Thursday, May 05, 2005

Horizontal rain

It's not quite the rainy season here. Maybe three or four weeks more though I notice the regional forecasts for Southern China are already using the Monsoon word.

Nonetheless, I can feel a change in the weather over the past two weeks. Last night we had the most incredible thunderstorm, with thunder that had to be heard to be believed. I was trying to drop off to sleep when it started. My first thought was that I wished the inconsiderate bastard in the room above would stop dragging his furniture around the room.

When it turned into the kind of boom one might associate with the very nearby explosion of a Hydrogen Bomb I realised this was thunder!

My first visit here was 10 or so months ago; end of June. As you might recall from previous posts I arrived at the same time that a Typhoon was deciding between Southern Taiwan and the Northern Philippines. After arriving at our customer site one of the first things I noticed was a very large map of the country and surrounding seas with the location and path of the Typhoon carefully plotted along with reports of which Northern towns and cities were affected and to what extent. Lots and lots of people milling around checking the latest news. Remember that where I come from Hurricanes, Cyclones and Typhoons just don't happen so all of that was new to me.

Came time for a smoke. HI, a colleague from Korea, whom I met that day and who is one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet, is also a smoker. He glanced at me and that masonic glance passed; yep, it's time for a smoke. So we made our way to the smoking area. There are two areas on the customers site where you can smoke. One is on the far side of the main carpark; the other is a balcony above the North Entrance. We headed for the balcony.

Time for some scene setting. This is a semiconductor packaging and testing facility. Cleanliness is of the utmost. Street shoes aren't allowed past the foyer; we all wear antistatic shoes inside. We all wear gowns and I wear a hair net. Yep, I wear a hair net even though I never get within a hundred metres of an unpackaged wafer.

Now if we're wearing special footwear inside the building to prevent the ingress of dust it's clear that we can't wear that footwear outside the building. If we choose to smoke in the car park we are, by definition, outside the building and back in our own shoes. But not so if we smoke on the balcony aforesaid. So we pass through something not unlike an air-lock. Inside the airlock we take off our special shoes and put them in a wooden rack along with our gowns.

On the other side of the airlock we walk in our socks to another rack where they have sandals of various sizes that we wear whilst on the balcony. My feet are bigger than most here; I have to search for sandals large enough to be comfortable!

So on that day (remember this is the first time I saw it) the wooden racks on the outside were standing maybe half a metre from the wall and the smokers were huddled down between the wall and the racks. The reason was clear. The wind was so strong the rain was coming in horizontally!

I tried, believe me I tried. But I couldn't even light my cigarette that day! Now you know how I feel about smoking; almost nothing can come between me and a good ciggy. But horizontal rain managed it quite nicely! Believe it or not I went, awake, in a place where I could legally smoke, 9 hours without a ciggy!

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