x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

In one Abu Dhabi household, the heat is on

I suspect other wives have also threatened to lock their husbands out if they don't come back with a heater. Apparently, they had become a hot commodity overnight.

We have been forced to contend with an atypical UAE winter these past few weeks. In place of the mild, sunny days and balmy evenings characteristic of this time of year, we've been faced with blistering winds, dropping temperatures and a persistent chill that can surprisingly find its way to one's very bones with no trouble at all.

Between the Arctic temperatures in the office space where I work, courtesy of an air-conditioning system that does not abate in the milder months, and the whistling wind causing my teeth to chatter up on the 65th floor of our apartment, I have been existing in a very uncomfortable state lately. One that involves wearing gloves and earmuffs to bed.

I had no choice but to send Mr T out on a mission, and he had no option but to accept. "Find me a portable heater," I implored. "Two of them: one for work and one for home. If you have some kind of abnormal system that does not feel the cold, it doesn't mean I have to suffer, too."

I suspect that other wives have also threatened to lock their husbands out of the home if they don't come back with a heater. The reason I know this is because it took Mr T several days and a multitude of trips to every store in town before he returned with a heating device. Apparently, shelves were bare of heaters everywhere. They had become a hot commodity overnight.

"Sir, no more, sold out," was the repetitive mantra of every shop assistant Mr T accosted. "Buy blanket?"

Every time he'd come back home empty-handed, my frustration would bubble and swell, threatening to freeze me forever in its icy grip. There was no longer anything pleasant about a cosy evening lounging at home because the word "cosy" had no place in the frigid air of our apartment. At work, my fingers would curl just above my keyboard, too stiff to stretch out enough to peck at the cold keys. I had become accustomed to noticing a blue twinge to my toes, and began considering wearing two pairs of socks at a time. That used to work for me in subzero Canadian temperatures, and I was becoming desperate for solutions.

Mr T, in annoyingly stark contrast, was in his element. "Isn't it great how cold this winter is," he'd comment, oblivious to my murderous rage, directed straight at him. "Why don't we plan an evening out with friends, something outdoors so I can wear one of my jackets, and maybe that scarf you got me last year? I never get to wear my winter clothes."

What is it about men that makes them so impervious to cold temperatures, while women shiver and hunch over themselves, hands hidden in armpits, clothes layered like a complicated lasagne? What is it that makes Mr T more than comfortable in a simple T-shirt, while next to him, I am decked out in an undershirt, turtle neck, thick cardigan and oversized jacket? Why is he so reliant on the air conditioning to help him sleep, insistent that it ventilates the room when it's on and makes him feel like he's struggling for breath when it's off, while I can practically feel the onset of rheumatism and arthritis with every blast of chilled air from that blasted vent in our wall?

The only answer I can possibly come up with is that all their body hair helps keep men well insulated. It's certainly not an increased percentage of body fat, that's for sure.

Mr T, bless him, protected by a thick layer of chest hair, kept at his mission until one evening, he made it home weighed down with two boxes.

"Heaters! Two of them. Finally," he announced, and presented me with what I have since dubbed The World's Worst Heating Device Ever.

The increased demand for heaters has meant that any sleek, well-designed and well-made options were as rare as coming across a squirrel in an Abu Dhabi park. Mr T had no choice but to go against his very essence and purchase a Japanese brand that is most probably banned in Japan itself.

Despite two dials that assure me I can enjoy various degrees of heat, the heater really has only two settings: on or off. When it's on, it's loud and shaky, whirring in protest at its very existence, emitting a strange smell of burnt plastic, blasting hot air at my face and making it a tad difficult to draw a breath.

But when it's off, I shiver and turn a sickly shade of blue. I really have no option but to suffer the obnoxious noises of the heater, especially considering the lengths Mr T supposedly had to go to acquire it for me.

I say supposedly because the more I think of it, the more I am convinced that my husband bought me The World's Worst Heating Device Ever on purpose.

Any other device would be capable of warming a room, or if not an entire room, then at least the immediate vicinity surrounding the heater's placement. I, however, am the proud owner of two heaters that can blast only hot air straight ahead, at anything that is no more than 30 centimetres away. Which means there is no chance Mr T will be suffering from overheating any time soon.

I decided to test my husband and either confirm or banish my suspicions, once and for all.

"The heaters really aren't working properly," I told him. "You said they have a one-year warranty; maybe you should take them back and see what's wrong with them."

He blinked at me, once, twice. "Umm, warranty? I said that? Too bad, I think I threw out the receipt." This coming from the guy who still has the receipt of the first pair of Converse sneakers he ever bought.


  • Hala Khalaf is the deputy Arts & Life editor at The National

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