Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Hot Deaning Action

My office is at the very end of the ductwork for its building, which is to say, it isn’t air conditioned in any meaningful way. It also has nice big windows, so the greenhouse effect is pronounced. This week, according to the National Weather Service, it’s approximately 10,000 degrees outside, which means my office is about 9,000.

I am not a happy camper.

The rest of the building is hit-and-miss; one professor actually stopped me in the hallway today to complain that the chocolates she had left in her office for a week had melted. She seemed to think that I have some sort of control over building temperature. If I did, I’d start by getting my office temperature down into the double digits.

At one point it got so bad that I actually moved a meeting out of my office into another building, just to escape the heat. If it gets much worse, my office will start to look like a Dali painting.

I’ll just admit it: I simply don’t understand the apparent national mania for moving South. Leaving aside the red state/blue state thing, the NASCAR thing, and all the various cultural signifiers, it’s also *#%#)% HOT down there. (And I’m not fooled for a minute by the whole “palmetto bug” scam. I know a cockroach when I see one. They also have hurricanes and Republicans.) I’ll take cold over hot anytime. At least with cold, you can add layers.

It’s hard to look appropriately decanal when you’re visibly sweaty. I don’t think the college is ready, culturally, for a dean in shorts, but I’m _this close_ to trying it. (Last week Danigirl did a post about a supposed no-miniskirts-after-35 rule. I may have to do a no-deans-in-shorts query. Nothing lycra, just some tasteful long khaki numbers. Waddaya think?) And a fan is out of the question, given all the loose paper in here. But I need to do something, because it’s hard to maintain the appropriate external quietude when you’re too close to a literal boiling point.

Oh, Blogosphere, I seek your wisdom. Assuming the windows don’t open, a fan isn’t realistic, and the a/c is mostly theoretical, how do you keep cool at work in July?

Where I work, the dean wears shorts.
There is more to the South than your typical uninformed stereotypes. Carolina beaches, Georgia peaches, and the prettiest girls on earth. Some things are worth putting up with a little discomfort! ;-)
In my neck of the south, it's no hotter here than in the northeast. And it's so cheap to live here that even adjuncts can afford to buy houses.
I am just once again (not really) disappointed that we find stereotypes rule the day.

Might I suggest that you find a way to secure the loose papers (folders, perhaps) and put the fan low to the ground/on the floor. That would provide some meaningful circulation.

Shades/blinds might prove useful--or those tinted "stick ons." Especially a tinted stick on with a posted "E" rating.

Perhaps a work order, as well? Get that AC problem looked into? I suspect it
Iced coffee, fan, and linen tank dresses. I would recommend only the former for you, though. If your school isn't ready for a dean in shorts, they're really not ready for a male dean in a linen tank dress I presume.

The A/C is broken in my building, too, if it makes you feel any better.

I spent two years living in the South, in a blue city, and you couldn't pay me enough money to go back there. The palmetto bugs, which are basically huge cockroaches that can FLY!, and roaches were bigger than my fingers. On the up side, it's so bloody hot there that the they must install super-duper A/C, because I never had an instance in the South, at work or home, where the A/C broke.

Have I mentioned that our rental house in Hilly Hamlet has no A/C and I walk to work? Yeah, it's damn hot.
My first thought was what The Professor said above - go rock collecting with The Boy and secure yourself some paperweights.

I have to admit, it is nice being able to wear a short(ish) skirt and sleeveless blouse to a meeting and still look appropriate while my male colleagues swelter in ties and long pants.

I'd say my response to you would be the same one the blogosphere gave to me - if you've got the legs, go for it! I'd stay away from those capris for men, though. That crosses a line that nobody over 20 should cross...
When it is dangerously hot, you have one of 2 choices.

1. Wear shorts to work.
2. Wear a skirt to work.

In either case, you blow the "dean look" but it's not like the weather or your HVAC system is a help.
Work in an archive :) If the temperature gets above 72, maintenace has to come out and save us.
Any change you could find a reason to have to visit the school's computer room. They're always nice an frosty!

Have you tried wearing some sort of neck cooling gel pack (like this). I used one during my pregnancy and boy did it help! (I didn't use that one exactly, but it was similar.)
Have a seersucker kilt made; if anyone hassles you for wearing it claim that its a cultural thing.

Blinds sound like a good idea.
Yeah, I don't think the linen tank dress or miniskirt would work for me. Something about being male.

I like the archive idea!

My old school had its flaws, but it had a truly great HVAC system. (Since so much of the place was computer labs, it pretty much had to.) In my first summer working there as an adjunct, when my little apartment felt like a Turkish prison without the charm, I used to go there and just hang out in the adjunct room, mooching off the a/c. Heat is not my thing.

I'll admit to being a little surprised at the virulence of the accusations of stereotyping. Rereading what I wrote, I expressed a personal preference for cooler weather and Democrats. Neither should come as a surprise to my regular readers. Some people like the South, and that's their call. It's just not mine. I remember regularly visiting grandparents in Memphis, TN, as a kid, and wondering how they could stand the heat. (I also didn't understand why they insisted on such spicy food when it was so hot.) It's almost certainly true that the a/c systems in newer buildings there are heavy duty, which would be nice. As my regular readers know, I'm a BIG fan of central air.

