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Putting the Temper in Temperature

Choosing clothes to wear during the transitional seasons is always a challenge. Frosty mornings give way to sunny, warm afternoons. Wearing layers is really the best option. I start my day wearing a jacket or sweater that I can peel off in the heat of the afternoon. I am prepared for this type of weather during the autumn and spring, but my mistake is that I expect that type of weather when I am outdoors, not inside my office.

On any given work day, I can experience three seasons in eight hours. It is nearly impossible to dress for a 30 degree swing in temperature. I wear multiple layers and stash a small wardrobe in my file cabinet: short sleeve t-shirt, sweatshirt and gloves. I am prepared for any temperature the HVAC system can throw at me, at least I thought I was.

There is a thermostat on the wall in my office. It looks like it works. There is a dial with temperature markings.  It makes a clicking sound when I roll the dial. Psychologically that makes me feel better, but recently I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t do anything other than make that clicking sound.  I called our maintenance department who confirmed my suspicions when they told me that the temperature is actually controlled by a company in Pennsylvania. Why is the temperature in my office in New Jersey controlled by a computer in Pennsylvania? Apparently it is more cost-effective to have them monitor the temperature than to have us fiddling with the thermostat. I’m considering putting a lovely frame around the thermostat in my office now that I know it is merely decorative.


There seems to be a glitch in having my office temperature controlled remotely from the neighboring state.  When I entered my office on a recent Monday morning the temperature was 77 degrees, I peeled off my top layer and worked in relative comfort. Tuesday’s indoor high temperature climbed to toasty 83 degrees. I don’t have access to a window so I turned on a fan and removed several layers of my clothing, but I was still uncomfortable. It was like having a perpetual hot flash. I scavenged the office for a second fan and eventually, changed into my emergency short-sleeved t-shirt. During my lunch break, I decided to amuse myself by searching to find cities elsewhere in the world that were as warm as my office. If I was going to sit there with sweat running down the backs of my legs, I would at least like to be able to visualize being someplace tropical or exotic.

Before I even opened the door to my office on Wednesday morning there was an ominous sign; the metal doorknob was hot. I peered in the window. There was no smoke or flames so the room wasn’t on fire. This could only mean that my office must be sweltering. A hot breeze assaulted me when I opened the door. This had to be a new indoor high temperature record. I checked the thermometer – 93 degrees!

I am usually mild-mannered and good-humored, but those character traits diminish in direct relation to an increase in temperature. My heat-activated bitch switch was triggered and I became a crazy woman. I commandeered fans from other offices and turned them on full blast hoping to direct some of the hot air from my office back to the molten core of the Earth from whence it came. I removed all the layers it was acceptable to remove in public and ripped the socks and shoes off my feet. Still I was sweating profusely and found it hard to concentrate. I mustered all the strength I had so that I could hold the hot telephone to my ear and be calm and polite when I called maintenance to report the scorching temperature.

While I worked, sweated and waited for maintenance to make contact with the computer in Pennsylvania to lower the temperature, colleagues entered my office. Why is it that when someone walks into a hot room they feel the need to comment on the temperature? Do they think the person sitting in the room is completely unaware of the temperature? Weren’t my flushed cheeks, fan blown hair and bare feet enough clues to them that I was painfully aware of the heat?

Since my bitch switch had been flipped, I had no patience for being reminded about how hot I was.  It got to the point that when someone stepped into the doorway of my office I could see their eyes widen when the wave of heat enveloped them. As the words were forming on their lips, I glared at them and said, “Don’t say it!” By the end of the day, my temper had moderated along with the temperature.

Having spent the rest of that week in relative comfort, I was lulled into the false sense that the computer in Pennsylvania had been properly calibrated. That hope was shattered the following Monday when I opened the door to my office. The temperature? 61 degrees!

