After I have my set up I try to run with a regular daily routine when I am abroad. Additional stresses like jet lag, heat, new allergies, a suppressed immune system that easily picks up a stray infection (skin is my most common vector not lung these days), and other more quotidian travel stresses all hit me hard.
I’d like to think about this problem with a bit of distance. What if we have a coercive state and social consensus for something you’d consider a personal preference or choice, but civil society views as as deviant? You will need to find ways to look like you are conforming even if in private, you are not. So how do you do so?
You may find it helpful to not stick out. In that situation there are two ways to survive an attack. Being protected and in the middle of the herd. Or be as far away from the herd as you can be.
Anyone on the edges of the herd of social consensus, but still within the second or third standard deviation from the norm may get hurt. Forced metaphor of the brutal blue curve but you get what I mean. Better to be a true outlier, as the secondary standard deviation will be forced by a brutal bell curve to fit in better.
If we add in artificial intelligence to the equation, we’ve got even more effective tools for monitoring and surveillance of out-group behavior and even easier mechanisms to deploy social shaming force at scale to insure social adherence. The panopticon is us. An army of Karens armed with the probability you will deviate waiting to pounce.
See for instance a social shaming quote tweet campaign. Now imagine it’s state sponsored propaganda but organized, through the seemingly spontaneous egregores of populism, add a dash of rule by authoritarianism and you’ve got yourself quite a problem. The wisdom of crowds can look like mania.
I’ve been suffering from an autoimmune issue, exacerbated by allergies and pollen, so I’ve used the air conditioning on 80 degree days. This was enough to get my neighbors to complain to me twice. I attempted to comply by going to a hotel but quickly found that no hotel would let me turn the thermostat below 72 degrees.
I decided to brave the noisy neighbors and run the air conditioning at the Airbnb in the end, but I didn’t appreciate having to lay our personal health problems to justify a private decision. Now extrapolate this out to genuinely serious situations. The disability issues are often an early lens into wider social attitudes on freedom, choice, value and worth.
You have to decide now if you want to hide in the middle of the herd. Can you pass? Are you able to fit in or do you have some deviance in your life? If you aren’t sure you can pull off average, you must ride the edges. Be as far outside the herd as you can. Maybe on the edge you can find a pack that will defend you.
I hate when I am made to feel it is embarrassed and ashamed that I have a disability. And German’s current energy policy has me feeling like my medical needs are something of which I should me ashamed. And that’s bullshit. It’s a policy failure.
I have ankylosing spondylitis (an inflammatory condition in my spine) along with a cluster of other autoimmune issues like allergies, migraines and dermatitis. If my symptoms flare I can’t walk and the treatments are unpleasant. Methotrexate, steroids, specialty biologics injections.
I find myself in Frankfurt for a mix of personal and professional reasons. The Airbnb I rented for the month was on of only a handful that offered aid conditioning at all. And one of only three that was a personal apartment and not a hotel service using Airbnb.
So I booked it even though I noticed it was on a main road in the neighborhood of Sachsenhausen. The host assured me it was quiet and most of the apartments looked out on a garden in the back.
Alas the bedroom was on the main road so I was unable to ventilate the apartment by keeping the bedroom windows open as the exhaust and debris from the roadway left my eyes red, itchy and I woke up with hives several times.
I bought a small fan at the local store and kept the bedroom door open and had the fan blow cooler air from the back windows overlooking the garden. I was still struggling with ventilation as the car exhaust and fumes meant the bedroom had to be sealed. Even then I paid $50 for a cleaner weekly to clean up the pollen, debris and dust that would get in from leaving open the window
I’d leave all the windows open on the good side, keep the apartment sealed and dark during the day, and have three weeks of extremely shitty sleep on my Whoop to prove it. But overall this worked well until it got hot enough to warrant air conditioning usage.
Sadly summer is rounding the corner and a few days in the low 80s (or 27-28 C for you Europeans) was too hot for my spine to tolerate comfortably. I was struggling enough with keeping the bedroom cool with the fan and back open window so I decided to run the air conditioner. It was old, noisy and hadn’t had its filters changed in a while. I made do.
The neighbors complained. Twice. Once through the Airbnb owner and the second time by knocking multiple times on my door. I had to explain to them embarrassing levels of medical detail to assure them this wasn’t preferred temperature or taste but a medical necessity. I hadn’t expected to show off my vials of injectables to be taken seriously but thanks guys.
