A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

blowing hot, blowing cold: shared a/c and cold-borne illness

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 28, 2007

While Lebanon has been facing a semi-existential crisis for the past week, my office has spent the time in an equally fierce confrontation – this one over the air conditioning.

Now, as an American, I have no objection to air conditioning. But I have been ‘conditioned’ by “50 simple things you can do to save the Earth” and other environment-friendly movements to prefer temperate rooms. (Also, I get cold easily. I think one of my ancestors was part reptile.)

Our half of the office is divided into several air conditioning camps, ranging from those who prefer a frigid 13°C to those who like a balmy 24°C, which means that the a/c is largely off, which allows Beirut’s humidity to creep in. 

Hence my work-day unfolds along a temperature continuum:

stuffyfreezing-temperate-sultry-temperate-freezing-temperate-sultry

At home I generally run my air conditioner/heater on “dry”, which takes away the humidity without making me feel like I’m in one of those super-cooled Kuwaiti malls.

Anyway. The subject of air conditioning led to a fascinating, if mutually mystifying, conversation with G yesterday, about what kind of illness comes from being cold.

G was shocked to hear that I do not believe that being cold – whether sitting under an over-charged air conditioner for too long or going out in the winter with just a t-shirt on – makes one ill in the digestively-disturbed sense.

I was shocked to hear that what I consider a universal truth – that going out in the cold can give one a cold or a fever or even the flu – may instead be merely a regional health belief.

But Diamond, G said, you cannot tell me that even if you eat only the healthiest food, if you go outside in Faraya in the middle of winter that you will not get [indigestion].

Mystified, I said, yes I can. I might get a head cold, or the flu, but my stomach would be fine.

I cannot believe it – here, in the seemingly sober field of modern medicine and health care, we have found a place where our cultures collide. Am I mistaken – are there American beliefs linking cold to stomach troubles?

In any case, I now have a new argument to wield at the office against the 13°C crowd: if you turn the thermostat down too far, there will be a mad rush for the restroom.

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One Response to “blowing hot, blowing cold: shared a/c and cold-borne illness”

  1. Med said

    When I first moved to Syria I couldn’t believe how many students offered “I slept under the air conditioner” as an excuse for missing class. By the time I left four years later I had given up on arguing with people over it.

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