in a bank the other day in which all the employee-only doors looked to me like secret passages, with a height of no more than 5-foot-10. Having said all that, this is a city filled with people of all shapes and sizes, so it’s not usually a huge inconvenience. Except shoes. I haven’t laid eyes on a pair of size 15s since I left the U.S.

And that’s it for this installment! Thanks for writing in, and as always, the Offensively Sweaty Gweilo will be happy to answer all your burning questions… just as soon as he has a nice, cold glass of water.

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