This weekend it is expected to be in the mid eighties so I thought rather than fight off my neighbors and get another bad night of sleep with a dirty air conditioner and noisy roadway I’d check myself into a hotel. I’d been having a significant flare of all my symptoms which had required emergency doses of steroids, two unexpected infections (I take immunosuppressants) with two different antibiotics, and quite a bit of other remedies.
Well I guess the final boss of Europe’s poor energy policy was about to land it’s final blow on me. The hotel I checked into for some relief won’t turn its air conditioning below 72 or 22 C. It has to be much warmer to get it to my preferred temperature of 17 while I was experiencing this flared fever state. That apparently wasn’t an option.
So I guess I’m going to check one more hotel to see if they will allow me to cool my prior to my preferred temperature or I’ll prepare for another fight with my neighbors over running the air conditioning overnight again. Wish me luck. Build more nuclear power. Install solar arrays.
So I am giving myself permission to take it nice and easy on this blog post today. This morning I ordered an enormous number ($150 or so) of creams, unguents and lotions as well as a number of anti-histamines from a German apothecary in the hopes of gaining some relief.
I take multiple antihistamine already but I got a fourth (it’s Claritin in the US. A got a corticosteroid cream, something called Zugsable or black cream (it smells like tar) and a Linola Fett cream which appears to be like Weleda skin food without the fragrances. Plus some melatonin as I’m not sleeping so great with this itching. They tossed in some cosmetics as well which I will definitely put to use. And that’s all she wrote today.
If I were a betting women, and I am, I’d be placing them on European heating, ventilation, and air conditioning corporations. Yeah, I think HVAC is a growth industry for the continent.
HVAC is use of various technologies to control the temperature, humidity, and purity of the air in an enclosed space. Its goal is to provide thermal comfort and acceptable indoor air quality.
You’d think after the pandemic brought the importance of air quality to everyone’s attention, that decent ventilation would a priority. Add in the increasing frequency of deadly heat waves and you’ve got real tailwinds for HVAC technology being crucial not only for comfort but for life.
So why are European apartments somehow both poorly ventilated and poorly insulated at the same time? Is there even a term for this? Finally I viscerally understand why bad air (mal air) is one of the canonical health problems of the Western Cannon. All those nerdy writers inside were suffering.
I’ll grant 1700 era European cities have more excuses than modern cosmopolitan ones for having stuffy, dusty, stinky, hot and yet somehow also cold and drafty air. They didn’t have electricity so no fans, pumps or air exchanges. But why the fuck haven’t they fixed it yet?
The worst plague of the great indoors is shitty HVAC. We have no excuses for it anymore as it’s an environmental health hazard on its own before we even consider the current energy crisis (don’t even get me started on what counts as being green). Refusing to keep your apartment’s ventilated and insulated is bad for your body and your budget.
So if anyone has suggestions for investing up and down the value chain of improving HVAC systems I think we’ve got a growth industry on our hands. Europe can’t refuse to air condition forever and it sure can’t afford to continue to burn coal and Russian gas to heat drafty apartments either.
They say time flies when you are having fun. Some internal sick sadness combined with external geopolitical confusion, during what I’ve come to call “my sick years,” were in hindsight timeless years.
I am now past the worst of it. Time had no meaning when I was struggling to get diagnosed and treated during those years. Then we collectively ran headlong into the pandemic. Time had been a flat circle for a while and I wasn’t coming or going. My time was out of reach.
But those days of sad, static immobile time have given way to vim, vigor, verve (and fuck it, why not) even vivaciousness. I must be having fun again, as now time is absolutely flying.
I still carry my health challenges with me (ankylosis spondylitis like all inflammatory conditions comes and goes with the reliability of the fey), and the world is just as fucked up as ever.
And yet on the other side of many hard fights, I am happy again. The miseries are my choices and worth the fight. It’s many pleasures are fleeting, often, and luxurious beyond what my former self thought I deserved.
I hope time keeps on slipping like this for a while. The joy of my struggles now makes me eager to take care of myself. I take every day as slow as I can and still they go by so quickly.
I didn’t get a good night sleep last night. Or the night before. Or the night before. I guess I must be jet lagged.
I am always convinced I’ve managed to avoid jet lag and it’s never actually true. I love to lie to myself about my capacity for recovery in the face of travel but I know deep down that once the adrenaline wears off, it’s all about establishing a consistent sleep routine.
