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Saturday, Feb. 8, 2003
Walk-in freezer homes breed brutes
By AMY CHAVEZ
If you have never been inside a Japanese house, just imagine throwing a bunch of furniture, your computer and your TV into a walk-in freezer. Inhabitants walk around in special thick socks and "chan-chanko," traditional Japanese-style overcoats made for wearing inside the house. Walk into the bathroom and you will find frozen shampoo. A cold Japanese house does have its conveniences, however: You don't have to put the ice cream away when you return from the grocery store.
This is not to say they don't use heaters in Japan. These days, Japan is so modern, they have kerosene fan heaters. If you buy a dozen of these, you can heat your whole house. But most people are content heating just one room and living in there in solitary confinement.
In the United States, we always leave the house heated, even when we are gone. But in Japan, when you come home you have to turn on the heat, then wait for the house to thaw. This means that after you wash your hands, you have to be careful to dry them completely so you don't freeze yourself to a door knob. I'm considering taking out the microwave apparatus from my oven and sticking it in the middle of the living room instead. Then I would have a quick way to microwave the house to warmth when I come home.
If you go on a business trip and leave your frozen house for a few days, glaciers can form and penguins may move in. And, as I found out recently, if you leave it unattended for a few weeks, creatures can grow inside.
My husband and I had just returned from a monthlong stay in the U.S. for Christmas. We entered the house and were taking off our shoes in the "genkan" when a large hairy animal scampered past the genkan and down the hallway.
"What's that?" my husband said. The creature waddled into the shadows.
"Oh my God! It's huge!" I said.
We moved cautiously.
"It probably feels threatened since we're invading his territory," said my husband with great authority.
"You mean it has moved in?" I said, hoping it didn't have an extended family.
I'm not sure who was more scared, it or us, but I felt like we were in a science fiction movie and that the creature would jump on us, expelling acidic saliva that would not only kill us, but leave us corpseless.
"You go outside, I'll try to scare it out," said my husband.
"Be careful, he could be dangerous," I cautioned, edging toward the door.
Then I caught its eyes peering out at us -- they were blue.
"Ureka!" I said. "That's our cat!"
Which goes to prove that when cats are left alone in a walk-in freezer for a few weeks, they will grow a coat of hair up to 10 times their normal size.
The only thing that scares me now is the thought of springtime, when our feline Alaskan malamute will shed white hair all over the house, like a mass invasion of milkweed pods. I have had no luck finding a full-body hair net for cats. I even considered signing her up for an "estee" hair waxing session, but then I had a better idea.
You know those new hand dryers in public rest rooms where you insert your hands down between two side panels that emit streams of air with such force that your hands dry in a matter of seconds? That space where you put your hands is just big enough to stick a cat into. But before I turn it on, I'll rig it so that I can just flip a switch to reverse the direction of the air. My cat will be sucked bald in a matter or seconds!
Check out Amy Chavez's new column, "Parents Do the Strangest Things," at www.amychavez.com.