One of the things I inherited as a job responsibility when my company moved in November ("other duties as assigned") was the care and feeding of a boiler/chiller system and accompanying hardware and air handling units. This is not the sort of thing I have had any experience with prior to this moment, but welcome to the world of "Congratulations on your promotion". So I have been slowly learning, mostly by trial and error and observation of people that actually know what they are doing.
Among other things I learned (besides how to restart a boiler and where the reset switch is for a chiller) is that your hot and cold water loops need some level of care and attention, including draining and refilling and treating the water so they do not rust out your system. And so, over the course of the last two days, I have been watching a system drain and refill and learn from our consultant about the ins and outs of water testing.
Today, as we were coiling the drain hose he said "You know what? Most people have no idea what is over their heads and around them in these buildings. We have a commercial customer (A large tech firm) in a 31 story building that have no knowledge of what is beyond the walls they see. They ordered special air diffusers in a particular shape. Very difficult to service. And none of the office types have any idea."
The more I thought about it, the more I thought how true it was. I may not know a lot about such things, but I know more than some. Probably than many. But there are many more that know nothing at all - oddly enough, I would argue that it is many of those that are on the forefront of the technological economy. They can write a piece of code, design a rocket, create a new drug or medical device - but do so within the confines of facilities that they no idea how they operate to keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter and the toilets and sinks working. At best for many, I suspect the response would be "We have someone to take care of that".
These are not original thoughts, I realize. Mike Rowe has probably done more than any other individual in my life time to draw attention to such trades and remind people that they exist and that they, too, are honorable work courses.
The part I find somewhat amusing, in a dark fashion, is that I continue to hear about advances in technology - Artificial Intelligence or AI - that will possibly design other robots or rockets or create and eliminate thousands of compounds to identify the promising ones. So many of the things that are replicated in offices. I have yet to hear of such developments in these humbler trades.