I’d rather maintain East Coast Time while I’m in Europe but my body has a tendency to sync to the circadian rhythms of the sun rise and sun set even when I do my best to stay awake till midnight I’ll rise with the sun. I was awake at 6am in Frankfurt as even with an eye mask on I knew it was finally morning.
I was up very late last night as I had an evening commitment on Eastern Standard Time while I myself am on European Central Time. I finished at 6pm in New York but it was 2am for me. It was stimulating I was unable to fall asleep till well past 3am.
I didn’t successfully sleep in as much as I would have liked, so I found myself running on a bit less sleep than I would have preferred even though my Whoop suggested I was in the green with a reasonably high HRV score. When my biometrics are all in the green, even if I’ve had perceptually poor sleep, I try to let my data guide me.
I thought I was doing ok as I went about my routines and workload. I showered, meditated, did some work and even got a power nap in.
Still I found myself getting overwhelmed by basic sensory inputs. The sound of the cars on the road felt loud. I took a walk and found myself ordering an Uber to get home as I was tired and has gone too far. Alas, in the car, I found myself covering my ears and closing my eyes as the pop music and car incense overwhelmed two senses at once.
All the shops are closed in Germany on Sunday. This is a basic fact I somehow always forget despite regularly being in Europe. They are serious about their day of rest.
Without the ability to go grocery shopping or otherwise pay for goods or services, Sunday becomes a day for getting your life in order. As long as you planned ahead for it. Which I definitely didn’t. But I made a go of it anyway.
I made myself coffee and did a mobility routine. I took a long bath with epsom salts. I did a load of laundry and set it outside to dry in the sun. I cleaned the bathroom so I could enjoy another bath later in the week. I washed the dishes and tidied the kitchen.
Then I found myself wandering the busy streets past closed shops and bustling parks. While the grocery shops were closed, the playhouses and calisthenics parks were open and absolutely packed.
Frankfurt has public spielhaus or playhouses in the parks for children with activities and equipment. When I walked by I saw teenagers playing basketball and elementary school children painting.
For the adults there are calisthenics stations on the river where you can workout in public any time of the day or night. I’m not much for pull ups I did end up playing around with a thirty minute body weight workout of squats, mountain climbers, pikes, bridges, leg raises, dips, planks and push ups. It just felt like a fun thing to do.
And isn’t that a pleasant thought? That on a sunny spring day it just seems nice to be outside playing. The dream of parks and recreation is alive in Frankfurt.
I’ve been on the road all week for work (and a little bit of play). I flew an overnight transcontinental from Seattle to Frankfurt Tuesday evening into Wednesday which is yesterday for America but with the time zone change feels like two days. While I am not jet lagged (a surprise) my Whoop recovery is the worst I’ve ever received. I got an recovery 8% score. And I feel basically fine
Usually when flying overnight I take an Ambien and immediately pass out. Better living through chemistry right? Plus I’m not naturally social. Instead I was doing face masks and debating White Lotus theories over a pretty decent seared tuna.
When I landed in Frankfurt I felt quite energetic and pushed through the afternoon with ease. Or maybe it felt easy as I had several cups of coffee. I thought I’d nailed the flight even though I knew I didn’t get enough sleep.
Once I’d settled into my Airbnb, I checked my previous night’s biometrics I realized I’d only recorded four hours of sleep and my HRV had dropped into the low teens. Maybe I’d made a mistake not “force quitting” myself into a hard sleep on the airplane with a downer.
My average HRV is usually in the forties which isn’t all that impressive to begin with (I’ve got a spinal condition called ankylosis spondylitis) but I hadn’t expected all my biometrics to go flashing red quite so badly when I felt mostly fine. My guess is that the 8% reflected a significant amount of stress and I’d simply not flushed the adrenaline and cortisol out of my system.
I’m keeping it low key today as a consequence. I was up at 7am European Central Time and went grocery shopping to stock the apartment. Getting sunlight is crucial and while I plan to keep EST hours mostly while I’m here it felt good to be up and about.
I managed to fit in some work, did a load of laundry, got some Ethiopian food for lunch and still feel like I can manage a work day. It’s now past 5Pm in Germany and America is just waking up on the west coast. My husband just texted me from San Francisco so it’s time to finish my day and start the day with everyone else.