JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

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.