Friday, July 9, 2010

In Gratitude For Willis Carrier

If you live in the North East and have not taken a moment this week to thank Willis Carrier you should . He is the man who is credited with inventing the first modern air conditioning system in 1902. The genius behind the cool air blowing through our homes and offices that has made the last few days bearable.

If you're as old as me you remember when air conditioning was considered a luxury. It was an option when you bought a car that you paid extra to get.  Schools had fans, usually near the teacher's desk which most likely she had bought herself.  If you were lucky enough to have an air conditioner at home, chances are it was only in one room of the house. In our case it was my parent's bedroom, a noisy, clunky apparatus protruding from the casement window that I begged to stand in front of. I'd argue that one of the reasons so many of my generation fell in love with the movies was that the price of a  ticket came with air conditioned comfort.

Until the late 1950s  this modern day miracle was limited to the workplace with the goal of increasing productivity. Yes we can thank Corporate America, greed and all,  for the rapid expansion and development.

It's hard to imagine getting along with something we now expect to have and to be working properly no matter what.  Especially this week.  But then  the world moved a lot slower before things like air conditioning. You didn't have to worry about getting so much accomplished in one day, so if the heat slowed you down, it was OK. People understood.

Now we take it for granted. Like so much else in our high tech, fast paced world, in which there is   a constant din of yelling and finger pointing  about all the things we think are so wrong, all the things that need to be fixed,  how bad everything is that we forget to take time to be grateful for something as simple as air conditioning. We lead pretty cushy lives but we forget that many of us had grandparents like I did, who crossed the Atlantic in a crowded ship that did not serve happy meals much less provide air conditioning.

We marvel at the miracle of the Internet and high speed communication yet a little over a hundred years ago something we consider so basic today was just as much a miracle.

So thank you Willis Carrier. My unit has been humming along this week, providing me relief and keeping me cool. I am grateful.

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