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Dawn's Column - It’s Getting Hot In Here

POSTED July 12, 2011 11:33 p.m.
As I write this, it’s 100 degrees outside and the air conditioning has gone out at The Oakdale Leader office. Fortunately for me, I chose the first day of this calamity to telecommute. However, for some of my coworkers, having to be in the office all day with only ceiling fans and some box fans to circulate hot air makes the hair and the clothes tend to cling where they’re not wanted.
How hot is it?
“My eyeballs are sweating,” said one colleague.
While our very old brick building has a certain amount of charm, this is part of its downside. This air conditioning issue seems to happen every summer, but this time it apparently made some kind of racket first. Not a good sign and not the standard quick repair.
Of course, it typically goes down on a really hot day and it usually takes a while for someone to arrive to fix it. We can’t turn the thermostat below 75 degrees because the unit literally freezes – we learned the hard way – but the ol’ thing has a hard time keeping up when the outside temps get really high.
In the summer, the people who sit in the front part of our offices usually get a little too chilly in order for us to be somewhat comfortable in the back part of the building. Otherwise, we reporters and the production people have our own little sweatshop. The opposite is true in the winter – they’re warm and toasty at the front and we need to dress ourselves in layers at the back. Because of these little “tics,” each of us in the back of the building has a small space heater and several fans that get alternating use from season to season. I have a vinyl office chair and even when the A/C is working I still have to peel my legs from it when I get up to move around.
The worst time for the air conditioning to go on the fritz is deadline time. We can’t leave the office and go drive around in our air-conditioned cars or interview someone in their air-conditioned office. We just have to muddle through. We dramatically flop in our chairs like rag dolls while our hands drag around the keyboard making the effort to type words.
On the second day of our office torment the air conditioning is supposedly working at half capacity, but you really can’t tell. It’s still hot in here. A new compressor or something is needed and corporate approval required. Therefore, slowly the wheels turn to make this building a cool place to be again.
Deadline is still a couple days away, let’s hope that our fixed air conditioning unit isn’t. Being productive when you’re so distracted by the heat can be a challenge. And even though my coworkers and I aren’t hungry we tend to develop cravings for milkshakes or ice cream cones on days like this.
I hesitate to complain too much because I’m well aware that some folks don’t have air conditioning at all. To them, I imagine that a sometimes-working air conditioner is a nice problem to have.
I don’t know what they did in The Oakdale Leader office building back in the old days before modern air conditioning. I can imagine there must have been times when the sweat dripped from their brows and onto the typewriters and old-time machines used to produce the paper.
One of my coworkers said that in those days, the newspaper people were just “tough” but said he doesn’t know how they got much of the creative work done. Of course, back then it wasn’t uncommon to take a break at the local “watering hole” to hear the latest scuttlebutt either. These days, we just go to the coffee shop across the street and ask for an iced mocha.
It’s hard to be cool when it’s hot.
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