The scourge of Serbia, and I’m sure the entire former Yugoslavia, is called promaja. It cannot be seen, it can be felt, and sometimes smelled, depending on the temperature and if you’re standing by a dumpster. What could such a destructive force possibly be you might ask? It is a cross breeze. That terrible feeling of a cool breeze on hot, moist skin on a stale humid day. Typically, most Americans will open a window on a hot day in order to get the air moving and perhaps cool things down in a stuffy apartment. The act of opening the window alone is enough to send the average Serb running for the hospital with neck pains. Promaja is widley known as the silent killer.
I was first introduced to this terrible afliction this past May while on vacation in Serbia with my wife and her family. The first run in was with her uncle, in his car, on the way to Belgrade. Let me set this up. Long plane ride. Hot airport. Long line at customs. Hot day outside. Get in hot car. Leave windows up for the 30 minute ride. No A/C. All because of promaja! It was horrible. Horrible! I made the mistake of cracking the window and Uncle V was slowly inching it back up. Someone in the back seat must have seen the look on my face so I was told the horrible secret.
This is no joke. My wife has two cousins in the area and BOTH were on workmans comp for pains suffered from promaja. One is a cop. He was off for 4 weeks at the time I met him because he had to drive his cruiser with the window open, and the breeze left him with a pain and stiffness in his neck. Oviously he couldn’t serve and protect with a stiff neck. The idea that he went to his superiors and gave this as reason, AND THEY GRANTED HIM THE TIME OFF, still amazes me. I’m thinking of trying it after New Year’s and seeing what happens.