Friday, June 22, 2012

"Blowing Hot and Cold"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

Most people who work in modern office buildings are convinced there is no such thing as climate control. I believe otherwise. Here’s why: When it’s 92 degrees outside, it’s 52 inside. Add them up and divide by two and that’s how you get an average temperature of 72 degrees.

Still, I have told my wife that I don’t have to change my seasonal wardrobe -- put winter clothes away in the spring and take out summer ones, put summer clothes away in the fall and take out winter ones -- because you never know what the temperature is going to be in the office.

Instead, I suggest that you take a suitcase to work every day so you can change clothes if it’s either too hot or too cold.

To warm up to the subject, I recently spoke with a cool guy, Steve Zimmerman, director of engineering services in the building where I work.

“We do get our fair share of complaints about the temperature,” said Steve, who was wearing a long-sleeve shirt and a tie (and, of course, pants) even though it was a hot day.

“Actually, I think it’s pretty comfortable in here today,” I said, dressed in a sweatshirt (it was “casual Friday,” even if Steve wasn’t observing it) with a T-shirt underneath and a pair of jeans. I had also brought a windbreaker in case the wind in the office broke the record for the low temperature on that date. (Office conditions are not monitored by the National Weather Service, but they should be.)

Regulating the temperature in the building, which is half a million square feet, is “a big challenge,” Steve said, adding: “We have three air compressors on the roof. And we have chillers in the basement. They have a series of pipes that blow air over the coils. There’s a lot of wear and tear on the equipment. We try to keep it comfortable, but you can’t please everybody. Some people say they’re too hot; others say they’re freezing. It’s a constant battle.”

It’s also a battle at home, said Steve, who doesn’t have central air-conditioning.

“I recently put air conditioners in the windows,” he said.

“I put one in the bedroom because it gets too hot up there,” I said.

“My wife is always hot,” said Steve. “She’ll open the window in February. I’ll have five blankets on and she’ll be on top of the sheet.”

“Have you told her that you shouldn’t have to change your seasonal wardrobe?” I asked.

“If I had the space I would,” said Steve, adding that he boxes his clothes for the appropriate season.

“But you’re wearing a shirt and tie today,” I noted.

“I have to dress professionally no matter what the temperature is,” Steve explained.

In the summer, the temperature in the office can be so cold that the place feels like a meat locker.

“Maybe,” I suggested, “we can hang sides of beef in here and use them as punching bags, like Sylvester Stallone did in the first ‘Rocky’ movie. It would be a good way to keep in shape.”

“It might also make somebody want to punch you,” Steve said.

“Good point,” I replied.

In the winter, the temperature in the office can be so hot that the place feels like a sauna.

“Maybe,” I suggested, “we can make it like a real sauna on casual Fridays and wear towels.”

“If yours fell off, you might not have a job anymore,” Steve said.

“Another good point,” I replied.

I gained new respect for Steve and all the other people who, through broiling heat and bone-chilling cold, try to keep the temperature comfortable in office buildings across the land.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to pack a suitcase for work.
Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima


Dave Astor said...

Newspapers are printed via "cold type" rather than "hot type" these days. That means people working the presses have to dress more warmly than they used to, or maybe I made that up. But I'm not making up the fact that this is an excellent, funny column that will warm the hearts of humor fans -- even those fans with cold hearts.

Heidi-"Heidi in Real Life" said...

Soo true. I always wear layers and have a fan. I'm picturing Steve.

Jerry Zezima said...

Cool, Dave. You're hot stuff. Thanks for the great comment!

Jerry Zezima said...

Thank you, Heidi! Stay cool. I'll see Steve later. Maybe I'll bring him a sweater.

JustRex said...

Our facility is heated by steam in the winter and only a few of the buildings actually have air conditioning. They usually don't turn the steam off until it hits 80 degrees or so outside. And you never know if the a/c is going to be working or not, so I usually bring a coat even in the summer. Some places will be 55 degrees inside when it's 90 outside. And of course some buildings will be 110 inside when it's 50 outside. And they wonder why so much of the staff is sick so often. They blame it on poor morale. said...

Steve must have minored in politics. He deals so well with global warming - I mean, this IS a universal problem! Great tale, Jerry!

Jerry Zezima said...

Darev2005, in the winter, you must be a steamed colleague. And this time of year, AC must stand for Arctic climate. Don't forget to bring some Kleenex to work in case you get sick. After all, it's good for morale.

Jerry Zezima said...

Steve can't be a politician because he isn't full of hot air. And in the office these days, it's pretty cold. But thank you for the comment, Cathy!

stacey said...

Warm hands, cold heart...cold hands, warm heart. This was a cold handed piece, Jerry. Oh and funny too.

Jerry Zezima said...

I have to hand it to you, Stacey: I really warmed up to your comment. Thank you with all my heart!