143 degrees

Woke at at 5:30 this morning to take a run with my friend Caroline. Was about 85 degrees, with humidity as thick as a slice of double cheescake. I was miserable—tired from four hours of sleep, hot, sweating like a pig (technically, I don’t believe pigs sweat. But you get the idea).

Midway through our 6.5-mile trek, we stopped at a Starbucks to snag two cups of water. The guy behind the counter—shaved head, early 40s—was kind. “Man, I said, “it’s friggin’ hot outside.”

“Hey, I know hot,” he said with a grin. “I’ve been in 143 degrees.”

“What?” I asked. “Where?”

He proceeded to talk about serving in the Army for 20 years; about summers in Iraq, where the sun beats down like a hammer and a cool burst of air is nowhere to be found. He described life in 143 degrees as “running your laundry dryer all day, then open the door and stick your head in.” He said the air doesn’t move. It just sits there, engulfing your body like a hug. “And those uniforms don’t breathe,” he said. “It’s miserable.”

I left with two thoughts:

A. 85 and humid—big whoops.

B. You never know who’s who. You really don’t. The Starbucks he works in is located in Larchmont, N.Y., a pretty affluent New York City suburb. I’m sure people go in there all the time and complain about their drinks being too this, too that. They almost certainly have no idea that the man slinging their java is an American hero; is a man who should be kicking back on a beach with a pina colada and nary a worry.

As we left, Carolina thanked him.

She wasn’t referring to the water.

4 thoughts on “143 degrees”

  1. This brought tears to my eyes. We take so much for granted. I wish we could appreciate what we have more often but I am thankful for those little moments that leave such a huge impact. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Jeff, It is true… you never know who you are talking to. I have put my foot in my mouth many times saying something without thinking and then realizing that I may have just insulted the person I was talking to by not knowing their past!
    Anyway, this has been going around on my FB wall, have you seen it?
    “I was going to complain about how hot it is… then I realized that at least: 1.) it isn’t 115 degrees; 2.) I’m not 5,700 miles from home; 3.) I’m not dressed in a full BDU uniform and helmet and carrying 70+ lbs.; and 4.) there is very little chance that anyone will shoot at me or that I might drive over a bomb in the road today! Thanks to all who serve!”

  3. Jeff I would like to thank you very much for taking time out of your busy day to write about the experience you had with your friend Caroline. I was absolutely shocked when she came back in the store and handed me a printout of what you wrote. It really surprised me and let me know that there are people out there that actually do realize that what men and women in our military have to endure just to accomplish the mission and that we love what we do. Also it is great to know we are appreciated for what we do. It was an honor to share my story with you and Caroline. It means alot and touched me for what you wrote. More than anything what veterans want and need is appreciation from everyone. So once again thank you. If you ever need more water just know that I’ll be at the Larchmont or Eastchester Starbucks serving it up. Hope to see the both of you again soon. Once again thank you.
    Sincerely,
    John F. Damiano
    Proud retired veteran
    Starbucks shift supervisor!

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