What's Blowing In The Wind? A New Fan

SATURDAY'S HERO

February 29, 1992|By ROB KASPER

I collect fans.

In my career as a desk worker, I have owned three small fans. Two of them that clamp onto furniture, one that simply sits on a desk.

Two of these fans still work. Their blades produce a satisfying breeze that washes over me. I am one of those people who regularly welcomes the wind. Put me in an office and I'm hot.

There are also people in this world who are constantly cold. I see some of them sitting at their desks wearing sweaters. I sit a few feet away, sweating. Every workplace has this dichotomy. That is what keeps the makers of these small fans in business. It certainly isn't quality control.

My fans have been fickle workers. One day they hum along, models of efficiency. The next day, they refuse to perform, demanding to be oiled, or have their innards massaged, or their parts manipulated.

On Monday mornings, as part of my re-entry into the workweek ritual, I arrive at my desk and immediately switch the fan on. Somehow, watching the fan blades move from a dead stop to an energized blur inspires me. It makes me think that I too can toss off torpor and become a spinning cog in the wheel of American enterprise. It often takes two mugs of coffee to help transport me to this motivational height, but I get there.

However, on a recent Monday morning, my fan wouldn't fire. This lack of get-up-and-go was especially irritating to me because this was a younger, more flexible fan than the tired old stiff fan I had recently sent into retirement.

When it worked, not only could this newer fan oscillate on command, it could do it in about 12 different positions. Indeed part of the joy of ownership was watching this fan move from side to side as it hung upside down. When that got boring, I would reposition the fan and watch it bounce hot air off the ceiling.

I had become an engineer of hot air, a skill that could come in handy in an election year.

But one morning this new fan failed me. I tried to revive it. I remembered that occasionally my old fan would also be slow starting. When that happened I used to pop off the cover that protected the blade and move the blade around a few times, like an aviator twirling the propeller in a single engine airplane. Once the old fan's blades got moving, it was back in business.

But the twirl technique wouldn't work on the new fan. And my other method of fan resuscitation, oiling its innards, wouldn't work either. I couldn't get the engine cover off. The screws holding the cover on were strange-looking Phillips screws. My screwdriver wouldn't budge them.

So I took my deceased fan to an expert on such matters, Ernest Temple, an electrician at The Sun. Using his professional electricians' screwdrivers, which are sharper than those carried by laymen, Mr. Temple got the screws off. Then using various meters and gauges, he tested the fan's innards.

Finally he shook his head. The problem was heredity, he said. The fan came from a land of cheap parts and cheap labor, China. And the fan was built in such a way that when something went wrong, the best course of action was to bury the carcass. He offered his condolences, and some advice: "Keep the clamp."

Which is what I did. I took the fan home and took it apart and kept the clamp. I also compared the body of the new fan with that of the old stiff fan which had been sitting on my workbench. I turned the old fan on. It worked but the motor chattered.

It made too much noise to be taken out in public. So I removed its clamp as well.

That old clamp is now holding my third fan aloft over my desk. The third fan is one that my kids gave me for Father's Day.

The Father's Day fan doesn't gyrate from side to side. Like most fathers, it seems to be most comfortable simply standing up straight and presiding over its subjects.

While my Father's Day fan isn't spiffy, it doesn't chatter like my old-time fan. Moreover, it works a regular schedule, which is more than can be said for the newfangled fan.

And using one of the borrowed clamps, the Father's Day fan has learned a new trick. It can now hang upside down and ventilate.

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