July 14, 2022
We are having a bit of a heat wave in the Chicago area, not the deadly type of 1996, but uncomfortable for much outside activity. I marvel at the toughness and heat resistance of people before the advent of air conditioning in the early 1900s; it does not surprise me that this wonderful technology spread so rapidly. My family did not have air conditioning in the house until after I was out on my own. Dad was like a kid on Christmas morning when he got his first very used car with air conditioning. If I recall correctly, a window air conditioner was purchased soon afterwards; once you know you can escape the sweltering summer heat, even the determined Luddite loses resolve. During my apprenticeship, assignments to heat treating and the foundry were used to discipline any kids who neglected to keep their hair trimmed or otherwise rankled the training supervisor. Fortunately both my foundry assignments took place in the cooler months. Even in March, walking past an open hearth furnace sapped the strength from you. I have since spent many hours in non-air conditioned shops, foundries, weld shops and heat treat departments. My tolerance for the heat has not increased, so I thank the designers of modern gear grinding machines and some computer-controlled machining centers for requiring them to be kept in a climate-controlled environment. In case you think this requirement is merely a conspiracy between the folks who sell the machines and the folks who operate them to obtain a comfortable summer work space, I have seen first-hand the calibration drift these marvelous devices go through on a hot day when the air conditioning goes out. So my inner-curmudgeon stays silent when others wax poetic on the “good old days,” when real men worked 72 hours a week in triple-digit temperatures. They have my admiration for their work ethic. I much prefer the high accuracy of today’s temperature-controlled processes.