Cold Day Hot Day

Cold Day Hanging Doors

It isn't every day that you come across a 1" #10 flat-head screw painted olive green. I haven't come across one in years, in fact. But I used to come across them from time to time while rummaging around in the parts cans in the garage. Somehow a few of them ended up in my pocket that day and made the trip home with me. Then they were transfered into the parts cans to live out their days. When I would see one, it would always remind me of how I came to possess it, and that would be a mental block, and I'd throw it back into the can and look for another screw.

The origin of the green screws dates back to my days in junior high school. My brother Todd was in high school. We had been hired by a man to hang doors on a series of newly built mini storage units. In those days we had lots of extra energy to work off, so we took the job and found ourselves at the mini storage lot on the coldest Saturday morning ever in the history of mankind.

Mini storage units are not generally built in twos or threes like some upscale condominiums. No, there were something like thirty-three thousand of them if I remember correctly, covering a lot that used up the entire east half of Shawnee, OK. And there weren't any of the kind that have garage doors either. These were true mini storage units with 36" steel doors. Doors that weigh 116 pounds and maintain an average temperature of somewhere between ten to twenty degrees colder than the air temperature.

Todd and I bundled up with extra shirts and extra socks and jackets and hats and gloves and went right to work hanging doors. Metal doors that fit into metal door frames that fit into cement block buildings are not prehung, thankfully, but neither are the hinges preattached. So our duty consisted of opening packages of hinges, which were olive green, and digging out the screws, which were olive green, and attaching the hinges to the doors, which were olive green, and attaching the hinges to the door frames, which were olive green, and then jamming the door hinge into the frame hinge and poking the hinge pins, which were olive green, through the hinges.

We did this for hours and hours on end. It was cold. The wind blew across Lake Michigan, right through downtown Chicago, picked up speed crossing Illinois and Missouri, and smacked us in the face in Shawnee, OK doing about 168 miles per hour. The termperature was approximately 21° and the windshield factor was approximately minus forty. I don't know about Todd's, but my fingers were frozen solid, and before long, there were olive green screws everywhere. It's no surprise such a large number of them made their way home with us. It was almost as cold inside the buildings as it was outside the buildings, and the day was indeed cold.

I never wanted to hang another olive green metal door in my life, and I have so far managed that. I never wanted to see another olive green screw in all my life either, but that was somehow out of my control.

Hot Day Digging Ditches

To offset the memory of the coldest day of my life, God granted me one particularly hot day that will live forever in my mind and haunt my dreams. This story could easily have been titled "Thirsty Day Digging Ditches," for it is the thirst, and not the heat per se that so vividly springs to mind.

Whereas the cold day hanging doors was so friged, my memory, mercifully, is scant in the same way that palm trees and warm ocean breezes were. However, the hot day digging ditches comes easily to mind, the better to torment me. I can see it all now. I can't feel the effects of thirst quite so accurately, as I now sit at my computer with a cold Coke at my side.

When still just a lad of twelve, I took my first actual summer job at Central Sheet Metal in Tecumseh. Of course, my brothers and I had been mowing lawns since we were old enough to walk. And then there was our door-hanging career, but that was in the wintertime. Central Sheet Metal was a sheet metal shop, as the name somewhat implies, but a couple of the guys worked out in the field quite a bit too. There were miles of guttering in those days that they hung. They also installed central heat and air ducting. During the late seventies, someone had the bright idea to imbed sheet metal ducts in a pile of sand and pour concrete over them, call it a floor and be done. They hadn't yet factored in the notion that sheet metal, galvanized as it is, will nonetheless eventually rust and disintegrate. Had they done so, my parents' house would be probably have fewer fiddleback spiders in it today, and I would not have been so thirsty on that fateful day so many years ago.

On what had to be the hottest day of the year, smack in the middle of July or August, I was told that I would be working in the field for a day, rather than the shop. Change is always welcome, so I put on my hat, jumped in the truck alongside John York, and was driven across town to my death.

