Ever since we moved into our current apartment last year, we haven’t really needed to pay as close attention to the city central heating schedule as once did. We have in-floor electric heat which we can turn on any time we feel like. Previously we lived on the grid, so to speak, with our radiators only heating our apartment when the city government allowed. We had space heaters, of course, but they were no match for the chilly weeks that usually bookend the heating season.
In our home we no longer wait for the city to warm us, but I continue to be interested in the how and the when of municipal central heating. We still have friends who are dependent on the city heating schedule. Likewise, several of our favorite restaurants and cafes around town are in buildings that are only heated by the city. Heat Watch will probably always be part of our Beijing life.
Heating season isn’t due to begin until mid-November, mostly regardless of the weather. I used the qualifier "mostly" because some years we experienced exceptionally cold and snowy Novembers and the heat was turned on ahead of schedule. Usually, though, the outside temperature has little to do with the start or even duration of heating season.
Monday’s forecast called for cooler temperatures than we had been experiencing lately and a greater than fifty percent chance of rain. Brigid had an art class down in Dongzhimen in the afternoon, which was supposed to be followed by Myles’ baseball practice in another part of Beijing. Because of this close scheduling and the possibility of rain, I booked a driver to cart us around and brought our rain gear, just in case. It was still dry where we were when Brigid’s class finished. Just as we started for Myles’ practice, I received a message that baseball was cancelled because it was already pouring in that part of the city. Instead, we headed home.
It was raining lightly in Changping when we pulled into the east gate of our complex. Upon getting out of the car, I offered Brigid her rain jacket. Brigid, dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, accepted her coat from me, but draped it over her arm.
"I don’t need it," she told me. "I’m fine."
Our arrival was being watched closely by two women standing under the overhang by our gate, out of the drizzle. As we walked past them, they stopped Brigid and asked her a question I was not expecting in September in Changping.
Lěng bù lěng? Meaning, "Aren’t you cold?"
We usually don’t hear this question at least until October, after China’s National Day, which seems to usher in the heavier-clothes wearing season much like Easter and Labor Day in the some parts of the US still define to some extent acceptable colors and textiles. Our experience, too, with the fall weather is that we usually don’t feel it gets put-your-coat-on-kid cold until around Myles’ birthday. But here we were on September 22, and the weather conditions were such that strangers on the street thought Brigid was inappropriately dressed.
I am noting this not because I want to launch into a rant about the all-too-common "冷不冷?"
I can wait until later this fall, on an early October day when we’ve been out sweating in the late afternoon sun if I want to make a fuss about that. My point, though, is to use this as a prelude to this years’ Heat Watch. On September 22 it was cool enough that strangers were compelled to ask my daughter if she weren’t cold. The heat doesn’t come on for (probably) another seven weeks.
I may be very grateful for our in-floor heat sooner than I might like.
This post first appeared on Jennifer Ambrose’s site on September 26, 2014.
Jennifer Ambrose hails from Western Pennsylvania and misses it terribly. She still maintains an intense devotion to the Pittsburgh Steelers. She has lived in China since 2006 and is currently an at-home mother. With her husband Randy and children Myles and Brigid, she resides outside the Sixth Ring Road in Changping, northwest of Beijing
Photos: Jennifer Ambrose