Friday, June 23, 2017

The (Fake News) History of Air Conditioning

Here at the start of summer, let’s discuss air conditioning. Most historians claim it was invented by Willis Carrier in 1902 in New York City. However, this is not correct. The first air conditioning system actually was invented thousands of years ago. On a hot, steamy summer day, a caveman named Gork was mopping his sweaty forehead with one hand and holding the electrical cord of his air conditioning unit with the other hand. He asked his wife, “How come there are no electrical outlets in this cave?”

Mrs. Gork, also sweaty and uncomfortable, especially since her wardrobe consisted exclusively of mastodon fur garments, replied, “Unless you figure out a way to cool down this cave, you’re sleeping on the couch tonight!” This made Gork very sad, as couches had yet to be invented, which meant he would be sleeping on a rock.

So Gork decided to invent air conditioning. He roamed the countryside looking for something cold. After many hours, he found a convenience store with an ice machine by the front door. Gork was thrilled. But then the clerk informed him that the ice machine was broken and no one knew when the repair man was supposed to arrive. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway since Gork left his wallet back at the cave.

Gork continued searching. Finally, in a deep thicket on the north side of a large hill, he spotted a hoof protruding from the ground. He began to dig with his hands — wishing he had remembered to bring not only his wallet, but also his shovel — and unearthed the frozen carcass of a wildebeest.

Gork dragged his icy treasure home. He placed the rapidly-thawing carcass in the middle of his cave and waved palm branches up and down to blow cool air toward Mrs. Gork in the bedroom. Although Gork did not particularly enjoy getting up every 20 minutes to wave the palm branches, it was much better than sleeping on a rock.

But the next morning, as the sun rose on another hot and steamy day, Gork’s nostrils informed him that his air conditioning invention still had a few bugs to work out — specifically, the cloud of bugs furiously buzzing around the cave. Although Mr. and Mrs. Gork were accustomed to some rather unpleasant smells —  for example, they had never taken a bath in their entire lives since Gork’s cousin Grunk had yet to invent plumbing — having a rotting wildebeest carcass in the middle of the living room produced an aroma that even the Gorks found bothersome.

Mankind’s desire to cool the air on hot, steamy summer days remained an unfulfilled dream for thousands of years until that fateful day in 1902 when Willis Carrier walked into a Brooklyn printing shop dragging behind him palm branches and a frozen wildebeest carcass.

Over the next few decades, a series of technological advancements with electric motors, pumps, and fans, combined with important innovations in the field of chemical refrigerants, made it possible, at long last, to have safe, reliable, and convenient systems for cooling indoor air which did not stink up the building and attract bugs. (That job is still best performed by thoughtless employees who leave food scraps and soda cans lying around the break room.)

We currently live in an era where the task of cooling the air on hot, steamy summer days is no longer a big deal. We now take it for granted that air conditioning equipment will turn on at the touch of a button and make our homes and offices quite comfortable. We should rejoice that we live in this particular time and place. 

Now if someone can get the ice machine repair man to show up, we can really celebrate.

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