A new house was about to be constructed, and the sand pit on which the foundation would be poured was already in place. Our job was to dig little trenches in it to make room for the underground ducting. This seemed to me like an easy enough job. Little stakes had been placed in the ground indicating the location of the vents. John or Steve McKiddy, one of the two, pointed these out to me, handed me a nice shovel, and told me to start digging and dig until you come to the stake. There were probably strings to follow, I imagine, but that part escapes my memory. I began digging, and I dug and dug and dug and dug some more until lunchtime came and we all went over to the Arrow Cafe.

The iced tea was especially tasty that day at lunch, and I remember thinking that I had gotten awfully thirsty out there that morning. We all ate hearty meals, and soon we were back at the job site digging ditches in the sand again.

I'm not sure how things work in New Hampshire, but in Oklahoma, the sun makes it overhead around lunchtime but doesn't really turn on the burner until about 1:30. Then around 3:00 the whole place goes to pot and it doesn't let up until about 6:30. Within an hour after returning from lunch I was about ready to fall over dead.

Digging ditches in the sand in the middle of Oklahoma is about like digging in the sand on a nice beach somewhere in the Bahamas, except that there isn't any water in sight. There isn't a cooler full of refreshing drinks either. You see, these two guys, John and Steve, didn't feel it necessary to bring along any cold water on a day like this. They had gotten used to going without water like a couple of seasoned camels doing business in the far reaches of the Sahara. This was in the seventies, remember; a time utterly devoid of nutritional awareness and heart-healthy lifestyles. An Earth unfriendly time when resources were to be used and discarded without thought for the consequences.

By 2:30 I had been used, and by 3:00 I was on the verge of being discarded. We dug and dug, but still no water was in sight. Let me correct that. There was water in sight in the form of Handy Dandy which was situated just across the street about forty-five yards away. But I was still young and unsure of myself and not about to go and ask one of these elder gentlement if there was some way that something to drink could be procured. I had suffered enough humiliation at the hands of these two over the course of the summer already, and asking for something to drink would certainly be a point of endless shame and suffering that I would likely endure for the rest of my life. So I dug and waited for what seemed like an eternity while my mouth dried up and withered to a fraction of its original size.

Eventually, around 3:30, after I had become dehydrated to the point that there was nothing left to do but dig and then die, John and Steve began to stir from their positions in the sand and murmer something about the heat and the saltiness of our lunch and whether me might find it benificial if someone were to take the truck across the street and gather up some liquids. It was weak on their parts, and they knew it. Nonetheless, within another half hour, during which I died twelve deaths, John finally drove to the store and drove back with drinks.

Now, amoungst the many fine offerings of carbonated beverages available on the market, only a handful are suitable for drinking. Dr. Pepper, for example made a fine experiment, but it should never have been considered for mass consumption. Root beer is another example I call upon as a substance one might taste and say, "Hmm, interesting." But I would never depend on a root beer in time of need. And then there is Fanta. Fanta takes the cake for the most undrinkable popular beverage in American history. Strawberry in particular is truly revolting. The entire line of Fanta products do a tremendous disservice to the fruits they so corruptly claim to contain. Fanta is about the last thing I would reach for in an emergency.

But it was an emergency. And it was Fanta brand soda pop that John York purchased at Handy Dandy. These were the days before water could be purchased in a bottle for the same price as a substance that is actually manufactured in a factory somewhere. So John bought a couple of half-gallon bottles of Fanta; orange and strawberry. You know my thoughts on strawberry. I chose orange.

I still don't go around drinking Fanta soda pop. I can't remember the last time I drank one. And I still don't feel any sympathy towards strawberry. But orange I have learned to tolerate. It saved my life that day, and it even tasted good doing so. I have never encountered orange pop before or since that day that tasted so good.

© 2015 Dane Tate