A Day in the Life of Maxwell the Air Molecule – Part 218 min read

by | Aug 28, 2019 | Blog

Last week we left off with Maxwell just about to escape from the backpack: “Time loses its reference points in such circumstances but I could tell the backpack was moving around and just as I was beginning to feel at one with the strawberry pepperoni mash-up, the bag opened and I was released into the light – the really bright, white light.”

This wasn’t the first time I had been blinded by the light. There was the west coast light house and then the Mack Truck headlights, but it’s still a bit unnerving – bright light and then momentarily blinded. As my surroundings slowly came into focus I also noticed how pleasantly comfortable I felt – think San Diego: 75 degrees and low humidity. I remember hearing from someone once that these places were cold like meat lockers, but this place couldn’t have been nicer, except for the noise. It wasn’t like the roar of the propeller boxes last night – more like a bazillion bees on karaoke night with maximum amplification and reverb. As I adjusted to my surroundings I could see that it was less a problem of how bright it was and more a problem of how white it was – white ceiling, walls, and floor. Rows of white upright cabinets. White walls extending from the tops of the cabinets to the ceiling. White linear trays hanging from the ceiling and penetrating the various walls. And the noise, which was getting louder. It wasn’t getting louder. I was just moving closer to the noise. I thought, “Oh hell. Here we go again.” We were all in bumper butt mode again and crashing into each other faster and faster all the while heading toward the tall white, noisy cabinets. As we hurtled toward the noise, I could discern the front doors were not solid, but were rather a fine mesh in front of the darker colored noise sources. The bees reached fever pitch just as I popped through one of the holes in the cabinet door and then immediately through another small opening in front of the noise source, along with myriad other airs, all banging into each other.

Once inside, it started heating up. The deeper into the bee box we raced the louder and hotter it got. It was dark and chaotic and we were banging into each other and all sorts of hot little obstacles to our flight, but I thought I may have caught a glimpse of little propellers in boxes that were likely responsible for both the noise and the speed of our flight. Just in front of the propellers, we crashed through a maze of tightly spaced vertical walls, like fins. The spacing was too tight to squeeze through without rubbing against at least one of the walls and they were hot. Damn they were hot! It all happened too fast to meditate on a reference point, but I’d say boiling water might be pretty close. My previous experience with boiling water, stove tops, camp fires and the like was that very seldom would you ever really experience the true level of hot because the hot always seemed to create a push to move us away. In this case, the propellers were dragging us across the hot surfaces. We were like that piece of bacon in the frying pan, just sucking up the heat from which there is no escape. I finally popped out of the fire crevice and directly into the screaming propeller box which then shot me out into the room. No more San Diego. This was more like Death Valley.

Everybody was milling around in the now decidedly hot room, but there seemed to be a general movement upwards and into large duct openings. As I got closer to one of the duct openings the karaoke bees started fading out and I could hear a distant hum, reminiscent of the previous night. No; it can’t be! In the duct we are all rapidly crashing into each other again and picking up speed and the hum morphed into a nascent roar.

The roar became deafening and we were pushed across a large farm of rows and rows of hard, cool ridges – they looked like Ruffles potato chips, as best as I could tell at my speed – pretty sure I was traveling over 100 miles per hour again. They looked like Ruffles but were pretty stout – some kind of metal I’d say. In the midst of the noise-driven panic I did notice that the pain of the heat was subsiding – and subsiding rapidly. Speaking of rapidly: here comes another giant propeller and after a quadruple loop-de-loop, I’m hurtled back into San Diego. The karaoke bees are back and the room is really crowded. Because the room is so over-crowded, I try to aim my butt bumper actions to bounce me away from the cabinets to look for escape routes along the outer walls of the large white room. I was actually getting pretty good at propelling myself through the crush so I was able to bounce along every joint of adjacent walls and around every door and all along the ceiling and along the hanging trays. Nothing. The wall seemed impenetrable. I thought I’d try the walls between the cabinets and the ceilings – no secret northwest passage. I was trying to figure out my next plan of attack, but with all that thinking I let my guard down and suddenly I was sucked into another cabinet and back into the inner world of the bees and the heat torture.

Déjà vu. Into the large duct and across the ridged plate, cooled off and shot back out into San Diego. This time I thought I would use my new found bumper butt acumen inside the cabinets to stay on the outside of the herd entering the smaller boxes to look for a passage back to San Diego without having to go through the whole burn-your-buns and then chill them routine. The density of the herd and the draw of the bee box propellers was so strong that I only had a chance to check one seam before being pulled into the hot box and getting cooked again. So I tried it again the next time through but checked a different seam in the cabinet. No gap and back into the bee box Max cooker. This no-way-out loop was taking on a sinister resemblance to last night’s terror and the prospect of the infinite loop. The one saving grace of the current situation was that I still had a mostly crazy reason for hope, or at least a mission – keep looking for a path to bypass the heat torture or, even better, to re-circulate to San Diego. I continued on through the day. Most times I succeeded in checking one more spot for a possible chink in the armor, though sometimes I missed a butt bump and just flew directly into the hot bee box. The principle of existential persistence is nearly as powerful as the principle of mass conservation, so I figured I could keep this up much longer than more sentient beings might be able to. Though come to think of it, I am not sure how much more of the regular heat exposure and temperature cycling might actually do me in.

Fortunately, I caught a break. After continuing to cycle through this torture chamber for most of the day, I was half way through one of the boxes when the temperature started dropping and the bees stopped buzzing. San Diego still seemed a little more crowded than Death Valley, so there still seemed to be a steady, though much slower, pilgrimage through the box, though these guys were not picking up anywhere near as much heat on their passage through the box. Toward the end of the day, Hot Pocket-Pop Tart boy and one of his buddies came and removed this box from the cabinet and took it into another room – a room with color on the walls and even some pictures. There was a fan blowing in the corner of the room and eventually some new airbornes drifted into my box and bumped me out into the larger room. This room was nowhere near as secure as the white room and it was just a matter of time before I exploited an open door and then another open door and then an open loading dock and I was free.

That was my day. I thought it was different enough from any other day that maybe someone might be interested in hearing about it. Today, I have found an empty Cheetos bag in a dumpster and I’m just going to hide out here until they come to collect this thing and take me far away from data centers and lavender fields.

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Ian Seaton

Ian Seaton

Data Center Consultant

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Airflow Management Awareness Month 2019

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