Thursday, January 8, 2015

Humidity on Fire

humidity fog encircles Fanar
 
I'm inside my peaceful apartment when the alarm goes off. Get out get out get out! it shrieks.
 
Mid-September in Doha. Outside temperatures hover just above hell and death. Humid, boiling air shimmers, a pavement tornado. Hair wilts. Shoes melt. Water courses down buildings, fogs window panes, puddles on sidewalks.
 
Hot is sunshine, warmth, rosy cheeks. Humidity is clothing glued to slick, greasy skin.
 
Love the hot. The humidity? Not so much.
 
The boardwalk below my window is empty as a world of people seek relief from the boiling, burning steaminess in air conditioned interior Doha. Where always on AC's hum icy wind into corners. And temperatures range from cool-and-breezy to Alaska-meets-Antarctica levels. I huddle in a thick blanket wearing fuzzy socks and a sweatshirt. Goosebumps rise on my arms and legs. My scalp tingles.
 
I am polar ice wrapped in equatorial fire.
 
I turn off the AC and the ice in my nose melts. I remove the blanket, toss aside the socks. Comfortable - but only for a moment.
 
When muggy air stops moving, summer smells like warm bread and beach morph rapidly into moldy shower and old meat. Spicy food scents shuffle in through the ceiling and walls and make me sneeze. The kitchen vent bleats open/shut/open/shut as laborers toiling over yet another roof construction project allow sultry air in/out/in/out. Sweat mounts the hair on my arms and bubbles at my scalp. The wet tickles.
 
I flip the AC back on. But this time I also open the balcony door.
 
Sweltering air mixes with frosty wind like hot and cold tap water. Soon the environment is a perfect combination of winter's chill and summer's scorch. I move easily from the air conditioned balcony to the heated living room. I am a grassy bank in the American Midwest Fall, a trip to the lake in the Missouri USA Spring. Feet tapping cool water, skin caressed by the perfect breeze. Garnished with just enough hot.
 
I fold the blanket, toss socks and sweaty shirt into the laundry, dance across the living room.
 
The alarm is shrill and sudden, a horn in my ear. Lights flash at the intercom. Fire? The hallway outside my apartment is silent.
 
I search the single bedroom, living room, kitchen, bath, laundry space. No fire, no embers, no smoke, no place to hide.
 
I call the front desk. The receptionist yawns. "Someone will come," she says. In sha allah. "No worries."
 
Head throbbing from the shrieking alarm, I slam and lock doors, stumble down two flights of stairs, run across a garage, descend two additional floors and hurry through a hall to the front desk. "There's a fire in my apartment," I say. Maybe?
 
"He is coming," says the receptionist. She shrugs. "Never mind."
 
I reverse the journey, return to the apartment. The alarm is off. The frozen room hums. Let it go, it seems to say.
 
Twenty minutes later a single security guard arrives, wearing a coat. He wanders the apartment, peeks into corners. "Did you open the door, ma'am?" His voice accuses.
 
I nod.
 
He shakes his head, sighs. "It's the humidity, Ma'am. But do not worry. If it was a real fire, we would come."
 
I reach for my blanket, a clean pair of fuzzy socks. Another sweatshirt. The cold never bothered me anyway, I think.
 
Only…it's not true.
 
 
Read more about (my experience with) Doha's weather: 
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