Korean food is magnificent, once you develop a taste for it. And like any culture, once you start to understand it, your appreciation is greatly enhanced. Koreans like to fix things that are broken. Not all fixes come from the manual – Koreans pride themselves on their ingenuity.
The MARFORK offices were out of the old Club, I was told. The layout was not optimal for office spaces, but we had a great deal of space as we had 20 people in a building that was probably 4000 or 5000 square feet. It had central heat and air, I suppose, as the temperatures were usually plus or minus 10 degrees from someone’s determination of the optimal temperature in one location in the building (probably the Commanding Officer’s (CO) office). The air wasn’t pushed well around the building and I had the office farthest from the heat units.
Well, I call it a heat pump, but the heating and cooling equipment was contained in a building behind our offices that I did not go into. I had no idea and it didn’t matter. It worked. It worked that is, right up until it didn’t.
At one point in the winter of 1998, it got so cold in my office that the coffee left in my cup from the previous day froze solid. I had a 30-cup silver bullet coffee pot – I fired that up so I could put my hands on it to warm up. I found typing with my gloves to be prohibitively frustrating. So, in my inimitable way, I crafted an e-mail extolling the virtues of my computer system and that it was now some 74% faster due to the fact that it was operating close to absolute zero. However, my productivity had dropped by some 85% since I could no longer feel my fingers and toes and hibernation was coming on.
The Staff got a good laugh out of the note. The CO came by my office to see if it had really gotten that cold. His office was fine. My office was no longer served by the heat fairy. He confirmed my predicament and asked the G-4, whom I affectionately called Scooter because he chose a mode of transportation that most men would shy away from, to placate me and fix the heater.
Here comes the Korean HVAC Tiger Team. I understand now why they hid the heating system in that building. I think it was a jet engine testing center. The G-4 told me that there were actually six separate heaters in the building and only one was running. The Koreans fired up all six, tuned them to optimal exhaust, high-fived, and went away happy.
So I come into my office the next day to find plastic items starting to droop as temperatures approached those close enough to melt lead. I stripped to my t-shirt and camo pants. Then off came the pants as the sweat running down my back soaked them through. And finally, I sat in there in just my boxers. By the time the other staff members came in to work, I was a dehydrated shell of my former self, having been in the sauna known as the MARFORK G-2 Office for two hours without a chaperone. I didn’t have a thermometer, but I guess the temperature in my office was no less than 125 degrees.
I still made coffee.
And drank it. And the Korean HVAC Tiger Team returned, turned off four of the six heater units, and grumbled about the Americans not knowing what they wanted. The offices returned to a semblance of normality and all was right with the world.