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.