Saturday, 26 July 2014

'Careful now, that seat is hot'

Right. That's it. I can't stay silent about this any more. In fact, if I don't vent now there's a danger that if things build up any further, who knows what I might do? So, let 'Operation De-steam' commence.

A VERY hot seat indeed.
'I think I'll give this seat a miss...' (photo from
Good citizens of Colombia please, for the love of the Christian god many of you adore so much, get over your fear of the 'hot seat'. Where on earth did such an illogical aversion come from?

If cramming (should you be 'lucky' enough to actually cram on that is) onto a bus or Transmilenio is part of your daily routine, another thing that you're guaranteed to see are people hovering, for at least 20 seconds, over a just-vacated seat.

The reason for this is to let the seat cool down and, I imagine, give the new occupier peace of mind that he/she won't contract some disease that may be 'hovering' (sorry) about from the previous person. What difference, though, is a short interlude going to make? If you're that concerned, from a health/hygiene perspective or whatever, why not bring some disinfectant and rubber gloves in order to give the seat a good wipe down before you 'take the plunge'. You can't be too careful now, can you? Also, the rest of us have our own concerns, so covering your mouth when you sneeze would be a help.

The great Jonny Wilkinson; not just a top rugby player, but a good squatter too.
Top squatter: Jonny Wilkinson (photo from Facebook).
Now it could be that the multitude of those who hover are just engaging in a stagnant squat exercise, a simple, effective way to tone the thighs; never miss an opportunity to work out and all. Indeed, looking at it that way lessens my anger somewhat. Fair play to the overweight-bordering-on-obese 'hoverers' on making an effort to get their bodies back into shape.

Be that as it may, any benefit gained from the above is cancelled out by some other questionable hygiene hang-ups.

One of those is a reluctance for some to drink out of a real – that is to say reusable and generally more environmentally friendly – cup/mug in a public place. The reason for this is an abhorrence of using a coffee cup that somebody else used, again this being down to a disease/germ fear, even though it has been cleaned. No, they prefer these poor quality plastic cups that practically melt once a hot drink is poured into them. With that they proceed to consume a 'healthy' mix of coffee and chemicals from the melting plastic; just add cyanide to taste.

Coffee in a real cup and a nice bit of 'dirty' bread. Just what the doctor ordered...
A 'deadly' mix: Coffee in a 'reused', real cup & handled bread.
There's also this fussiness about not touching bread with your bare hands. OK, 'what's wrong with that?' you might ask – a good practice to uphold. The thing is, some people dislike seeing you eat your own bread or whatever with your own bare hands. This is despite the fact that bread and such like in most establishments is left uncovered, out in the open, free to mingle with all sorts of airborne material, including regular encounters with those dastardly 'sky rats', or pigeons if you will. It all just adds to the flavour I guess.

So you've a host of these rather puzzling fetishes concerning personal hygiene, yet a large part of Bogotá – plus many other urban areas throughout the country – resembles a dump, and in some cases a toilet. A little bit more of a desire to clean up the immediate environment rather than being overly – in a misplaced manner – occupied with 'self preservation' wouldn't go astray.

That might make us all feel a little better; and healthier.


  1. It is odd but for some reason this really irks me as well. Usually the bus has standing room only so if you should have the good luck to get one of the sacred spare seats, why in the world would you not want to sit on it.
    I have spoken to a work colleague about this and it is a distaste of the fact that someone's buttocks, that you don't know, were the reason that the seat is still warm. She cringed when I meantioned taht i had no problem with taking a warm seat and at times it was preferable to a freezing cold one. I agree the fear is strange and misplaced given that many of these seats are filthy and represent a health risk regardless of whether it was wartm or not.
    I am surprised that you didn't also mention the general fear of the cold especially with young children. As an Englishmen where during winter times it is frequently around 0 degrees (freezing point) I find the weather in Bogota quite pleasant, even at night. So it baffles me when I see some poor kid dressed up for an extreme siberian winter whilst I am in a Jacket that is undone and a t shirt. Once you have lived in a cold place for any amount of time you will come to realize that Bogota is not cold. However I would like to impart some wisdom that I was brought up with for dealing with the cold. If you wear a coat or jacket in doors and then go outside you get no benefit from it. The trick is to take clothes off whilst in a house and to teach your body to get used to colder temperatures then once you put the jacket on to go outside you will feel much warmer. The truth is that the risk comes from sudden changes in temperature so rather than putting on so many layers it is better to protect yourself in a modest manner and put your hands in your pocket if you get really cold.
    Before I get bashed by various Colombians, please understand that I do love this place or I would not be living here. It is just that some of the customs are very strange to me as I am sure some of those in England are strange to you.

    1. Certainly with you on that last line; if we didn't like the place, we wouldn't be here. These are just observations we make that we find a little curious, there is nothing malicious in it.

      I hear you on the 'cold' too. I will say though that there can be bigger temperature swings here in Bogotá compared to Britain & Ireland on a daily basis. For example on a sunny day here it can get to 22 degrees Celsius while during the following night it could dip down to 8 degrees. That's a 14 degree swing, something you'd rarely get in Ireland in 24 hour period.

      So while it may not get as cold as our home places, the temperature swings can play a part in the 'feeling' of coldness.

      But many people do certainly wrap up a little bit too excessively for sure!

      Cheers for taking the time to comment.

  2. Your article really made me laugh… I remember my mom telling me to wait for some seconds to let the seat cool down when I was a little girl. According to her, a doctor once told her that hemorrhoids could be contagious and be transmitted on the buses, very funny, isn’t it? I think it’s a kind of urban myth.

    I only can say that it is a cultural thing, a custom that has been transmitted from generation to generation, also we do that because of the feeling, I mean, it’s not good to have that “warm” sensation, even more if you see that the person who just stood up doesn't seem very clean.

    Thanks for making me laugh hehehe.

    1. I'm glad it made you laugh Lorena and that you took it in a light-hearted way! Unlike the guy who commented on it on El Tiempo (see

      I see where you're coming from on 'the feeling'/sensation part of things. But how would you survive in a military situation where people often have to 'hot-bed' it?!

      As ever, cheers for commenting.

    2. I think that guy was kind of rude, he took it the wrong way. Sometimes we don’t have to take things so serious, after all, as Wilde said: “Life is too important to be taken seriously”. We should just try to be more tolerant, it’s just a matter of cultural differences. I guess that’s a reason why wars exist, because we don’t respect or tolerate other’s religions, thoughts, customs, and ways of living.

      I think that in extreme situations such as the one you said (I didn’t know you guys had to do that in the military) we have to change some habits whether we like it or not.

      (BTW, there’s a misspelling in “thrash”- trash). :).


    3. Oops -- the editor has been notified & that has been amended! Cheers for that; there's always a risk something slips by the net!

      By the way (thankfully) I've never been in the military. It's just what I've been told people had/have to do!

      And as ever, wisdom from Wilde. We're on this planet for such a short time, it's best not to let at least the trivial stuff anger you!

  3. You're asking Bogotanos to give up one of the things that makes them what they are! And it is a Bogotano other cities I haven't really seen it. Maybe in a cold setting there's something off-putting about a human-warmed seat.

    1. Well now if hovering over a seat is what makes Bogotanos what they are, it's not much to shout about! Thankfully there's a lot more to them than that!

    2. I should say, as you say, if it's 'one of the things' that makes them what they are, they mustn't have much going for them. But again, thankfully that's not the case!