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Rob Jenkinson's Letters from America #14
by Rob Jenkinson
2007-01-02 10:24:40
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Dear readers, it’s dry.

Now, I’m sure that at least some of you are in Finland and will be thinking, “So what? It’s dry in Finland, quit your incessant whining,” and I know what you’re talking about. I’ve been to Finland numerous times and each time parts of my face started to flake off. But, I’m convinced it’s drier in New York.

My palms are dry, for God’s sake! I know it’s horrible, but I’m one of those blokes who when you shake his hands, you think, “Urgh, sticky warm wetness. I must make a mental note to wash my hands before I touch any food.” It’s horrible and I’m terribly conscious of it, so much so that before meeting anyone important, I’ll run into the bathroom and put my hands under a dryer for a short while. Which is hard to do in America as they aren’t all that common. They much prefer motion activated paper towel dispensers, which never fucking work, so you end up looking a right fool waving at a machine, which finally dispenses after the air from your frantic wafting has dried your hands.

Anyway, I digress, my palms are dry. I’m finding it hard to adjust to. I’m so used to them being at a constant moist level that it feels really odd. I haven’t watched a movie which involves someone walking along the edge of a building (that usually sets them off) yet, but I’ll let you know how I get on.

Not only are my palms dry, it’s so dry that the backs of my hands are cracking. It’s actually painful. My lips are chapped and I rub my forehead and it looks like it’s snowing.

For those of you who’ve actually been to the UK, you’ll understand why I’m struggling so much. See, at this time of the year, the UK isn’t covered in a beautiful bed of snow, like the movies would have you believe. It’s wet, wet and more wet. Going outside is like walking into a very cold steam room.

I’m used to constant moisture. It’s so wet in the UK, that if you don’t protect your building properly you’ll get something known as “Rising Damp”, a horrible condition where the walls get damp and it literally climbs up the walls. It’s awful and can actually make you pretty ill. It costs a bit to get thoroughly cured, but a quick solution is to use a dehumidifier, which extracts the moisture from the air and sticks it in a container.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m absolutely obsessed with rising damp. It’s true, but not with out good reason. The first place where I lived in London got damp because the basement flooded. The mattress of my bed got mould on it and I ended up getting a dehumidifier and it used to suck about a gallon of water out of the air everyday.

So with that in mind, imagine how freaked out I was when introduced to a “Humidifier”? It’s crazy. It does the exact opposite that a dehumidifier does. You stick a gallon of water into a container and then it heats it up and shoots the steam into a room. When I first heard of this contraption, I thought it was ridiculous. “Who’d want to use that?” was what I thought. The answer is “me”.

I’m telling you, thank God for the invention of the humidifier. My average evening is now spent around it letting the steam engulf my face and imagining that I’m stood on a Clapham Junction platform thinking “where the fuck is that fucking train.” It gives me the moisture and makes me glad that I don’t live in London anymore.

I think the humidifier is an invention of the last two decades or so. A lot of Americans combat the problem of dryness by putting big pots of water on their radiators. But, only people in old apartment buildings can do this. Watch some movies and keep and eye out for pots on the radiators.

Right, I’m off to wait for the 18:42 to Balham. It’s bastard late again.

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