Fact: The average high temperature in Washington in the summer months lurks in the upper 80s.
Fact: The average temperature in a Washington office is hypothermic tundra.
“I do two sweaters,” explains Sarah Clemons, an intern at a District public relations firm. “One for my shoulders, and one to drape over my knees,” especially when she’s wearing a skirt.
Dual sweaters. Her co-worker Paige Pescatore nods approvingly. The dual sweater strategy is a solution well-known to the women of the office environment — it’s a cousin of the pashmina-mummy strategy, one step away from the fingerless-gloves method, an unorthodox technique both beloved and reviled for its Dickensian overtones.
By the end of the week, Clemons has accumulated four or five sweaters at her office. Friday is duffel day, in which the accumulated sweaters of the office must be herded together for their reverse migratory journey back home.
Fact: It is possible to need more outerwear for a D.C. summer than it is for a D.C. winter, especially if you walk to work and employ the “changing of the cardigan” approach, once you have wiped the sweat-ice from the nape of your neck.
Sweat Ice [Swet Ahys] noun: The cold, filmy layer that appears on one’s skin when one lives in Logan Circle, walks to work near Metro Center and ascends to an environment whose thermometer is presided over by the White Witch from “The Chronicles of Narnia.” (Turkish Delight? None for you. Only numbness in your extremities).
A productivity boost
The blessing of modern air conditioning was bestowed upon us 110 years ago this summer by Willis Haviland Carrier, a young Buffalo native with a prominent nose on a handsome face. Carrier worked for a heating company in Upstate New York, and in 1902, was tasked with devising a solution for a printing company whose equipment was going haywire because of the summer humidity. His proposal involved fans, coils and coolants, and it worked.
His invention spread widely to movie theaters, but it took nearly half a century for air conditioning to reach workplaces. In pre-World War II architecture, buildings were designed so that every room got a window, air and light. This led to sprawling structures that took up a lot of land and cost a lot of money, which was impractical in urban areas like Washington. It would have been much more economical to put workers in giant block buildings, except, of course, that the buildings would be dark, sticky hellholes.