bad air

The first really smoky day I was walking the dog and the thought crossed my mind, maybe I shouldn’t be out in this. But then, bounding up out of some storage area of my brain came the long-forgotten litmus test of my childhood: Does it hurt to breathe? Nope. Keep walking.

A few days later a woman was kvetching about some outdoor happening that had been cancelled due to air quality. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I’m from LA….” Stop right there! I know what you mean! Does it hurt to breathe? Well, what are you doing, taking such big breaths, anyway?

It’s funny that I hadn’t thought about that in more than 30 years, and yet it came back to me like an automatic reflex. All those school years being forced to run around outside during gym class, when it did hurt to breathe, but nobody with any authority cared. The brown horizon, where there had once been mountains. The politician who made a speech while standing outside about how clear the air was, when you could see the pollution all around him. (Who would vote for such a blatant liar, I remember thinking. Everybody. He became mayor, and then later senator, and then finally governor. It was the emperor’s clothes with a twist: point to something that’s there and say it isn’t.)

Luckily for me, back in those days my house was close enough to the ocean to blow away the worst air most of the time. I wish I was there now. “Permanent damage to your lungs!” the TV keeps saying. What about my newly carved out sinus passages? I should be sitting in a sealed house with the air system set on recirculate, but I just don’t have that kind of house or cooling system.

It goes without saying that I’m better off than people with asthma or a heart condition, or a burned-up house. I’m not a little baby and I’m not elderly. It could be worse, it could be better, but it doesn’t rain here until the winter, so even if they manage to put out the fires, I’m afraid the bad air isn’t going anywhere soon.

Explore posts in the same categories: air quality, sinus

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