Friday, 26 July 2013

How did I ever survive without air conditioning?

HERE’S one to ponder over your post-work pint tonight. Have you an invention so useful you hardly notice when you’re using it, yet to have it malfunction would prompt a crisis of unimaginable proportions?

My vote, obviously, would go for the internet. My first question at any hotel reception I end up on work assignments is what the WiFi code is; my second, when they tell me it’s a tenner a night, is how they think they can away with charging for a service that’s as an essential a part of your stay as having towels in your bathroom and a key for your room. Having access to Facebook and Twitter in one of those 21st century essentials you just can’t do without.

But there’s an in-car invention which – at the moment at least – I’ve been noting by its absence; air con. Even though my job primarily involves working with older cars, a lot of the journeys to shows up and down the country have been at the wheel of cars far newer than my own. Cars which, without exception, were a prod of a plastic button away from a refreshing blast of artificially chilled air.

Even the Chevrolet Captiva, one of the worst cars I’ve driven all year, was saved from complete condemnation because it came with a powerful air con system on a sizzling summer afternoon. When you’re spoilt with the option of an air con button after an afternoon of traipsing around a hot, sticky car show, you simply stick it on, whack it up to full blast and forget about it. Car makers know this and as a result offer it on just about everything; on a truly scorching day, getting air con right can rescue something that's unspeakably rubbish just about everywhere else.

So when I had to do a four hour journey in a car which didn’t have air con – my 17-year-old Rover 214 SEI – it was painful how absent the cool air I’d become accustomed to was. No amount of opening windows or using the power of thought to try and make the dashboard somehow grow its own air con button could help me escape the reality of being sat inside what was effectively a 70mph greenhouse for hours on end. Still, it could be worse – after 25 minutes of stop-starting through one particularly bad traffic jam on the M62, the gentle rise of the temperature gauge indicated the engine was enjoying it even less than I was!

My point is that air con, once you’ve become accustomed to a car equipped with it, is one of those brilliant inventions you can’t really live without.


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