What was uncommon was that the moment I left the computer area, I started to get better, and my symptoms worsened when I returned. Ipso facto, there was something in the area around the computer which was aggravating my allergies.After a few frustrating hours of looking around and not finding anything, I finally thought to look up. Lo and behold, there was a grayish substance caked around the outside of the air vent and scattered on the ceiling. For lack of what this substance is, I shall revert to the Yiddish and call it schmutz.
(Digression: I adore Yiddish. I don't specifically speak it, but my father is an Austrian Jew who emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1930s, so there's a fair amount of it in our daily household vocabulary. What I adore so much about it is the fact that, even if one doesn't speak it, one has a pretty good chance of figuring out what it means just through context and tone. I mean, "schmutz" just sounds dirty icky filthy, and it's close enough to "smut" that the latter is probably derived from the former, and so it makes me visualize something which is so disgustingly filthy that it's offensive and obscene. Also, Yiddish has those hard consonants which are so satisfying to pronounce.)
Obviously I needed to remove this schmutz from the vent, but I didn't want to breathe it. The obvious answer would be for me to get some kind of dust mask. At this point, a sensible person would have gotten one of those dust masks with N95 Filters, but I am not a sensible person. Instead, I thought "Ooh! A chance for me to use my shemagh!"
I must confess that I have not always been a fan of the shemagh. I was initially resistant to owning one because to my mind, they look too much like those red and white turbans the PLO was always using in the 1970s and 80s. The more involved I got in prepping, however, the more testimonials I found from soldiers and marines in the 'stan about how useful and awesome they were, and that no kit was complete without one.
So I bought mine from a company with a Jewish name (Rothco) and called it a win. God bless America, where capitalism fully supports irony.
Shemaghs are very good at filtering things out, and so I had no further issues with breathing as I climbed up on a stepladder and terminated the vent schmutz with extreme prejudice. However, there are a few things you need to know about shemaghs:
- There's a trick to tying them. Actually, there are several different techniques, and I recommend you try them all to find the one which works for you, and then practice it because if you need to tie one in a hurry you're liable to make a mess of things.
- My preferred method is to take the left side and draw it under my chin, and then take the right side and bring that across my nose and mouth, and tie the two tails off near the back of my head, like so:
- If you wear glasses, a shemagh is a great way to fog them up. I've found that the fogging is mitigated somewhat by breathing through my mouth rather than my nose.
- If you plan on wearing it outside, I recommend putting on a ballcap first. Not only will the brim of the cap keep the sun out of your eyes more efficiently than the shemagh ever will, but the cap also helps provide a frame for the shemagh when you're wrapping it around your face. This is more helpful then you'd think, as shemaghs seem to like giving you tunnel vision. A cap brim keeps your field of view clear.
- Research your colors before you get one. Red, red and white, or black and white shemaghs are typically associated with a country or political movement, so don't be a dumb westerner and wear a thing without realizing you're making a political statement. Olive drab, foliage green and coyote tan are all good choices. Yellow is probably okay, but if you're in an area with a gang presence, blue (the color of the Crips) is probably not a good choice, as is the aforementioned red (the Bloods), and solid black probably absorbs too much heat to be of use.