Unbearable heat

Chengdu is a city of two seasons: Comfortable and Uncomfortable. Comfortable persists nearly year round and is divided in two. There’s Warm Comfortable and Cool Comfortable. Personally I prefer Cool Comfortable, but alas, I’m strung out in the less desirable season, Uncomfortable.

Like it’s pleasant counterpart, Uncomfortable is also divided in two. There’s Cold Uncomfortable, and my least favorite, Hot Uncomfortable. The seasons are as the name implies. Currently, the city finds itself in the death throes of the Hot Uncomfortable’s brief and miserable existence, and it will drag every last person down with it.

First I should provide an understanding of Chengdu’s climate. Certain meteorological aspects are invariant: There are no drastic changes in temperature; It’s perpetually humid; Rarely is it windy; It rains a lot, and in the Warm Comfortable it rains 10x as much; What is sunshine? It’s pretty unremarkable weather, generally speaking, which is what makes the city’s fabled Comfortable so fantastic (unless you like blue skies).

Despite the start and conclusion shifting around by a few days, the Uncomfortables occur in February and August, respectively. And this is only part of what makes them so miserable. As mentioned before, they serve as perfunctory marks, nestled between the divides of the Comfortables, like a period between sentences. Because the Comfortables only guaranteed change over time is a gradual shift in temperature, as the pendulum of the season swings between one pole and the other. The Uncomfortables are a necessary evil.

I still hate them. The entirety of a Comfortable is to prepare you for an Uncomfortable. For its arrival is uncertain. Towards its conclusion, its departure feels even less certain. This is namely due to the fact the Uncomfortable’s distinguishing trait is the ability to leech every last bit of morale you may have.

Take for instance, our current state, lodged deep in the bowels of a Hot Uncomfortable. It’s terrifying. Gone are the rain-cooled days of the monsoonal Warm Comfortable, of it’s clean air and frizzy hair, and in its stead stands the wilded-eyed White Sun (due to its rarity, the White Sun is given a proper name) of the unforgiving Hot Uncomfortable. Worse yet, Hot Uncomfortable loves to cling to the vestiges of Warm Comfortable and confusedly dump torrential rains, driving humidity above normal I Don’t Like This levels, to an alarm-triggering Where’s My Swim Cap peak.

This might offer a basic enough description of what it is to survive an Uncomfortable. It’s perma-wet butt cracks, sweating after walking out of a cold shower, flip flop calluses, unexplained rashes, feeling like you’re being eating from the inside out, going 10 bidons deep on a 3 hour ride, and a sensation of despair and frustration spiced with a glimmer of hope. It’s being broken over-and-over by expectations dashed, that the Uncomfortable’s almost done, only to know that deep down “this, too, shall pass.”

In the meanwhile, it’s important to remember the basics: to apply ample sunscreen when the great White Sun arcs through the sky; to drink copious amounts of water; to keep sniveling to a minimum; to drink more water; and to be absolutely sure you immediately throw your bibs in the wash post-ride. The heat’s unbearable, the sweat worse, but I’ve been watching the weather, and soon, inevitably soon, things are going to be Comfortable once more.

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