Cool people are an elite caste in the third world. You could be one of them. They have access to technology, English, and a better chances of a visa to the first world (global mobility). At first glance, cool people have all the essentials to levitate above the underclass condemned to permanent poverty and the whims of their rulers. However even the cooled caste have a hierarchy. Its rules defined by details too mundane to notice amidst the daily grind. These perimeters indicates how cool you really are and how far you need to go in order to secure total coolness. Don’t be distracted by the details. The rules are cruelly simple as a 1 person org chart.
Fundamentally your place within the hierarchy of the cooled is dictated by the pervasiveness of air conditioning in three overlapping areas of your daily existence. Work, regular travel such as the commute, and the home. There are a mind numbing array of nuanced secondary factors that apply if you want to fine tune your status calculation. These include nosy inquiries such who pays for your air conditioning, the degree of control you have over adjusting it etc. I will not trouble my limited time, intellect, and imagination analysing such details.
Work place air conditioning is the only criteria that applies broadly across the cooled caste. I won’t be bothering with the exceptions. A majority of public spaces in Sri Lanka are not air conditioned. Therefore regular access to such environments as part of your job emphasises the fundamental elitism of the cooled. The lower tiers depend on this exclusivity to qualify and sustain their membership. Naturally all workplace air-conditioning is not created equal. It has distinct hierarchies. Identifying the basics will show where you stand.
At the dregs is the cheap air-conditioning where the temperature is only 2 degrees lower than the sweltering outside. Classic examples: large retail/service spaces like Majestic city and Liberty Plaza (where I have thankfully avoided for the last few months). Incense is burnt to in a futile attempt to camouflage the fragrance of stale sweat loitering in the re-circulated air. The House of Fashion is an example of a body odour infused low end air conditioned environment endured in the name of bargains. It doesn’t seem to slow the frantic pace of the employees or the shoppers.
At the top of the heap is the meat freezer air-conditioning of hotel ballrooms. An essential requirement for weddings to help the guys wear suits.
In between is the workplace with genuine air conditioning. Which is cool enough for the gents to wear long sleeve shirts with ties and the ladies to decked-out in power suits. These I am told, are very rare.
Genuine workplace air-conditioning is naturally in the service of efficiency, productivity and technology. Basically it lets you go about your business without the misfortune of sweating. Sweat has odious cultural associations in the exotic east which deserve a separate post.
From a management perspective, genuine workplace air-conditioning caters to the basic physical needs elaborated in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Besides propping up human endurance, air-conditioning ensures the survival of delicate technology that require dry cool environments. The higher end factory floor, the intensive care ward, the data centre, the office that require ties. A bank’s server room for example, won’t last through a Colombo day without air-conditioning.
Such cooling means expensive power bills AND the ability to operate a massive stand by generator for the inevitable power outage. A company capable of providing genuine air-conditioning makes a statement about its financial capabilities. Specially when energy costs are always increasing – along with strain of the electricity infrastructure.
Slaves of a genuinely air-conditioned work place are upper echelon members of the cooled caste. They work in fields associated with high value/volume transaction, technology, and access to first world markets. Associations that make enslavement at a genuinely air-conditioned workplace a status symbol. It proves that you are not one of those perspiring menials. You are person with “prospects”. The best indicator of which (for the unmarried) is the number of aunties bearing marriage proposals at weddings.
Workplace AC just one leg of the tripod prize of total coolness. The middle tier is the quality of air-conditioning in your transport. At the top is air conditioning at home. Both slippery beasts requiring their own post – coming soon.