The Listening Room: "It's Too Darn Hot" by Ella Fitzgerald

These dog days of summer make me reminisce about a hot summer I spent in Alabama.
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ella sings cole porterI spent the summer after I graduated college working for a law firm in Montgomery, AL. I was a courier, which basically meant I spent my time driving around the city delivering various documents. It was a great job. I'm one of those people who loves to drive. There is something amazing about the road, open or not. Traffic is insanely frustrating when I'm headed out to a show or going home from a long day, but when I'm on somebody else's dime, getting paid by the hour, I don't mind traffic jams one bit. It was actually rather thrilling to have three document's in my hand that all needed delivery within the hour and were all located on the opposite side of town. Planning my route (and this was pre-GPS so I had to do it all with a raggedy old map) and zipping through all the back routes I knew was a great way to spend an afternoon.

It was Alabama in the summer though, which meant it was hot. Damn hot. Ball-sweating hot. Hot enough to make you rethink having ever left the womb.

There were a bunch of lawyers working in the firm and if there's one thing a lawyer knows how to do, it's making paper (and stacking papers). They went through reams of it on a daily basis. Making files, shredding files, preparing files, filing files, those people shuffled through more paper than I've ever seen. They had long ago ran out of room in the office for all of it and so they had a number of off site storage facilities where they kept the old files. Periodically one of them would need an old file or two and they'd send me out to the storage facility to pick them up.

Outside the temperature ran into the hundreds, with the humidity and the index rising into My-God-My-God-Why-Have-You-Forsaken-Me degrees. Inside those storage lockers, with no air conditioning, no fans, not even electricity the heat was unbearable. The files were stored in boxes. The boxes were stacked to the ceiling, rising way above my head. There was an order to them, but the labeling was old and hard to read even in the best conditions and with no lighting besides a flashlight it was slow going finding the right box. I'd sit in there for half an hour sometimes, slowly reading the labels on each box, lifting and moving them around (for they were stacked one on top of the other), trying not to break my back as they were probably 30-50 lbs a piece, looking for the exact file I needed.

I'd come out filthy from the dirt, dust and sweat - shriveled from dehydration, pondering what I'd done previously in life that deserved such wretched punishment. Then I'd get in the truck, crank up the AC, swig some water and head onto the next job. I've been thinking about those days lately, and how much fun I had despite the heat. Sometimes I want to go back to those days, when life was simpler, or less stressful, or something. But then I step outside at the hard sun beating down, I feel the unforgiving heat on my skin and then I go back inside, turn the air conditioning down a notch and think "nah, we're doing okay just where we are.