Anyway, no offense intended. It's an expression of a personal preference, no different than saying I don't like tomatoes. I don't advocate banning tomatoes, I don't think any less of people who do like tomatoes, and I don't think there's anything immoral about tomatoes. I just don't like them. Not my thing.
I'm with those who advise getting some paperweights and a fan. Come on, loose papers is not an excuse! Some air circulation can do wonders.
Our building has no A/C and the windows only open a teensy bit (liability issues: apparently students would leave the pub, go to the classroom near my office or the floor above, push up the screenless, split, floor to ceiling window to the halfway point and jump out, just for fun) so it's fans, no lights and as little time there on the hot days as possible. Which, considering I'm acting department chair for the next three weeks, is very depressing.
I have to agree with the fan idea. I live in Columbia, SC and although we have a large Sycamore tree to help shade the house, it gets very hot and we don't have any AC. The fans are a life saver.

Just to rib you a little, it's cooler here than in your part of the country this week.
Point the fan at your feet and take off your shoes and socks. It will help. Point another fan from the cooler hall into your office.

Wear cotton. Forget the suit and tie. Bring a sports coat and tie to hang on the back of your office door for emergencies.

Wear a short sleeve shirt.

Turn off the lights unless they're flourescent. Block the sun - tape posters over the windows if necessary.

Take a long lunch during the hottest part of the day.

And the high today in Houston, Texas, is only going to be 92 and we never have to shovel snow.
I have an office with a huge window, so in the winter the afternoon sun makes my office a sauna. I found a great desk fan at one of the office supply stores. It seems to circulate the air without making my office a whirlwind of papers... it is a short tower and it does rotate if you want it to.. go shopping, in the late afternoon when it is really hot.

I also think that "dean day at the movies" isn't a bad option for the afternoon :) --- and deans in tasteful shorts are great -- what I can't handle is men over the age of about 20 in sandals or flip-flops, so don't go there.
Although I'm now living in the desert, I usually live in the south and I also like tomatoes. I wasn't at all offended by your post. And, while palmetto bugs are even worse than cockroaches because they do fly, only once did one ever get up my skirt. Since I was on a ladder trying to kill it at the time, it could hardly be blamed for its survival instinct, IMO. On the whole, it's just another matter of personal preference, I believe.

Anyway, what about a handheld misting fan? The ad says it's "like having your own personal air conditioner that you can carry anywhere...and...Also doubles as drinking bottle." What more could you ask for? :)
There was once my apartment's AC didn't work for 3 days in the summer in Miami, I placed a soaked wet towel in the front of two fans. It was not as good as AC but the room is cooler than other wise without. You may want to select a towel that is thin enough to let the wind blow through. The wind is cooler than normal with the wet towel.
Go with shorts. And, I have to disagree respectfully with the reader above, but sandals are also fine.

Have you tried finding an empty basement area you can do some work in? Basements always tend to be reasonbly cool in summer.

Bood luck on the heat.
Nothing says "welcome to my office" like aluminum foil on the windows.

Seriously, why not use a fan at floor level? Keep a cool washcloth or damp paper towel at hand for the back of your neck.

Sorry to hear about the misery.
No a/c AT ALL in my office, though I am farther north than you. I have NO problem wearing shorts - I did today as a matter of fact. Although I am an associate dean, of course. ;)

My boss, The Dean, has been known to wear shorts in the summer as his office is also lacking a/c.

Finally, get the papers bolted down and get some fans. I have one blowing in the window, and a second one that clamps on to my desk (about 6" diameter blade) that blows directly on me.

The hell with priopriety. Just repeat this little ditty:

Buy the fan / cool your pits
Wear the shorts / avoid the schvitz
A couple of years ago, Sharper Image was
selling something called a "Personal Cooling Device". I actually bought one
for my sister, an engineer and gadget freak. It fits around your neck, you
fill it with cold water and it has a
little fan that blows cool air down your
Me and my fellow poor graduate students who can't afford high electricity bills here in SoCal use swamp coolers--boxy fan things that don't use any more electricity than a fan, but use a combination of water-wicking and ice to spit out cool air. Not air-conditioning, but it will lower the temperature about ten degrees! I recommend the Sunpentown SF-608R.
Remember that swamp coolers work best in areas with low humidity.
Sorry to report that I work in an archive with no airconditioning. But I visit the admin building one door down as often as I can. We were scared of the fans too (primary documents flying around just spoil the look of a professional historian writing an institutional history for the school centennial, don't you think?). But in the end, we got one to point at our feet, and it has made all the difference.
After 9 summers in South Korea I find the heat pleasant. Walk slowly; no meeting worth being on time for should be distracted by a sweaty dean. Think cool thoughts; icebergs and iced cappucinos float through my subconscious mind all day. Use hemp pillowcases and bedsheets at home.
As a blood and bone Southerner, heat is liveable. (Of course, I'm cold-blooded--I can sleep comfortably at 95/90, but am shivering without a coat at 65).

BUT--fans are really important. Get rocks; get folders; get a large piece of plywood to put on top of the papers on the desk; but get a fan!

Also, tightly woven, good-quality cotton shirts (so you don't need a t-shirt) and khaki pants are the best clothing.
this is what we did in kansas summer when i was young. get a fan, toss a wet towel over it and turn it on. Also, get a pitcher of ice and place it in front of the fan...

And at nites, get a sheet soak it with water and lay down on it, bare, and cover yourself with another wet sheet., it works great. oh, i forgot add a fan to blow on you, that that really work.

ron hansing
dang dude, it sounds like your building is burning up

fans might help?

anyways, thanks for the info you shared
from, safety straps San Diego guys
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