Shoo the atchoo

Posted on February 8, 2007


Egyptian popular wisdom holds that indoor heating will make you sick. Yes, ludicrous as it may seem to readers from countries where central heating is a necessity, this is what it believed by all and sundry here. Surprisingly, cold air conditioning is seen as just fine. But that’s Egyptians for you.

Ever since winter started, my officemate and I have had the central heating on in our office. I get cold really easily and our office is all windows. Besides, both our chairs are so placed that they’re vortices of frigidity, unlike the area near the door. It got to a point where neither of us could work because our hands were too numb to type. Before my arrival she says that they used to wear gloves inside! Anyway, every single person who comes into our office, from partners to office boys, backs away slowly as if from the mouth of a volcano while saying “by the way, you guys are going to get sick,” with this air of intolerable smugness. I entered into approximately 50 conversations where I requested an explanation of their unique medical breakthrough, and went on long spiels about how being cold lowers your immunity, not being colder. Everyone gave me pitying “foreign places have unhinged her mind” kind of looks. But I did manage to convince my officemate, by mere dint of pointing out that both I and she have weathered the winter months without once catching cold, while everyone else has been staying home with the flu and fathoms of Kleenex trail from their pockets.

Having observed that everyone in our office was gearing up for a second round of unsolicited advice, we pasted the following notice on our door:


In our office, we have the air conditioner on “hot”. It is very warm. If you enter, please do not tell us that we are going to get sick; it is medically untrue that going from warm to cold makes anyone sick. It does not matter how warm you are, going into a cold environment makes you sick anyway.

Plus, neither Officemate nor Forsoothsayer have caught cold AT ALL this winter, despite our warm office, while the rest of you have. So thank you for your kind advice, but we’re OK.

Officemate also hung up a more polite Arabic version.

Unfortunately, this has not deterred visitors in the least, and they now tell us that we have tempted fate and will soon become ill; or, if they are our bosses, that we should not expect sick leave off if we do become ill. Considerable spite seems to have been stirred up at this outright rejection of centuries of Egyptian mores. Yeah, I guess the English version does kind of rub it in, but seriously, five times a day for three months. Stop.

Posted in: stupidity, work