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

43 responses »

  1. strawberryquicksand

    GRRRRRR Once, when I was working up at Thredbo, an Aussie ski resort, my bright spark boss turned on the under floor heating. It was fine that day, because the heating takes a while to heat up. The next day it was a bit warmer, but the following day we had had a nice warm day, just above freezing, and our underfloor heating was pumping. I, too, comandeered all fans with an five mile radius and one of the other girls had the good fortune to locate one of those air dehumidifier/air conditioners. I took my thermal socks and hiking shoes off and sat barefoot. The following day I had the prudence to bring a pair of shorts, a single and a pair of sandals to work. It was getting rediculous! Finally someone worked out how to disengage the underfloor heating, but it took a further three days for the temperature to become pleasant again. I couldn’t get over the irony of working in the snow and being overheated. NOT what I had signed up for. I was there for the COLD. So.. in short… you have my sympathy! Lots of weather!

    • How ironic that you were sweating while working at a ski resort. I guess you could have always gone for a walk in the snow to cool off, but it does seem ridiculous to have such a disparity in the temperatures between outside and inside.

      After writing this post and getting responses from readers around the world, I now realize that indoor climate control sucks no matter where you are. At least we are not alone in our suffering.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read, comment and subscribe. Welcome to Good Humored!

      • strawberryquicksand

        I know! The irony certainly didn’t escape me! I snuck out a couple of times wearing just teeshirt and shorts and got some funny looks from the aprés skiiers! lol. I will be looking forward to more of your posts. 🙂

  2. How did I miss this post, Paprika? It is a great antidote to Christmas craziness. Now just let me flip my bitch switch before I comment on temperatures.

    Large US buildings are maintained by demons and frigid women. That’s my theory, anyway. My office is hotter than hell in the winter, when I wear light tank tops and spring sweaters, and in the summer I ice skate on the desk. The thermostat in my office in theory regulates half of my office as well as the office next door. My neighbor’s office is always cold, mine is always hot, except when it is reversed and his is hot and mine is cold.

    And, in most American buildings, they turn the heat/AC off on weekends. So Mondays are the days when you have to remember exactly how hot/cold Saturday or Sunday was so you can figure out what to wear to work. Chalenging when you get up at 5:20 to beat the traffic….

    Good luck with this. And when you succeed in solving this modern dilemma, sell the solution. I for one will line up to get it.

    • It’s been amazing to hear how many of us suffer through this situation on a daily basis. Just imagine the level of productivity we’d have if we didn’t have to spend such a large portion of our work day trying to regulate our body temperatures and maintain a civil temper.

      If I solve the problem, I’d be happy to share, but I think the only feasible solution will be to retire.

  3. how crazy is this! good that you have so much space in your filing cabinets to fit the seasonal wardrobe. and as i sit here i am thinking, i feel coldish. must check the temp! 🙂

    • It is really ridiculous to have to spend so much time thinking about what to wear to work. I either wind up changing into a t-shirt or covering up my nice outfit with a sweatshirt. Judging from readers’ comments, I’m not the only one in this situation. There are a lot of overheated and underheated people all around the world.

  4. Excellent choice, though LOL

  5. Hello Paprika, thanks for your enjoyable posting. In Manchester (England) we have lots of really new really modern buildings (some have won architecture awards) with state of the art air conditioning systems installed for the express purpose of being there. I personally think that for the price of a controlled air temperature system that is largely ugly or hidden away, the proprietors of these offices and companies that have these systems installed could buy some nice artwork and display that instead. With the money they saved they could utilise blow heaters and fans to regulate the temperature instead. You see, everything is expensive in England, particularly fuel and energy, so whilst all these corporations like to install air conditioning, they’re just too damn mean to turn it on (the CEO’s no doubt have blow heaters and fans in their offices so I guess they think keep costs down and f**k the minions who are paying for my Aston Martin and £million pound house). My mum on the other hand cannot feel heat. My mum’s home is always about 93 degrees, but she can’t feel it. She complained about her hot flushes when she was going through the menopause but still never turned the heat down. Since leaving home I’ve been visiting for over 20 years and it’s like entering satan’s butt crack it’s so hot; and yes everytime I walk in I say ‘F**kinhell mum (we’re part Irish, so we swear casually) it’s roasting in here!!!”, to which she replies, “But I haven’t even got it on high.” This exchange has become like the signature line in a sitcom.

