It’s not exactly what I imagined when I thought about the term “working outdoors.”
When I hear that phrase, I immediately think of construction workers toiling away in the sizzling Florida sun, making buildings that will someday be nicely climate controlled to protect them from the suffocating heat. For now, though, they mostly bake through our long summers. I wonder sometimes if outdoor workers get special sweat pay, in the same way that hourly workers get paid for doing overtime. I genuinely doubt this.
Then it occurred to me. Not all outdoor employees are big, muscular, tough-looking construction workers, made to not only endure the brutality of the temperatures, but to be able to put their strength into their grueling work.
I suddenly realised that I, too, am an outdoor worker.
On some days, anyway.
In the field of journalism, I cover a lot of outdoor events. I’ve done a number of them in the past few weeks, much to the chagrin of my shirts, which are usually soaked by the time I get back to my car.
Yes, I opt to go to these events wearing a jacket, long sleeve shirt and tie, knowing full well that it won’t feel like New England in the fall out there. So there I was when Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer held a Community Kickoff for SunRail outside of Florida Hospital off Princeton Avenue, the site of a future stop on that light rail system. I mingled in with a huge crowd, as the politicians gathered on stage to make their speeches and hope a few of their ditties would make the evening news.
And yes, I could feel the sweat pouring down my forehead as I stood there, pen furiously writing everything down, and then it hit me: I truly am a worker of the great outdoors. At that moment, I felt like a can of soup spinning around in a microwave.
That event didn’t bother me much. I was surrounded by a lot of other weary souls getting drenched, too — we were like a gym sauna. Besides, it’s not like the politicians got to hide in the shade, either; so I figured, well, we’re all in this together.
It was a different experience a few days later when I attended a press conference at Old Town, the popular theme park on U.S. 192 that wanted the local media to know about a series of new rides and attractions they had to offer.
I met the communications folks inside a nicely air conditioned office where we sat comfortably and I took notes. Life was beautiful.
Then the attraction’s sales and marketing director, Don Rousseau, generously offered to take me for a tour of the property, and to see the new rides up close and in person, before the general public got their greedy little hands on them. I accepted, and we walked outside …. into the scalding oven known as 2 o’clock in the afternoon in July. Once again, I was doing my work in the outdoors.
That’s when I got a reminder of why I never landed a job in construction.
Don took me to one of Old Town’s newest attractions, the PEPSI AMPVenture Experience, which features a zip line and challenge course that calls on patrons to test their balance, strength and endurance on a series of rope challenges and rock climbing obstacles.
It was massive in height, and I almost felt a bit dizzy looking up at how tall it was. One of the ride’s operators asked me to give it a try. He explained that he’d strap a harness on my back, then attach a rope to it, which would haul me up that wall, free to climb away – or dangle in the air if I lost my balance and fell.
Standing there looking at the rope, then glancing up at the many towering heights awaiting me, I couldn’t help but think about how my Freeline Media contributors Dave Raith or Brek Dalrymple would have absolutely loved this ride. Those two sports minded dudes would have jumped at the challenge and physical endurance that AMPVenture offers.
As for me, I could only think about the skinny kid in middle and high school who not only failed to excel at sports, but got so many Sorry Excuse for a Jock awards that my phys-ed class retired me early. My dad still has copies of some 1970s dictionaries that have my photo next to the word “Non-Athletic.”
I politely declined the offer to climb AMPVenture Experience, citing the scalding heat of the summer afternoon. I may go back, with Dave, or Brek, and give it a go. But alone, I feared the almost endless comedic potential of watching me climb that rope course, and I seriously wondered if the operators down below would have been unable to rescue me if they were doubled over in fits of laughter.
But still, it’s true: I am one of the Sunshine State’s many folks who do their job outdoors. Not all of them are burly construction workers.
Some of us just like a good story, regardless of whether or not the heat is on.
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