By Bobby Neal Winters
We are now in mid-October. Summer has spent itself in an orgy of sunburned earth and seared grass, but winter with its cold rain, darkness, and snow is not yet upon us. We are in a time of year when the weather is rather pleasant...at home.
At the university, by way of contrast, this has traditionally been a time of crisis. Operating the HV/AC systems in large, institutional type buildings is quite a challenge. It is a subject about which there are things to be known: beautiful things, difficult things, things about gages and air flow and all sorts of stuff. It is an area wherein the objective, immutable facts of physics come into contact--nay conflict--the subjective area of human comfort.
Think about it. In any given building, you might have huge lecture halls and tiny offices; you might have young men coming in at six feet eight inches, three hundred pounds and women whose gross weight is no more than 75 pounds and don’t break 60 inches in height.
No matter how you slice it, someone is going to be uncomfortable.
Now consider the situation that a large number of these people have been trained--indeed have doctorates--in being critical.
In this crucible, it is clear that October (and March by way of symmetry) is not going to be a happy month for the folks who run the heating and air-conditioning on campus.
Over the last 22 years that I’ve been on campus, each October there has been a communication sent out to the citizens of campus: administrators, faculty, secretaries, coaches, custodians, and groundskeepers. First it went out by campus mail with blue ink on white paper, rolled out of a ditto machine; then in black and white; then by e-mail. It is a document that carries more meaning than its mere words convey and has survived through several changes of personnel and has accreted nuance as the years passed. One semester they didn’t send it out and the next semester, it was out all the earlier. It’s like the Bible; it is a document unto itself.
While, I will not reproduce it here, its main points are as follows:
- We are turning off the air-conditioner;
- At some time we will be turning on the heat;
- There will be hot days after the air-conditioner is off;
- There will be cold days before the heat is on;
- At some point you will be miserable.
- LIFE IS NOT FAIR!
- Does this look easy?
- Do YOU want THIS JOB?
- Yeah, YOU!
- This job would eat you up and spit you out you candy-a**ed bookworm.
- If you are cold, you might want to dress decently for a change and not like some over-the-hill hooker.
- If you are hot, bring in a stinking electric fan and maybe think about losing some weight.
- Did you ever think of anyone besides yourself?
- Did you ever think of sending a thank you card for the ten months out of the year you are comfortable?
- Do I look like your mother?
- I hope you treat her better than you do me.
I may be over-reading the subtext here.
In any case, I am getting worried because it hasn’t come out. In recent years, there has been some modernization in our HV/AC systems. We’ve put in some new windows. We’ve generally become more sustainable. It may be the case that they’ve figured out a way to take us through the transition seamlessly. If that is so, I will miss the memo. It meant a lot to me.