    I like your expression ‘bitch switch’, it has a double meaning as it also implies that you are likely to ‘switch’ on a mutha when you get too hot. I think you are lucky, I despise the cold with a passion. I don’t have a rhyming nickname to go with my mood, it just makes me a cranky tw*t. 😉

    • Thanks for taking the time to leave such a lengthy and funny comment. So glad you enjoyed the post. Sorry to hear that controlling temps over there in England is no better than it is here in the US. The excuse we get from management is that the system is old and sometimes doesn’t function properly. You have a new system and it doesn’t function properly. I’m guessing none of them work correctly – all part of making going to work that much more enjoyable.

      The situation with your mom made me laugh out loud. Several years ago we went to visit Oregano’s grandparents in south Florida in the summer. It is really hot and really humid there at that time of year. They said they had the A/C running, but we had beads of sweat on our foreheads. They had a leather couch that we kept sticking to because we were so sweaty. Finally, his grandmother turned the A/C on to 80 to “cool off” the house for us. She walked around with a sweater on for the rest of our visit. We made sure to make all future visits during the winter months.

      • I guess it’s all relative (not referring to family relatives); when I worked in Cyprus, the hotels wouldn’t turn on the AC until it hit about 40 degrees. I don’t think the sweat glands of people from hot countries start working until it hits about 36 degrees 😉

      • You are so right about it all being relative and what you grow accustomed to. That said, I won’t be going to Cyprus until the A/C is turned on.

  6. I’d suggest that you check the weather in PA each morning before you get dressed. 🙂

  7. Wow! Your post about the temperature really brings me right back to NP. As usual, you made me laugh out loud (never sure if LOL means lots of love, or laugh out loud – either way). You are SO on the mark, and I think many of us in NP (and probably other districts) can relate to those temperatures. And, thanks for clearing up the thermostat mystery. Now it all makes sense. At least most of it does, anyway (all the other crazy things NP did still don’t make sense). Keep comfortable, LOL or LOL, Paula

  8. So frustrating. My art studio is in a large warehouse building. I was told it’s easier to just overheat the whole building and let people open windows rather than try to get the temperature right. But sweat dripping onto my watercolors is never a good thing!

    • I didn’t realize how many people could relate to this topic. It’s nice to know I’m not suffering alone, but it’s terrible to know that so many of us are dealing with intolerable temperatures at work.

      Sweat dripping into your watercolors isn’t a good thing, but at least you can say you put yourself in your art 🙂

  9. I totally understand your frustration, Paprika. I had the reverse problem at our school in Central Florida. The thermostat and a.c. in our school building also appears to be controlled remotely by our distric office about 20 miles away.
    So imagine a day when it’s so cold in your office/room that you have to wear a coat and gloves while teaching. I’ve since invested in thermal underwear and found a store that sells gloves. Some don’t.
    Hope sanity and even temperatures – that you can live with – have been restored. 🙂

    • I hadn’t thought about the difficulty of getting clothes that would help me adapt to the ridiculous temperatures, but I would imagine it is difficult to find gloves and thermal underwear in Florida. I suppose that is the bright side for me. I have a wardrobe that is equipped to handle all sorts of temps. I just don’t want to have to wear it all in one day.

      So far the temps seem the have normalized. Let’s hope it stays that way.

  10. Call maintenance and have them put in a skylight that you can open and close remotely so you need not climb up to the ceiling to “crack” it when it gets too warm. The other option is the provide heat in proximity to the smoke detector and plead ignorance when it goes off saying, “I guess the room was just too warm”….or…You can also have some of your charges’ parents write to the board indicating that the room conditions have exacerbated allergic reactions that need to be dealt with immediately….or else. Lastly, you can buy a small refrigerator, plug it in, and keep the door open. If all of the previously cited recommendations fail to remedy the situation, I suggest you get a boom box, play Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” and let the good times roll……

    • All excellent suggestions Dr. Bob. I think they’ll shoot down the skylight idea. Although some of the ceiling tiles in other offices I’ve been in have fallen down, they’ve never given me a skylight effect. I’ve played the allergy inducing and/or bacteria breeding ground temperature card. We’ve all been listless and sweaty to no avail, so I think Jimmy Buffet is my last resort, but I’ll be using an ipod – not a boom box.

