Marie Claire (South Africa) - - FIRST PERSON -

ex­plo­sive air con­di­tion­ing ar­gu­ments is real. A white per­son will announce loudly upon en­ter­ing the of­fice: ‘Oh my word! Euwww! It’s so stuffy in here! I can’t bear it. Who turned up the air con­di­tion­ing? Aren’t you guys hot? Open a win­dow please, Jabs?’ while cast­ing a dis­ap­prov­ing eye at her black col­leagues, grab­bing the air con­di­tioner re­mote con­trol and set­ting the tem­per­a­ture at 10 de­grees. All this while her black col­leagues look on in dis­tress, ut­ter­ing ex­ple­tives un­der their breaths.

Those tricky months be­tween April and June or Au­gust and Oc­to­ber are the worst, though, be­cause it’s not re­ally chilly but it’s not hot ei­ther. The white folks walk into the of­fice in short-sleeved shirts, cool as cu­cum­bers, whereas their black col­leagues will have brought a tiny blan­ket (we call it it­shali), which we’ll wrap around our knees in or­der to keep our legs and feet warm. White peo­ple who are ob­ser­vant, I’m sure you’ve seen this.

Sadly, what hap­pens in an of­fice en­vi­ron­ment is that in­stead of sim­ply ar­gu­ing about the tem­per­a­ture of the room, it turns into a bar­rage of in­sults. Black peo­ple as­sume that their white col­leagues are in­sin­u­at­ing that they are the rea­son why the of­fice is ‘stuffy and smelly’ while white peo­ple feel frus­trated when they have to work in an of­fice that’s Ex­tracted from by Ler­ato Tsha­bal­ala (R210, Penguin Ran­dom House). Read our review on p118.

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