Saturday, July 16, 2005

pissin' the money away

At Smoo, I'm in an office with a bunch of ladies. They're a great crew, always feeding me food (I've felt guilty for not having brought them anything in return, but I've been dirt poor) and giving me the chance to practice Korean. Most of them are Korean teachers, so they know how to make themselves understood to us goofy non-native speakers of Korean. A couple of them are pretty cute, too, though most of them are married.

Alas, they have one flaw, these ladies-- a flaw shared by many Koreans: they love to leave the goddamn windows open while the A/C is blowing. In America, we're taught that this amounts to throwing your money out the window, and I agree*. Especially in the evening-- when fucking mosquitoes are zooming in like miniature TIE fighters-- keeping the windows open is a dumb, dumb move. Many Koreans, traditional at heart, can't stand closed windows because they feel that an open window somehow connects you more closely to nature. Never mind that we're in Seoul, which is about as removed from nature as New York City. I don't see how letting in more pollution and humidity can be considered healthy.

The standard Korean reply to A/C lovers like me is naeng-bang-byeong, literally, "cold room sickness," the result of having an air conditioner on in an enclosed room. In contrast with the ridiculous "fan death" superstition, there are indeed reasons to be cautious in how you use your A/C. Having worked for a company that deals with infection control, I can attest that A/C filters are often breeding grounds for all sorts of microscopic nastiness. But the answer to this is not to open a window: it's to clean your filters and keep those windows closed.

Another reply is that Americans keep their A/Cs on too cold a setting, which means it's really the American's problem if he's sweltering while everyone else shivers. What I find hilarious about this argument is that it's usually accompanied by the accusation that Americans are wasteful with electricity... even as the accuser is turning on the A/C and opening a window.

There's another angle: I'm increasingly convinced that women in general-- and not just Korean women-- prefer a room to be slightly warmer than what men find comfortable. Perhaps this is a subtle attempt at destroying sperm. Or maybe women find a heat-relaxed scrotum more aesthetically appealing than a ball sac that's been transformed into a tire tread by the cold (as one of my friends puts it). Further research is called for. Whatever their motives, many ladies I know seem to get cold far too easily.

Ladies of Smoo: I love you, but you really should make a choice. Either close the windows and use the A/C, or turn that puppy off and let the skeeters invade.

Ladies everywhere else: I love you, but keep the room cold. I have a selfish reason for this:


*Many Americans drive with the windows open and the A/C blowing. I find this equally stupid. In Korea, one of the most frustrating things is sitting in a sweltering car with a driver whose idea of "cooling" is to put the A/C on its absolute lowest setting. Might as well kill the A/C and roll the windows down all the way-- two-fifty-five air conditioning, as we used to call it back home: two open windows at 55 miles an hour. And one sunburned arm.


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