  11. Maybe it’s all because of Global warming. Pennsylvania is quite insulted that you blame them for your temperature troubles.

    • It’s an awfully small sphere of global warming if you are right.

      I don’t blame the state of Pennsylvania as a whole, just whoever in charge of monitoring the temperature for my office. It doesn’t matter where that person is located. I won’t like them until they can stabilize the temperature in my office.

  12. Wew can travel to the moon but we can’t heat and air condition buildings. My last office was always hot in the winter and cold in the summer. My work wardrobe was very bizarre.

  13. You are a better woman than I. I think I would have worked in the break room and called the company president on the 93 degree day. I probably would have also hurt someone! How can this possibly be saving them any money???

    • Unfortunately, relocation was not an option for me. It took every ounce of self control to not become a screaming lunatic.

      There is absolutely no way that running the HVAC system like this is cost effective, but why would anyone listen to little, ol’ me?

  14. Ah, gotta love the A/C. Living in Florida that thing better work. We’ve had some serious issues with ours and finally got a whole new system which hubby controls… it’s uaully very pleasant and I’d much rather deal with a little cold than with the heat!

    • I have nothing against A/C (especially when I am in Florida). The only problem I have with the A/C is that it should actually be running when it is hot outside, not when it is 35 degrees outside.

      Glad your new system is keeping you comfy and that you can control it from right there in your own state.

  15. Wait until you ARE having a perpetual hot flash. That’s when the real fun begins.

  16. Bitch Switch…classic. I don’t blame you one bit. I don’t think anyone can work when it’s 93 or 61 degrees inside. It makes me laugh when I hear companies talk about needing to cut costs and they have the AC cranking constantly.

  17. OH….this would get my undies in a bundle too. I can’t believe this is controlled from another state! I do love the idea of framing the thermostat – you gotta do that 🙂

  18. It’s freezing in Miami. Keerist. It must be 78 out there !

    • You South Florida folks are funny with your temperatures. Oregano and I like to spend a week in the Keys in December. One year the temps were unusually chilly – the high 60s. We were walking around in shorts and long sleeve t-shirts while the locals were fishing off the bridges wearing parkas.

  19. I am stunned at the news that your temperature is controlled not by someone in the actual building, or even by someone in your city, but from another STATE? Hell’s bells… that is downright bizarre.

    I am left wondering whether that company in Pennsylvania has installed a secret camera in your thermostat switch? Perhaps someone there likes messing with your head…? Do they ever drop it down close to freezing?

    • I too was flabbergasted by the news that the temps in my office were controlled from out of state. It’s so absurd, I couldn’t possibly make that up.

      You do bring up a good point about the secret camera. Just when I think I’ve figured out what the temps will be and what clothes to wear, the temperature is completely different. Maybe someone is watching my closet. Sees the outfit I select and then chooses a temperature that will make me miserable.

      To answer your question about the office getting down to freezing… 61 is my indoor low temperature, but winter hasn’t yet started.

      • Another oddity: at one time all the state universities in TX had state issued guidelines when the heat for the buildings could be turned on….one year frozen in my memory is the year it snowed before Thanksgiving and the AC was blowing full force in the dorms. Complaints were met with, state policy says no heat until Dec 1 and don’t even think about space heaters as the electrical system will not support the extra load….despite most of the kids developed bronchitis/ pneunomia. Totally insane….then there was the spring it was just perfect outdoors, but 100 degrees in the classrooms with mandates “do not open the windows – it will mess up the AC system”…the sensor was in a nice cool shady spot in the building….(yes I opened the windows – scream at me if you want, but the windows that I had access to got opened.)

      • I remember that being a policy in the dorms I lived in during college. You would think 20 years later they’d have developed a better HVAC system.

        There is no way that having a system like that is environmentally friendly or cost effective.

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