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Tuesday, 01 June 2010

Oh My!

By Johna Ferguson

I knew someday it might happen again but I was hopeful it wouldn’t. When I was in my teens and skiing weekends with my friends, that’s when it first happened. That was way back when and we dressed for the cold differently; none of this polypropylene wicks-away material, just our everyday clothes and layers of them.

On the lower half of one’s body, first the underpants, then the knit cotton pajama bottoms, then a pair of lightweight pants and finally a pair of heavy cords. On the top half, layers of things but of course, all wouldn’t tuck into the cords, just the tee-shirt and overblouse, not the wool ski sweater or nylon jacket.

There weren’t modern ski lifts like today, just rope tows or hike up the hill yourself. But there was a lodge at the start where you could buy hot chocolate, rest your tired legs before a huge fireplace, and use the bathrooms.

The bathrooms were not heated since you entered them from outside the lodge, without skis on of course, so any visit there was done as quickly as possible. When my turn came, I rushed in, pulled down my pants, but of course forgot I had two other layers of unders on.

Well, yes, you can imagine my shock to realize I was wetting my inner pants before I was able to also get them down. Nothing to do, but wear them wet; my bottom was really cold the rest of that afternoon.

So here I am in China, 65 years later and it happened again. The central heat in all of northern China above the Yangtze River goes off April 5th – government orders. Those south of the river never have any central heat; just freeze or use small coal burning polluting stoves, but only before the shut-off date.

Well, it is often still very cold in April; our rooms today in Qingdao are around 55F, pretty cool for sitting and typing at one’s computer. But yes, we are fortunate in that we have auxiliary heating and can keep certain rooms nice and cozy. But the bathroom is like an icebox so I dash in and out as fast as possible.

I untucked my upper clothes from my fleece pants, pulled down those pants, but forgot I had on long johns and unders. Well, yes, I’m sure you can imagine my problem. Luckily, I have lots of changes of clothes, but I had not turned on the hot water heater so I had to take a lower-half shower in icy water.

It’s enough to make me wonder why I keep returning yearly to China. But then, when I look out the window and see I have daffodils blooming in my garden and watch the magpies having their breakfast, I know I’ll keep coming back to this life, so different from my one in Seattle.

But from now on, I’ll try to remember how many layers of clothes I’m wearing and if not that, make sure the hot water tank is turned on.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Habit makes us do things the way we always do and forgetting that something is different can result in unfortunate things happening.

To have it happen when it is freezing is terrible. I would not return to a cold climate, even with central heating. Or even with Daffodils. You are a strong woman to do so.

Love the story and you seeing the sense of humor in it. I'm reminded that we have to decide if the choice we make is worth the price we have to pay. Going to China obviously is for you. And I get the wonderful stories you tell.

Dear Johna, Well-written. Thank you. I always enjoy your stories, even one like this describing singular discomforts. Your stories remind me of the years I spent in Asia and how uncomfortable I was much of the time: either way too cold or temps and humidity in the 90s, typhoons, flying cockroaches, mold etc. But I wouldn't trade the adventures I enjoyed there for anything.

So funny! Except when it happens to you!
I've had nightmares like that, but so far no real episodes.

You are obviously a brave woman -- thank you for sharing with such unabashed honesty those incidents that most of us would never dare talk about even though we've all suffered through such moments (or certainly will). I don't envy you having to tolerate the COLD - I find that as I get older I just don't enjoy being cold at all and I grew up in Michigan where winters last for many months. Thanks again for your great stories.

I missed your earliest entries, so I am clueless why you are in China.Could you back up and explain again sometime soon? Do you stay or fly back and forth? Why do you not stay in a warm place in this country. As for wetting pants in a public restroom--oh, yeah, I did that--didn't realize in the dark the lid was closed.


Johna has explained all this in the past. You can read her previous Elder Storytelling Place contributions by clicking "The Storytellers" dropdown menu in the right sidebar and choosing Johna's name.

That will take you to a page with links to all of Johna's stories.

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