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.