The Small Discomfort that Accompanies Growth

Humidity – this is a term I coined to refer to the amount of people in an area, sidewalk, mall, etc. Dense humidity means that there are many people physically occupying the space.

I would not say I am experiencing culture shock, but rather a bit of urban lifestyle growing pains. I am happy to feel the small agitating discomfort that accompanies growth. The dense urban setting of my new life and the “humidity” is slowly wearing on me. But alas, no pain (in this case discomfort), no gain.

Bangkok’s Victory Monument Bus and Train station is a very busy place.lthough my street, technically an alley, is relatively calmer than the busy streets that flank it, the entire area has a noisy, artificially illuminated, and congested atmosphere. There are few places of equivalent humidity in NYC. I guess that the closest example is the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Port Authority is actually a much worse place overall and it even appeared in Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century best-selling epic Inferno as the location of the sixth ring of Hell.

The mornings begin with me fumbling around to find clothing, enjoying the last moments of relative peace as I walk down the alley. Since the Metro is nearby, the foot traffic on the thin sidewalks is pretty bump’n. Do you think that urban planners remember to expand the sidewalks when they install a metro? The walk to the metro is not too congested in the morning. However, I have to step between slower people to get to the station and play chicken with the traffic that is lurking like a Hungry Hungry Hippo out of the alleyways into the main road. Once I get to the metro and my backpack clears security I walk up the steps to wait on the platform. The heat, humid air, and motor exhaust combine with my sweat to make a delightful heavy sap that seeps into my clothing and mood – Mood Clothing! Once the metro arrives, an objectively cold blast of A/C cools me down and resuscitates my shirt. Objectively, the metro is crowded, but since it isn’t as cram packed, as Japan the ride doesn’t seem invasive. The metro whisks you over the city, blasts away my sweat, lowers taxes, kisses babies, and delivers me almost to the door of my office.

The office is a chill, cool, spacious oasis compared to the density and noise of the city. After work, it’s back to the metro – back to the future? After work again, I feel a bit impatient and I want to get home. Once I am back in Victory Monument, I walk through a mall to enjoy the A/C and cut corners on the way home. Exiting the mall, the warm wave of humidity and warm humid air remind me to be impatient. The sidewalks during rush hour are too thin and too crowded for impatient-ole me to walk on. So I’ve started walking in the street and cutting back onto the sidewalk after it widens a bit. Then I walk through the park along side my house. Since I tend to walk through the park during the mass jazzercise, I see hundreds of people sweating it out even more than me. Today, it began raining and the exercisers bolted out of the park. Finally, I make it to my building and greet the doorman. Then I ride the elevator to the 4th floor, open the door and boom home.

Today, I joined a gym. Technically this gym was way too expensive. I could critique this gym and I will do so when I update my entry, “ Gym’n it Around the World”. Because of the gyms’ small size AND the poor layout of the machines seems very small and I feel vulnerable about my personal space and safety. Space in a gym is really important because the equipment could hurt you or someone else. In the gym, I didn’t find my much-desired refuge from the city. In fact, I just got more people and much more noise. Gym music is totally noise. I left the gym, a bit disappointed. I hadn’t been able to “space out” and putts around the gym like in the US. I compared it to gyms I had joined in India and Vietnam and it was technically better than those gyms in terms of personal space, hygiene, and equipment safety. So I realized that the problem was just me. That is the key though, the problem is just me.

Then I walked up and down the street looking for food. I found a place that had pictures in the menu. This place was much more popular with the local people than the places I had eaten at before. The food was good and sitting alone in an open-air restaurant isn’t too bad, but I learned that I should sit far from the kitchen, because the heat from the oven and grills is another excellent sweat factor. I noticed that there is another white guy who goes to the gym and eats alone in the street afterward. After eating I finally felt a bit more relaxed. I walked behind a guy carrying his kid and I felt slow and relaxed. I thought about how agitated I had been with the commute, with the billboard lights, the constant noise, the heat, and the throngs and throngs of people.

By the time, I got back to my small alley, I determined to write about this in order to digest it. The sensory stimulation of the city wore on my sensitivities. I imagined what it would be like to stand on an autumn evening in a wide-open place like what I imagine the imaginary land of Iowa looks like. I thought about how good it is to see some spaces, trees, birds, and grass even. It made me think those little thoughts about the suburban roaming space child-sized Deren had had to wander. Then I thought about how much smaller a space  can feel when it is full of heat.

I think that I should get over all of this soon as my lifestyle, expectations, and awareness adapt. Maybe Buddhism is popular in Bangkok, because it asks you to close your eyes, be quiet, and look for the spaces within you. I think this is something that everyone in this city might enjoy…..need.

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