Friday, June 10, 2005

European Air Conditioning Sucks

A few years ago I worked in London for three weeks or so.  It was August.  The temperature was in the high eighties and it was very humid.  Historically, London tends to have temperatures more like San Francisco. The place already feels air conditioned most of the year. Or it did. They aren't used to escaping from oppressive heat the way we are here in Chicago. And it's been getting hotter over there.

The air conditioning in my fancy English hotel felt handcranked.  They tried to pump cool air to the rooms but they didn't get the memo about how to de-humidify it, so the air was cooler, but everything felt really really sticky. EEEWWWW. 

I was part of a team over in London for some focus groups. Everybody thought it was interesting that the facility we found advertised American Style Air Conditioning.  After a couple of days in our hotel, we couldn't wait to see if the ad was true.

To get to the venue out in the London suburbs, I was picked up by a limo. It was warm inside the car, so I asked the driver to turn up the -- what else -- air conditioning. He informed me that the car didn't have any. 

What? A brand new car without air conditioning? He said they rarely needed it.  I guess you just stiff upper lip it when it gets warm over there. Or ride with your nose out the window like a dog. Like I did.

Thank goodness, the air conditioning at the 400-year-old building housing the focus group facility was just as they advertised -- American style. In fact it was so cold, we actually asked them to warm it up a bit.

While we're on the subject, the London subway system ["The Underground" or "Tube"] isn't air conditioned either.

In recent years, with summer becoming more sultry, I can only imagine what riding in a crowded subway car must be like at the end of a very warm day.

It just so happens that one of my children lives there. So I have heard eyewitness reports about what it's like.

It is freaking hot.

What do you think riding in a closed box with dozens of other people in the summer heat might feel like?

My daughter just goes into the zen of traveling like she's in a third world country. Without the goats. How would you like to commute to and from your job that way? Last summer she said they had to evacuate the offices of her multinational company because the air conditioning couldn't handle the heat.    

I know I shouldn't throw stones. About ten years ago 700 people died in Chicago during one of the hottest summers we ever had here. I thought that was awful until I read that 11,000 people had died in France that same year. I thought it was a typo. London may have lame air conditioning, but France makes England look frosty during heat waves.

At least in Chicago they added dozens of cooling stations for people to escape from the heat.  And neighborhood checks to make sure the elderly had fans at least. Someone over THERE suggested that people who underwent the deprivations of World War II think Americans are just whiny.

My daughter, who embraces Europe, has said that the infrastructure -- the backbone of one's life -- is way behind the United States.  All those charming and beautiful historic cities we love to read about and visit have ancient wires and pipes. Air conditioning, electricity, and plumbing, things we take for granted here, are right out of the middle ages. Or the middle of the last century at least.

This summer is supposed to be one of the hottest ever here in Chicago.  We've had a record number of ninety degree days already. Very humid too. 

Hope somebody gets France a window fan.


suzypwr said...

I have a/c, it just doesn't work. I don't see any relief in sight - if Chicago is having a very hot summer, so is Detroit. So I guess I need to get this thing fixed or replaced. Then I can send my fan to France.


ksquester said...

oh, I am so grateful for air conditioning. I may be a "girl in a bubble" but at least the bubble is airconditioned.      Anne

tdain2003 said...

I was supposed to be in Chicago next week ... at a Cub game and visiting with a friend who lives on Addison.... sigh.... how I love Chicago ... even in 90 degree weather!

sunnyside46 said...

one of my pet peeves is people here in AL who gripe about the heat!Hello,you live in a subtropical climate! Having said that,I must admit it is 77 degrees in my house.thank god for AC!

mombzbe said...

No a/c?  That's uncivilized...
Out here in AZ, no a/c makes people nuts.  Where else could you get away with threatening your spouse with a loaded weapon simply for adjusting the thermostat?  Or need potholders to grasp your steering wheel in the middle of the day?
No a/c?  In the tube?  No thanks, I'll walk. The air outside might be warm, but at least the fragrance will be floral--  :D