Carl’s great stories have inspired me to share a few of my own. First some background.
I work in HVAC/R distribution. HVAC/R means Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration. The function of my company is to house manufacturers goods on a local level, mark them up, sell them to licensed HVAC companies and facilities, and then collect the money. It sounds simple, but that is what I do. In general, we get paid to come up with solutions to people’s problems – sometimes very quickly. If you are suffering because of the weather, I am happy because the extremes make me money. Nobody cares about me when it is 75 degrees outside. However, we also have a commercial refrigeration piece, and that business is year ’round.
HVAC in general is a relatively tiny part of our economy, and most numbers I have heard put it at around $25bb annually here in the USA. My job is very demanding, requires long hours, and is extremely competitive.
Everyone has had an experience or two with their climate control systems. When I go to parties and people find out what I do, the conversation always ends up with me in the basement looking their mechanicals over and giving a recommendation or two.
I have a lot of friends when the weather gets below zero or above ninety degrees.
For those of you who have never experienced weather below zero degrees, I actually recommend you travel somewhere and see what it is like. Just once.
I get lots of calls from people wanting me to open up the shop after hours. One frigid night back in the 90s, a good customer called and needed a furnace. This night, it was a blizzard (and I mean a literal blizzard where you couldn’t see anything) on top of the extreme cold temps. It was mayhem. I questioned the guy on the phone and said “really it can’t wait for tomorrow”?
Well, this furnace apparently heated a tiny room at a very large insurance company that housed their servers. If this area wasn’t heated up and the pipes burst it would cause untold millions of dollars of damage. They had redundant heating systems but those had failed too. I sighed, kissed my wife goodbye (hopefully not for the last time) and got in my vehicle for the long drive to work to open up the store.
Normally the drive took 15 minutes but this night it took almost an hour. It was the craziest thing I have ever done. A cop pulled me over on the way and asked me what the f@ck I was doing (he literally said that) out in this blizzard and I told him and he understood and let me go.
When I got to work the wind had been blowing so hard that my parking lot was encased in three feet of snow and ice. I had to park on the street. I walked up to the front door and dug it out and opened up the shop. My customer arrived a few minutes later. As I was gathering the things he needed for this furnace changeout, I asked him how the f@ck were we going to get the stuff from the building to the street? After talking a bit, I came up with the idea of the “furnace toboggan”. I had a bunch of cardboard in the warehouse and strapping material. We wrapped the furnace in this cardboard and pushed it outside to the lot and pulled it through the snow down to the street (approx. 50 feet). We repeated the process with the rest of the materials he needed for his job. He thanked me profusely for what I had done for him and offered me a (terrible, canned) beer from his truck. I said “what the heck” and had one with him – we were both exhausted from pulling the heavy toboggan through the snow twice and needed an attitude adjustment. He is a good customer to this day for saving him that account although I do not support boozing in your vehicle especially when you are going to soon be wiring and gas piping. I found out a few years ago that he had quit drinking – obviously he had a problem.
On the way home I got stuck twice and pulled over by the same cop who laughed when he saw it was me again on the way home. He said the only other people he has seen on the road are drunks, which I believe since they are probably the only people crazy enough to be out there in that mess – besides an HVAC distributor helping a customer out of a bad jam.
Next episode – Tormenting a Fortune 500 CEO.