A/C: My Baby
Barry Cheung, Division 2, 12th grade #ws17e-s2d2

96ºF. It is a sweltering summer day in the state of Florida. My head pounds and my body collapses onto the concrete sidewalk. Oceans of sweat pour down my face. The sun beats down upon me. I have just ran the dreaded 3.1 miles required for cross-country practice. There is but a mere 20 feet separating me from the sanctity of my home’s interior. I force myself off the ground and hobble my way inside. As I reach the refuge of my residency, gusts of cool air envelop my body. The gentle touch of the cold breeze induces a euphoria so profound that tears begin to well up in my eyes.

For people living in states near the equator, temperatures upwards of 90ºF are ubiquitous year-round. Unlike our northern cousins, we do not experience the joys of watching chlorophyll drain from the leaves of our trees. The shades of bright scarlet and rustic auburn do not color our landscape in the fall. Subzero temperatures that deliver blankets of pure white snow in the winter are consigned to tales of legend. This does not mean that we do not experience seasons, of course. In fact, we have four of them! They consist of: hot summer, extra hot summer, super hot summer, and scorching hot summer.
It is no wonder then that for me, air conditioning is the most important piece of technology in day-to-day living. Most of us will be quick to state that we cannot live without our cell phones, laptops, and tablets. How could someone survive without the constant stream of Snapchat updates, the Instagram followers, the hours of political satire produced by Stephen Colbert? What would we do without the Vine compilations, the Reddit posts, the memes? While these are all perfectly genuine reasons to value personal devices, none of the services provided can compare to the pure bliss and standard of living bestowed upon me by central air conditioning.

The mechanism by which air conditioning works is very simple. Gaseous refrigerant is compressed by a compressor, creating an enormous amount of heat. This heat is dissipated by condenser coils, which work together with a fan to release the heat into the atmosphere outside of a home. Because the refrigerant is cooled, it becomes a liquid; it then passes through evaporator coils inside the home, where air is drawn in and mixes with the coils before being pumped out as the cold air present in indoor settings. The repetition of this cycle enables the lifestyle characteristic of modern society.

Think of the long hours spent in school, home, or at work. Imagine how much more cumbersome it would be to focus on a task if one had to battle with the unforgiving wrath of the outdoor environment, the inescapable humidity! Imagine what life would be like without the privilege of being able to watch a riveting TV program in the comfort of the home under the roar of an air shaft, to have to worry about inhumane amounts of sweat dripping off of you as you deliver your presentation in an all-black, suit-slacks outfit!

Think of how essential air conditioning is to the functioning of our appliances. Our beloved personal devices would not stand a chance without the miracle of climate control. Electrical fires would be much more common. Overheating and sluggish performance would define interaction with computers. Batteries would malfunction upon a moment’s notice.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to be living in a time where ingenuity and modern developments have led to the advancement of technology at a pace unprecedented in human history. Air conditioning is but one piece of technology among the sea of technological innovations in our present. Even so, it is one that has defined many facets of daily life yet remains underappreciated. It can be easy to forget the sheer work that goes into engineering effective cooling systems when all that is necessary to control it is a thermostat. As I lie upon my living room floor, gasping for air and dying from heatstroke, I remain grateful that this oasis exists in the hot summer desert. No amount of Netflix can beat this.
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