Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Cold Comfort Air Conditioning

Today I walked to the office, my laptop and a heavy zoom lens in my backpack, and although it is no more than 10 minutes door to door, by the time I arrived at my workplace my shirt was transparent with sweat. I'd got up early because I had a phone call with Seattle at 8am, so it wasn't as if I'd been horsing about in the noonday sun. Singapore is just a bit hotter than perhaps my standard operating temperature range allows for.

I'd also packed a sweater, because after my icy-cold experience on Monday in the new office, I had a feeling that the over-zealous air conditioning might continue. And so it did. On Monday, half the office empty because people had taken the day off to make the most of the Tuesday holiday. I had assumed that the air conditioning was much too powerful because there weren't enough people in the room to heat it up. But today, when I looked around the room and saw everyone else huddled under sweaters and shawls and long trousers, I realised that something was still up.

It is at least 30 degrees outside. I walked home for lunch, raising a sweat in the ten minutes that took, and changed my shirt, and then walked back, and by the time I was back at the office I was soaking wet again. And once again, a few minutes later I was freezing to death as the air conditioning continued to pump fat dollops of chilly air straight on my head.

The office manager came over and asked me if I was pretending to be cold. I thought of telling her yes, when I'm at a comfortable temperature I often like to put on some heavy warm clothes to confuse people around me. Because when I'm at work my main goal is to be uncomfortably hot or cold so that I will find it harder to concentrate on anything. But I've noticed that irony and the workplace are often not great friends.

My manager pointed out that we were probably wasting lots of money on electricity by trying to refrigerate the office. The office manager's retort was that the company spent more on Coke for my manager than it did on electricity. Unless the price of Coca-Cola has skyrocketed and we've built a perpetual motion machine in the basement for all our electrical needs, I expect that isn't really the case. However, it was clear by now that a reasoned argument, an appeal to profitability, or the entire office demanding that the air conditioning be reduced were not going to have any bearing on proceedings. You can't argue with a Singaporean who's holding a remote control, apparently.

Instead, covert action would have to be taken. I have begun a low-level guerilla campaign, starting by swapping the over-full wastepaper basket under my desk with the empty one that the office manager has. (She really, really hates people putting rubbish into her wastepaper basket. After all, you should keep the bin clear of rubbish.) My thought is that by doing so, she'll grow distracted. Next, I'll rearrange all the pens on her desk so that they're pointing in the opposite direction to the one she suspects. Finally, I'll get some nail-varnish remover and use it to obliterate all the letters on her keyboard, and with that complete and my opponent on the back foot, I'll retrieve the air conditioning control and hide it where only I can find it, and keep the air conditioning at an even 24 degrees.

I still don't understand why this is. Is there a widespread belief that cold, cold air is much better for you? Do some people in the office hate the world so much that they just want to hasten the end of it by using up all the resources as fast as possible? Has everyone gone raving mental and only I am dumb/brave enough to stand up and say so? Or should I just stay at home, where there's a ready supply of coffee and a sensible ambient temperature, and avoid these battles?


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