NOB HILL--The swamp cooler is the last bastion of twentieth century manhood. I say this for several reasons.
- It is up on the roof. Take your tools, sun hat, beer cooler...go up that rickety ladder and say adios to civilization until you feel like coming down. It is like disappearing under the car in a "Gasoline Alley" cartoon. For kicks, yell down the opening, "Turn on the fan!" once in a while. Then, "Okay...turn it off."
- The guts of the cooler are straight out of a 6th grade science book. Nothing hi-tech here: just pulleys, tubes, pads, and pumps. This is basically a nostalgic visit to the science of Mr. Wizard.
- A cooler is so mechanical...a car is not. Guys used to work on the car or truck all the time. Change the points, plugs...maybe the condenser. You need gapping gauges, sockets, screwdrivers. Nowdays cars have no points, no condenser, and plugs last forever. Open the hood and you're lost. Coolers, on the other hand, still require the occasional wrench and screwdriver. And it feels so good...pockets full of a crescent wrench, a 1/2 inch open end wrench, pliers, and a brush.
- It has its own secret vocabulary. You get to sit around with other cooler-techs and throw out words like: pillow bearings, octopus, brass ferrels, 3 quarter horse motor, squirrel cage, and fan belt.
- The job can last as long as it needs to. I swear you can be out of there in 20 minutes...or it can last a day and a half. It all depends on how much you replace and how much beer was in your toolbox. (And how much you like being on the roof. A shady tree usually adds a couple of hours to the job).