Maxed Out 

Summer refuge in relativity

by G.D.Maxwell

The trouble with relativity is its lack of immediacy. I’m not talking about the E=MC 2 kind of relativity, nor do I refer to the kind of relativity packaged as family values or milked as now-outdated mother-in-law jokes.

The insidious relativity to which I refer is of the one-upmanship or, in this case, downmanship, that knocks the legs out from under a perfectly good snit. For example, I know, within the context of Canada, things could be worse. I could still be living in Toronto where, no doubt, I’d be wheeling around a canister of oxygen and darting from air-conditioned building to air-conditioned building seeking escape from the heat, humidity, visible pollutants and noxious fumes of modern, urban hell. Relatively, that’d be worse.

I could live in Manitoba or Saskatchewan. That train of thought could be derailed right here and make my case but let’s feel the prairies’ pain for a moment. After an interminable period of drought, during which the beleaguered farmers prayed for rain, their prayers were answered. And answered. And answered. My fields of genetically modified canola, if I had any, could look more like Asian rice paddies. Relatively, that’d be worse.

Or, there are large swaths of Alberta where I might be pumping raw sewage out of my basement… for the second time this summer. Relatively, that’d be worse and it’d stink.

So, relatively, without even going to places like Africa or Florida, things could be a lot worse. But I don’t live in any of those places. I live in a place where the sun doesn’t shine, the rain hasn’t stopped and the deeply beloved respite from Canadian winter – summer – didn’t show its face during the entire month of June and isn’t anywhere in the forecasted future. This sucks!

Being an ancient civilization, the Chinese reputedly were the first to recognize the demoralizing, deranging effects of persistent rain. Over the course of many centuries, they realized the slow, steady drip of simple water could not just wear down great mountains, but wear down the resistance of men and drive them crazy. In the overall scheme of things, watching men go crazy, especially your enemies, is way more fun than watching mountains melt.

They were also smart enough to realize how useful a trick like this would be when the British ultimately arrived to trade opium for tea. Reputedly, the first English Gentleman they guinea pigged water torture on laughed and called them crazy. After several hours, he was in a more conciliatory mood. By the end of the day, he was reluctantly willing to eat Chow Mein and not call it "filthy Woggie swill". After a couple of days, he actually admitted Chinese Checkers was a superior game to cricket. What isn’t? When a week’s worth of drips had dimpled his forehead and he was completely starkers, barking like a Yorkshire Terrier and speaking in tongues, he finally capitulated and agreed to bathe. The Empire was saved.

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