A meeting with Uncle Sam

Dr. Willis Carrier

Overseas travel opportunities on offer from local suppliers and their respective Principals forms an important part of their overall marketing strategy and our Industry is not out-gunned in this department.

Yours truly has been extremely privileged over the years in this regard and a quick count confirms that some twelve different countries have enjoyed the pleasure of my congenial presence.

But jokes aside, my heartfelt thanks go to all those who have graciously hosted me throughout my career. Each trip remains indelibly etched in my memory, while simple things like taking my meds now need a gentle reminder from the wife.

However, I have never cracked the nod for a trip to the good old US of A. Why? I really don’t know and can only but guess as to why that is. It could be the cost factor or simply a lack of US partners. I believe it could be the latter. American manufactured goods surely cannot compete in the local market.

So, after earning a few extra bob, I decided to pay a visit under my own steam, it is after all, the origin of the air conditioner and birthplace of Dr. Willis Carrier, the inventor of modern airconditioning. Thankfully, his legacy lives on in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

When travelling, I invariably take note of the airconditioning installations around me. Force of habit I suppose. Airports, hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, all get the third degree.

For me anyway, it’s always interesting to note how airconditioning is done the world over. The truth be told, it’s done pretty much the same way everywhere.

Nevertheless, on the first of my two recent visits (each of some 5 weeks duration) I was somehow hoping for something different, better, more advanced, from the Country that, as I’ve already mentioned, invented and perfected the airconditioning concept, in turn giving rise to a remarkable Industry.

Boy-oh-boy was I in for a shock. Without exception, virtually every installation I saw looked much the same as anything I had seen before, the good, the bad and the downright disgusting. For that matter, I could have been right here at home.

What struck me however, is the almost exclusive use of US manufactured products, as opposed to imported offerings. In a way I found this gratifying, as will President Trump no doubt.

The quality of the equipment I must say, seemed top notch, on par I thought with the best out of Europe and Japan. There is a purposeful sense of pride in all things American made, which was evident throughout my trip, whatever the subject matter.

Another interesting observation was the vast number of airconditioning Contractors plying their trade throughout New York City (and all the larger cities for that matter).

Given the many hundreds of hotels, restaurants, diners, supermarkets, bars, etc., clearly airconditioning and refrigeration is a huge and hopefully lucrative industry. Judging by their immaculately turned out service vehicles, this would seem to be so.

Refurbishment projects are everywhere to behold, as are new projects of course, all contributing to the hive of activity that exists. The buildings themselves, both existing and new-built, are awe-inspiring to say the least, as they stretch skywards in profusion. Forty floors and upwards, to over a hundred, all seeming to compete with one another.

Balanced on the top of many, are the chiller sets, cooling towers, water tanks and other essential services. How they get up there is a rigging miracle. To service and repair requires guts and nerves of steel, attributes not found in any O &; M manual.

I am very pleased to report that the humble window/wall unit is alive and doing well in the USA. Many older existing high rise building have adopted this form of airconditioning solution, a solution going back many years it seems.

For those of us who started our careers in the 1960’s, the window unit was where we first cut our teeth.

These units were extremely popular in the day, with many thousands being installed throughout South Africa, in homes, offices, factories, etc., albeit not as popular today in our neck of the woods.

Still, it’s encouraging to see that a large world market still exists for this type of airconditioning product, no doubt to satisfy a specific need.

For what it’s worth, it would be amiss of me not to offer my take on America, gathered over a total stay of some ten weeks:

Large people : You bet
Friendly and obliging : Without exception
Expressive and dramatic : Absolutely
Tattooed ladies : Too many
Tattooed men : Not as many as the ladies
Well organised : To the extreme
Food : Not great but plentiful. Fine dining rare and expensive.
Mullet hair styles : Still a few
Uber : Great everywhere
Expensive : By our standards, yes. NYC more so

All in all, one cannot help but be impressed. It’s sheer size and pace leaves you bewildered. The USA gives the impression it’s done it all before and needs no assistance, or interference, from any quarter.

There were many memorable moments, but as we all know, every trip has its highlights. For me there were two, New York’s Ground Zero Memorial and San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island. Ground Zero is as poignant as it is sad, capturing in fine detail that horrific event, which for me anyway, represents the epitome of Man’s inhumanity to Man, a callous act of pure barbarity.

Alcatraz Island with it’s notorious prison, gives an insight into the harsh world of the habitual criminal. Men that no ordinary prison can hold. Yet on the 11 June 1962, three desperate men attempted the impossible. After many months, possibly years of careful preparation, they made their escape on an inflatable raft made from stolen prison raincoats, never to be seen or heard from again. The escape remains a mystery and source of speculation to this day. The official FBI file remains open.

Would I go back? Without a doubt! However, I will need to find a local sponsor out there to oblige. Any takers?

Only (partially) joking!!

Patrick Burke

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