Sunday, 8 November 2009

Culture Shock Diaries #10 - Obsessive Temperature Control

My memories from studying in the UK include buildings that were boiling hot in summer due to poor ventilation, and freezing in winter due to dilapidated Victorian heating systems. Although this was annoying, it made sense. Fletcher seems to be the other way around.

When I first arrived, and it was pretty hot outside, the rooms inside the building were FREEZING – I would walk to class in a t-shirt and put on a thick jumper, hat and scarf when I got inside. When I lost the circulation in my fingers I starting wearing fingerless gloves as well. Discussion with other students suggested two possible theories: that the person setting the temperature was a man, and that the person setting the temperature was a sadistic bastard who wanted to make sure we didn’t nap in class. I personally subscribe to option c: both of the above.

Now that it’s getting cold out and the heating’s on, the opposite is true. Admittedly I live on the second/third floor (second if you’re British, third if you’re American), and heat rises, but it isn’t right that I leave my window permanently open just to get a bearable temperature in my room. Same goes for class – I’m now going everywhere in dozens of layers and stripping down to a t-shirt when I get inside. Except for my Central Asia and the Caucasus class, which is somehow always freezing. I think it’s the sweeping Siberian winds somehow teleporting through Hess’ slideshow.

Now this does happen in the UK too, and the vagaries of old buildings don’t help – I had an office a couple of years ago where it would be boiling hot, but if you opened the window even a crack, half the room would be freezing cold (that was the half I was in) and there would be no effect whatsoever on the rest of the room. But I think both Oxford and Geneva take a relatively ‘natural’ approach to temperature control.

And even if this is a universal thing... why?! An opportunity for us to display our full range of seasonal wardrobes all year round? A King Cnut-style attempt to beat nature*? Wilful climactic destruction? A conspiracy by the pharmaceutical industry to get us sick and sell us drugs?

I think it might be time for an uprising.

* Note for Anglo-Saxon history pedants: I realise that Cnut’s point was that you can’t beat nature. The temperature-controllers can’t beat nature either. So the analogy still works.

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