Acid Fog

Sunday morning dawned clear and cold in Beijing.  It was gorgeous.  The sky was blue.  The mountains were out.  At first it seemed that it would be a carbon-copy of Saturday, which was actually glorious!  But alas, it was not meant to be.  By noon, a thick fog/smog/haze/whatever had descended on the city, nearly swallowing it whole. I prefer to call it "acid fog."  Sunday was nasty.  Monday was nastier.  And by Tuesday one could hardly see across the street.  Highways were closed. Flights delayed, and the old and infirm were urged to stay indoors.  There was something downright sinister about this blob enveloped Beijing.  There was no escaping it.  Even safely tucked into bed at night, the toxic smell lingered in the air.  Some people wore masks, but that just seemed silly to me.

Yesterday the local papers reported that Tuesday was one of the most polluted days in Beijing’s history.  Ever.  The State Environmental Protection Agency (excuse me while I stifle a snicker) measures things in the air.  They use the term ‘particulates’ but I uset the term ‘gunk.’  Their scale is 1 to 500.  A glorious day is 20 (20 particluates (gunk) per some unit of air (however that is measured).  A bad day for Beijing is 200.  Well, Tuesday, it hit 500, which means of course that the air was so thick we could chew it.  Oh, and it should be pointed out that they don’t include dust in their counting of particulates.  So that was 500 bits of toxic stuff in the air.  If they counted dust particles, it probably would have it 10,000, at which point I suppose it would have ceased to be air.

I’m heading to Minnesota tomorrow for a couple of weeks.  I fully intend to stand outside for 30 minutes every day and just take deep breaths—to clean out my lungs.  Hope it works!