Friday, July 13, 2007

Vornado Fans

They call them "circulators" on the website.

It seems like every summer, at some point, I make a trip to the local hard-wares emporium to by a fan. By mid-July, the air has stopped circulating of it's own volition, and tends to just hang there, thick and sticky, like the greasy steam over a deli griddle.

In these trips, I always notice that certain fans outprice the others by a significant margin. Matte black and stamped front-and-center with an Orwellian red "V" for "Victory", the Vornado fans glance at you as if to ask, "What's the problem? Don't you have 100 dollars to drop on a fan? See the inferior model beside us? The one that costs twenty-five bucks and is the exact same size? Go ahead and get that one, plebe. You're not ready to join the Vornado Ruling Class."

For many years those talking fans were right. I wasn't ready. I would walk out of my local hardware store with a white plastic pinwheel under my arm, beginning the unspoken but inevitable countdown to the day it went to sidewalk, useless and unloved.

Why did I buy that cheap piece of garbage? What Depression-era habits had been hammered into my brain by well-intentioned parents? "Get the least expensive thing you can! Don't pay for a brand-name label! You can fix it if breaks... It's just as good as the other one, only better, because it costs less!" So many fans, gone to the expansive wastes of Staten Island landfills, just because shelling out an extra forty bucks made my hands shake as frugal homilies echoed in my brain.

The hottest I've even been was when I worked at a Boy Scout Summer Camp in Middle Tennessee. Summers in that neck of the South are already miserable and mythologically humid, but add some military grade canvas tents, vast fields of pounding sunlight, and kneesocks, and you've got a kind of heat that's so overwhelming, it feels like a constant celestial waffle iron is being pressed down over everything you know. By the time Independence Day rolled around, the humidity was palpable, and sometimes kids would just punch the empty air aimlessly, taking out their weary and futile frustrations on the atmosphere itself. It felt like living in soup, and paper products would curl like witches feet in Munchkinland, mere seconds after being exposed.

Life on Camp Staff quickly became an easy mix of Altman's "MASH" and "LORD OF THE FLIES". We were trying to make a comfortable existence for eight to nine weeks, while still wearing the world's least comfortable uniforms, and cohabitating with a savage crew aged 13 to 18. Trashed armchairs and rat-infested couches became coveted commodities, and trapsing to a gloriously empty showerhouse in flip-flops (that never fully dried) could be the best part of the week.

I remember laying under the thick, pea-green canvas tents, on an old army cot, doing nothing but sweating and wiping my eyes. Every once in a while a slight breeze would pass by, offering the most meager relief, and we would all gasp for the cool air listlessly, before it was gone as quickly as came. Without fail, someone would figure out a way to run an extension cord through the treetops, connecting our staff campsite with the nearest powered building. They would then produce the world's cheapest Wal-Mart box-fan, hanging it in the top of the tent using a short length of rope and desperate Scout ingenuity. With a turn of the big plastic dial, we were showered in a fake wind of hot air and disappointment.

I remembered the scorn we all held for those stupid box fans, and how little use they ultimately were. So I finally bit the proverbial bullet last week, and purchased the smallest possible Vornado brand fan. For a mere fifty dollars, something the size of a tupperware bowl puts me in a chilly wind-tunnel whenever I flip the switch to "on".

How do they do it? How do they churn out that tenacious stream of refreshing spring air, turning stale and humid heat into a soothing breeze? How do they take you from the angry, relentless July heat to a snowy, Alpine peak in February? Not a trace of freon in sight, just that utilitarian design and take-no-prisoners "VORNADO" logo staring at you.

Apparently "science" is involved, and there are patented whatsits and whatevers and blah blah blah. It's kind of boring. All I care to know is that it works like beautiful, evil magic, and worth every excessive penny.

Rated A for AWESOME.

1 comment:

danysuzanne said...

Brilliantly written. I too had talking fans heckling me. I had been slumming my entire life, until yesterday .... at 11:45 am in East Northport, NY a V caught my eye in a box at a garage sale.... I HAD TO HAVE IT. $10 later we are now a part of the Vornading Ruling Class and feel very high and mighty. I kind of feel like we cheated because we didn't pay the $115 retail price tag....but nonetheless we are a part of the upper crust!
You are awesome!