Some days ago we had one of those torrid days when the heat was really on and we all sweltered. A young friend of mine told me he couldn’t go to work. I thought he might be ill but no, the office, he pointed out, lacked proper air-conditioning so he stayed at home. Fair enough I thought. How can he work in such sub-human sub-Saharan conditions?
Then I thought of a time when I—and most of us—didn’t have A/Cs. Back then a German wise-cracker had visited me at my A/C-less office. He came in, saw me sweating away, looked at the fan’s inept circulating of hot gusts and laughed out loud. He said something about fans being the poor man’s air-conditioning.
I swore at him in my heart—tried desperately hard Cleese-like not to mention the war—while sweating on most unprofessionally. Then I swore to myself that come what may I’d upgrade the fan to a proper cooling system. Even if this upgrade went completely counter to my poor wallet’s depleted state. So I invested in some proper air-conditioning which was a major source of comfort and smiles for me but cause of untold harm to anything worth saving in our depleted planet. But who cared—or cares—as long as we work and play in cool breezes and pleasure. At least I was assured of nods of approval from my German friend.
Now I too—even if still poor and can’t really afford the energy bills—can’t work or function without the rich man’s fans. My body, like so many like mine, turns into molten sloth when the AC is switched off.
The words of my good young friend—not the German one but the one who absented himself because of the lack of A/Cs—later came back when I saw a few workers fighting the sun’s effects on their brows. Some workers were whitewashing, others, gardened and a few pushed their brooms to keep our streets clean and sparkling. Brooms are unbelievably antiquated –can’t we get some proper mechanised road-sweepers?—and admittedly our roads are hardly paragons of swept tidiness. But do think of those who cannot afford the cool luxury of the units that keep some of us going.
What if my good friend had to do an outside job with just a handkerchief to cover his scalp? Or if he, like most of us 20 years ago, had to use the German’s poor version of A/C? Didn’t we perform then? Did people, all those years ago before air-conditioning became the norm at offices, simply not turn up at work because they lacked this modern commodity?
We’re so pampered the whole lot of us we just forget how lucky we all are.