Thursday, April 30, 2009

Whatever happened to “Thank you?”

I commute via jeepney almost everyday. And every time I am struck by the lack of a simple courtesy that was commonplace during my youth when The Beatles ruled the airwaves.

A passenger hands his fare to the driver, and someone takes the fare and places it in the driver’s hand. Basic politeness dictates that one should thank the person who handed the fare to the driver.

A simple “Thank you” or “Salamat” would do.

But you hardly ever hear these words. I make it a point to say “Salamat” every time someone does me this favor. Of course, I miss out on occasion, but I do make an effort to thank that helpful person.

I somehow expect other passengers to say “Salamat” when I do them this favor. But this hardly ever happens. I can’t even recall the last time it did happen!

I tried a simple experiment only recently. I counted the number of times someone said either “Salamat” or “Thank you” to someone who handed his fare to the driver.

In 21 jeepney rides, I counted 108 instances when someone handed another passenger’s fare to the driver. Only three people bothered to say “Salamat” or “Thank you.”

Just three people and they looked like they were in their 30s. And not one teenager.

This result reminded me of the angels’ search for 50 good men at Sodom and Gomorrah. It also told me that courtesy should be taught at school, from elementary to college.

It’s in the little things like saying “Thank you” that reveal the moral and intellectual quality of a people.

Courtesy is contagious. It’s catching. If more of us bothered to say “Salamat” or “Thank you” for a favor, or smiled instead, we’d find a lot more to like in our fellowman. We’d learn the meaning of being kind and considerate.

The first place to start practicing these simple, forgotten courtesies would be at home. I’d be right if I said that very few Filipino parents even bother thanking their children for doing them a service.

That’s because most Pinoy parents remain authoritarian. It’s still a boss-employee relationship in nearly all families.

But it wouldn’t hurt to thank your children once in a while. If saying thank you is against your parental management style, a smile will do. Or a nod of approval. That will tell your kids it’s all right to be kind.

Our grim country needs all the kindness and smiles we can give it. So, have the courage to say “Thank You” or “Salamat” when an officemate does you a favor; when a guard opens a door for you or when your brother runs an errand for you.

Little courtesies will go a long way in making this country a better place. Let’s spread them around.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sweat is good

It might be a cultural thing having to do with the Filipino's deep-seated desire to look his best no matter what. Or it might have something to do with aberrations in the Filipino psyche, like our glorification of reality shows where contestants dip for prizes in disgusting pigswill.

But sweating has always gotten a bad rap in this country. It's as if sweating were, well, a gruesome bodily function. Like hurling (vomiting).

That's why we have Filipinos who become panicky when sweat shows through their clothes. Or who chide others who sweat a lot, claiming that sweat is "pangit" (ugly) and should be wiped off post haste.

But sweat is good. Sweat is cool. And so is sweating. If you didn't sweat, you'd be dead within an hour from heat stroke.

If you didn't sweat, your skin would fry--literally--as its temperature shoots past 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). Then your heart rate goes haywire. What happens next depends on the presence of mind of the persons you're with. If they know first aid for heat stroke, you've got a chance. If not . . .

You can prevent this worst-case scenario by doing the smart thing: sweat. And you can only sweat sufficiently if you drink lots of water--water and not soft drinks, coffee, tea or fruit juices.

On a typically cool day, the average person loses one-liter of water per hour as sweat . We're always sweating (even in air conditioned rooms) but are so busy we don't notice it. Sweating or perspiring is the body's way of releasing excess metabolic heat.

During summer, which is particularly fierce this year, that water loss jumps to two or three liters per hour! That's mind-boggling and potentially life threatening.

You're looking for trouble if you stay out under the sun for hours without first drinking a lot of water and regularly replenishing water lost as sweat. The danger from heat stroke increases in a very humid country like ours since humidity (or the amount of water vapor in the air) keeps sweat from evaporating. And that hinders the sweat glands from producing enough sweat to cool you down so your body temp doesn't hit the danger zone of 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

Losing two to three liters of water per hour is a lot and most of us don't realize we can lose that much so quickly under a blazing summer sun. The dangerous thing is that by the time we feel thirsty, we're already dehydrated.

Dehydration happens without warning. You start licking your dry lips. Your skin feels on fire. You feel dizzy. Confusion sets in.

If you still have some presence of mind, you'd quickly find shade and slowly drink water. Keep drinking until you feel your senses returning. Your body temp has got to drop to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for you to enter the safe zone.

You should feel safer when you begin sweating profusely. Try not to wipe off the sweat at once but let it evaporate. Sweat is good. It might also save our life.

But it would be best if you knew first aid for heat stroke. Remember that the only solution for heat stroke is to cool the victim down.

You can do this by getting him to drink water if he's conscious; soaking his entire body in cool water; sponging cool water onto his body and applying ice packs to his head, neck, armpits and groin. If not treated, heat stroke can kill in less than an hour.

On the other hand, I don't advocate not wiping off excessive sweat. I also don't encourage you to cool down inside an air-conditioned room if you're sweating (that will get you sick).

But, as a wise sage once cautioned, do everything in moderation. If it's hot and you're outdoors, let your body sweat so it cools you down. If you don't sweat, drink water. If you're bathed in sweat, better dry out outdoors. And do drink lots of water.

So sweat, be cool and be safe.