Some say it’s hot
I guess we all need to be careful of what we wish for. It’s hot!
Having lived in a number of location and grown up as a son of the sultry South, I consider myself well versed in what hot weather is all about.
You see, in a previous lifetime I roofed houses for a living.
I did it for four years and put myself through college with money made from roofing. It paid $8.50 an hour and I could work all the hours I wanted.
I started this line of employment in July, spreading hot-tar on flat roofs on Murff Row in downtown West Point.
For you lucky souls who have no idea what a hot-tar roof is, let me explain. First you put down a layer of hot-tar with a mop. Hot-tar has to be heated to 450-degrees to melt and starts to turn solid at about 300-degrees, so you have to work fast. Once the first layer of tar is down you toss the end of a 45-pound roll of roofing felt onto the section to be covered and quickly roll it out. You learn to be careful and not to get your hand into the hot-tar that is bubbling all around you.
I was about 20-years-old at the time. I did a lot of other dumb things in those days.
The man I worked for was named David Jernigan and he had been doing this kind of work all his life.
This 50-year-old man went easy on me the first couple of days as I learned the ropes. I kept my mouth shut and tried not to get hurt.
During the hottest of those summer days, I can remember stepping on Momma’s bathroom scales in the morning and then back on them at night. It was not unusual to lose six- to eight-pounds a day.
But once I got acclimated to the heat and the work, I found myself striking up a conversation with Mr. David.
As usual – when people don’t have anything else to talk about – the topic soon turned to the weather.
I started off with the heat-index, then moved on to the fact we wouldn’t have any clouds today because of the high pressure we were under and I topped it off with the time-honored Mississippi phrase, “you know it’s really not that hot, it’s the humidity that makes it so uncomfortable.”
It was only 9 a.m., and both of us were already wringing wet from sweat.
Mr. David hadn’t said much as his roofer’s apprentice let his tongue wag, but he stopped and looked at me when I chimed out with the humidity remark.
He looked me dead in the eye and said, “Son, I don’t know about you, but I’m hot!” He then went right back to work with that mop.
I’m not the brightest color in the box, but I shut my mouth after that and tried to keep up with the pace he set.
It tickled my father to see me dress in tennis shoes, khaki pants and an Izod shirt in the morning as I headed off to college classes and then come home late at night in workboots, bluejeans and the soiled t-shirt of a roofer’s apprentice.
I can remember falling on the couch exhausted and him casually remarking that if I didn’t want to study — and college didn’t work out — I could always roof houses for the rest of my life.
I made the best grades of my life in college.
And while I have been graced with the gift of gab, I’ve also learned to talk about things that matter.
So if you want to talk about the weather, I’ll be glad to nod my head and politely agree with you on your predicament and the terrible suffering we are all going through.
But I’ll be thinking about those hot summer days so long ago.
And I’ll also be thinking about the air conditioner humming at my office and how much I love my job.
Pardon me if I decide I need to get back to work.
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