Why San Francisco’s weather is the perfect micro-climate for the hard working tech bro
Last week was my first week in New York where things got real. The many ways New York can fuck you suddenly stopped being so abstract. Friends who ominously hinted to me that “sometimes New York wins” suddenly went from effete ninnies to wise observers on the order of things. Where to start? First, it is now obvious to me just how comfortable I’d become living in a Mediterranean climate. Being a southern Slav (the Yugo in Yugoslavia) the Mediterranean Lifestyle™ is easily my favorite, from the light cuisine, the proximity of the ocean, and I realize, the DRY heat. My parents moved to California in part b/c the climate was not unlike the Croatian coast. I didn’t really understand the sorts of things that happen when the air is so wet. Sweating still happens, but stops working. The number of degrees also stops being important, and something called the heat index becomes paramount. I learned this the hard way when the air conditioner in my friend’s studio stopped working one morning. I didn’t panic, b/c I didn’t know anything. It was Friday, when most people at the company worked from home, myself included. Despite having read there was a heat advisory for the week, I reasoned that since I would be indoors, the heat would be tolerable until the air conditioning crew came to fix it at the end of the day.
As the day went on, I realized how naive I’d been. By 3pm, a kind of fever had set in, and I swung between delirium and lethargy. I sweated through my shirt, and the sweat running down my hands made typing a chore. I kept forgetting why I had started tasks, abandoning them, only to start them again minutes later. At one point I had spent twenty minutes trying to write one line of code. When the crew arrived to fix the unit, they remarked it was hotter inside the place than in the hallway. Why had I left my previous apartment? The studio as much better overall, but at least the air was reliable at the old place.
When I first got to New York, I stayed at a cheap sublet for a month. My sublet was a fifth floor walkup in an old building, and lacked central air. The bedrooms were the only places that had air conditioners. This fact was mentioned in the craigslist post, but I ignored it. Practically speaking, it means that only some parts of the apartment were actually habitable. The different rooms were basically submarine compartments, some flooded with paralyzing heat, others air-tight, protecting a preciously chilly micro-environment. When spending time in the bathroom and kitchen, one was acutely aware of the minutes passing. Only the anticipated savor of a dryer, cooler chamber mere feet away made it tolerable. Sweating in the studio, what I would have given for a few minutes of that micro-climate again. Micro-climate. What an obnoxious term. The prefix “micro” has suffered no small amount of abuse in the Bay Area recently. Twitter (a micro-blog) has micro-kitchens. Software is written in units called microservices. A review of a restaurant called the Tartine Manufactory contains the sentence “The Manufactory’s space is divided into several overlapping micro-spaces.” Die.
Where had I heard micro-climate for the first time? I was standing in the line at Ritual Coffee one morning, and overhearing a conversation between two men. One remarked to the other: “well, you know the Mission has the perfect micro-climate for storing and processing coffee beans.” I can’t remember if I joined the conversation or not. But I do now realize now that during the summer, SF is one big air conditioned paradise compared to the rest of America. The only necessary clothing for the outdoors is a hoodie, which of course is found there in spades. Even then, the hoodie is optional, at least for the men.
You’ve probably heard the complaint that the average air-conditioned temperature in most American offices is set to cater to men’s needs. The modern working woman must have an arsenal of scarves, fleeces and blankets at the ready, lest she slowly waste away from shivering induced weight loss. Basically, the average woman has a lower metabolic rate than the average man, and thus needs a slightly warmer temperature for optimal performance. A study concluded that steps should be taken to “reduce gender-discriminating bias in thermal comfort.” I never noticed the air conditioning in any of the SF offices where I worked. The air just seemed to be at the right temperature. In fact, the average outside temperature on a non-windy day in SF is not much different from the internal temperature of most buildings in SF, since there is very little insulation in the structures. Additionally, almost no bars or restaurants in SF actually have air conditioning, something we only notice when SF endures the very rare heat wave. Still, the heat is dry, and we simply endure it for a few days.
The rest of the year, the temperature in SF is downright perfect. And by perfect I mean it is the same ideal temperature for male productivity found in office across America, except SF’s is 100% natural, sustainably-sourced cool air.
Not too hot, not too cold. The goldilocks of temperature bands. The perfect micro-climate for the hard-working tech bro.