17 August, 2011

Curent Events

Today's rant is one of those things that got put on my "to-do" list ages ago, and only seemed to come again to the forefront when I was least able to sit and type about it. So back on the shelf it would go, nestled against other permanently postponed items of my mental itinerary such as success and wealth. But today the happy coincidence occurred, and the subject came up at an office where I am well-equipped to type about things.

I don't spend lots of time at this office, but when I do I like to breathe air not so choked with days of second-hand cigarette smoke from the staff or skin-dissolving chemicals from the cleaning crew. So I open the window when I can, common sense permitting of course. During a January blizzard, I probably wouldn't. But today was a typical Bucharest summer day, meaning the air outside was already 30 degress C and climbing. But it was also a good deal fresher than the air in the office, and when you consider the former is metropolitan Bucharest city air, you get an idea of just how bad the latter must have been. So, as I said, I opened my window. Immediately, the chap across the hall jumped up from his seat and apologetically closed his door, explaining that I had created "curent." And thus we come to one of the few remaining (of an admittedly shrinking list but I think this one will stay forever) phenomena of the culture that consistently blow my mind (pun, of course, intended). The Eastern European mortal fear of the breeze.

This concept has already been surprisingly well-documented in several other blogs and forums, so as usual I'll cut corners and just quote them:

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention, among my personal experiences, my Romanian acquaintance who swore that the frequent earthquakes in the Vrancea area were caused by high winds, and gusty days would find this individual waiting seriously and anxiously for the inevitable tremor to follow.

Granted, views on breezes are universal between East and West up to a certain degree, literally. Opening a window in winter is usually silly. Freezing air, while not carrying pathogens itself, does distract your body's resistance to them and thus the link between cold air and sickness is perceived. But in mid-summer? Common sense and Eastern Europe clearly go on separate holidays. To consider hazardous a calm breeze containing air of 35 degrees C is not only incredible, but irresponsible, particularly when the preferred alternative is to sweat profusely at your desk, risking heat fatigue or at least true sickness from breathing in the same cigarette-smoked air that just came out of someone else's lungs along with who knows what else.

And this last bit may seem like a cheap shot until you've experienced it first-hand: As reported in The Bucharest Herald in April, a Romanian consumes an average of only two tubes of toothpaste and four bars of soap per year. Virtually all the Romanians I know seem (smell?) to be well above that average, which means for the average to be what it is, others need to operate well below it. A short trip on any Bucharest public transit will instantly reveal their whereabouts. And if that's not an argument in favor of opening a window, especially in warm weather, then I truly don't understand it.

EDIT: Just thought of this last bit, which is almost certainly a cheap shot but funny nevertheless.  If Romania is so intolerant of hot wind, then how do you explain Parliament? Har har har.


  1. How awesome and true at the same time!

  2. excellent blog post!


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