The PROCESS of Adaptation


The other morning I walked out of the house knowing that the temperature was 79º and I wanted to pinch myself.  It didn’t feel the way I thought 79º is supposed to feel. Which brought to mind the process by which we humans become adapted to changes in our lives.  Every year at the two Daylight Savings time changes I and a goodly number of other people feel discomfited for some few days because our internal clock doesn’t adjust as quickly as the digital clock on the wall.  Our bodies struggle to adjust to new water sources — a la Montezuma’s Revenge when traveling.  Those of us suddenly put onto a salt-free diet by our doctors find that nothing tastes the ways it’s supposed to taste.  And so on.

I have been an Upper Midwesterner pretty much all my life.  We’ve lived in stick & brick homes in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio.  Those movements never really required any adaptive change for climate. The better part of a year we spent in Oregon was so much of the same thing no change was required there either.  And our seasonal visits to other parts of the country  — including the 4 month visit here two years ago were short enough that I never thought much about whether I was getting used to a different climate. 

Now we are thinking about such things — simply because our bodies are doing their thing quite without any conscious thought.    And I find myself fascinated by the way our chemical factories know how to adapt without education, without a degree, without graduating any course.  It’s built into our nature.

I’m not sure that the same feelings of adaptation apply to dealing with humidity.  The presence of humidity or the absence of humidity seems still to be a matter of instant recognition.  And folks who have been longterm residents here seem to mention the changes just as much as us newbies.

When we were casual travelers — before going full time as RV’ers — I struggled more with some changes than others.  Time Zones gave me fits.  I could manage more easily Westbound travel.  But anytime I went East I would struggle with the difference for days.  Using the sage travel advice to stay awake upon arriving in Europe after an overnight flight always sounded fine — and I would do what I was supposed to do to minimize the effects — but frankly I don’t think it ever helped.  And, of course, when traveling West I was always awake at my usual time — then it was 3:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. CST — which I was in California meant that I was awake every night from midnight on, regardless what time I went to bed. On the rare occasions when I’d be out there for more than 2 weeks I would start acclimating about the time I was due to return home — so the process would start all over again.  

I’m not sure if taking notice of a thing on a single day really means we’ve adjusted, or we are adjusting, or maybe we just had an odd morning.  It’s all hypothetical.  The fact of the matter is that we walk around in these amazing skin suits that adapt themselves to our environment within amazing variations — all without much thought.

Some of these adaptations are easier than others.  Our bodies are programmed to deal with things like temperature change, and water change, and times.  Other changes aren’t quite the same, and they certainly aren’t programmed into the same body systems.

I remember my first trip to New York City and how shocked I felt as I headed out of town in the direction of Connecticut and I saw miles and miles of high rise apartment blocks.  Today, New York and environs has population densities between 27,000 people per square mile and 57,000 people per square mile.  (Wiki — based on 2010 census data) By comparison I’m accustomed to living in an area (Milwaukee) with a population density closer to 6,000 people per square mile.  And now, here in the Brownsville Texas area the population density is a scant 1600 per square mile.

I don’t think our brains, or our emotions, are programmed to adjust to social changes.  These seem to be far more matters of personal preference.  We do adjust to our social settings.  There have been studies to demonstrate that large cities — for example — move at different paces.  New York city is a literal rat race compared to … say…. Savannah Georgia.  Chicago, L.A., Denver — they all have their own pace, their speech patterns, their favorite foods and pastimes.  Adjusting to social environments can be much harder than adjusting to the physical environment.  Our bodies aren’t going to make those adjustments automatically.  About those we all seem to have to think and to compensate as best suits our personality.

I find that here in South Texas it’s much more important to actually say, “Good Morning” and to make a point of greeting people.  Up North that wasn’t nearly as common an expectation as it is here.  The other morning we ate at a new breakfast/lunch restaurant and I was greeted with an across-the-counter handshake and smile as we entered and as we left it was a same-side of the counter one-hand-on-shoulder and firm handshake with a smile.  I have to “up” my politeness game when I’m down here.  Heck — of all the social expectations I’ve been exposed to — learning to be consciously more polite is one of the nicer ones!  Of course some of that is due to the fact that 87% of the population here is hispanic.  The manners and customs of the U.S. population have been hugely influenced by the influx of immigrants from Mexico and beyond.  So far as I can see — those are huge benefits to our U.S. culture:  we could use a little more humanity, a little more politeness, a little more care for our fellows.

I don’t know how I’ll feel about the weather here in another few months.  We’re 1/3 of the way through our second Spring here.  We’ve never gotten to a summer before. As you can see from the adjoining chart the July-August-September forecast here is for significantly warmer than normal temps.  I suspect our adaptation will continue for a good while to come!

There you have it. <sarcasm font engaged> Climate Change may be a great hoax but it’s getting warmer down here for sure. 🙂   </end sarcasm font>

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2 Comments

    1. I agree. Though I have come to realize that I have a hard time distinguishing humidity from temperature. I know when I’m uncomfortable but that doesn’t always correlate to Xº or Y% — often it’s a sliding scale of interaction. Xº at Y% humidity versus X+4º at Y-Z% — if you get my meaning.

      Very rarely is the wind NOT blowing in Los Fresnos!

      Liked by 1 person

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