It’s the kind of day you’re glad you took a desk job for the summer, behind a computer screen, in the A/C – in my case, as an intern at msnbc.com in New York City, where the temperatures outside reached triple digits for the first time since 2001 on Tuesday.
Then came the dreaded pitch from the boss’s desk: What is the hottest job in Manhattan on a day like today? All eyes turned to the new guy.
So I set out – notepad, camera and oversized analogue thermometer in hand – on my circuitous search up the East Side, through Central Park, up to the upper, Upper West Side and back down to Times Square to find out, first hand, who had it the worst.
Leg 1: Exiting Home Depot, corner of 59th and 3rd Ave.
Time: 9:53 a.m.
As far as street vendors go, Jay Patel has it pretty good.
Patel’s magazine stand, which he has run every day, 12 hours a day for the past six years, is across from Home Depot -- the air conditioning that comes from the store’s swinging doors actually creates a slight cooling breeze that reaches his stand. As long as he stays away from the motor of his refrigerator, he says, the heat doesn’t bother him. Besides, as he puts it, he’s from India.
The thermometer gradually creeps up to 94 degrees.
A half block away, an amiable female police officer smokes a cigarette inside a well air-conditioned patrol car. I ask her what job a polyester-clad, bullet-proof vested police officer would least like to have on a day like today. Patrolling Central Park?
“Central Park is nothing,” she says.
The place no police officer wants to patrol when the temperature on the street begins to reach 100 at 10 a.m.?
“168th Street on the 1 train. It’s hot. It’s hot.”
My eyes widen. I have a destination.
Leg 2: 68th Street, across Central Park
Time: 10:11 a.m.
Another block, another New York City street vendor – this one is Sammy Elsayed’s coffee and donuts stand. Placed on the street corner, the thermometer hits 120 degrees.
Elsayed, like Patel, considers today among the hottest days he’s ever felt.
As I approach Central Park, the temperature reading on the thermometer begins to go down a bit to 97 degrees. I pick up stride to catch a passing pedi cab carrying two girls from Mexico City. I ask Helen David, the slight peddler originally from Namibia, what she thinks is the hottest job in the city.
“Probably this one,” she responds. “Especially when it comes to bringing around fat Americans.”
A bit farther into the park, Parks and Recreation security officer Kina Jobson points me in the direction of what she believes to be the hottest job in Central Park, and perhaps the city – working on a new glass ceiling at the Met.
Leg 3: Behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park
Time: 11:10 a.m.
First prize in the hottest job search might be taken by John Russo, a glass installer. He and his crew from W.W. Glass are currently putting in a glass ceiling on a new wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Photo by Ryan McCartney/msnbc.com
John Russo (second from left) and his crew stand in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new wing as temperatures reach 120 degrees on the ground.
The entire crew comes down from the roof where “it’s every bit of 120” with no relief. The crew works from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., gazing in at an air-conditioned museum as they toil doing a job that, in their words, absolutely nobody else wants to do.
Left on the ground below the site, the thermometer maxes out, way above 120 degrees – the hottest single spot I encountered throughout my travels.
A security guard at the Met says there might be an even hotter job still -- making pizza in the ovens at Sal and Carmine’s Pizza up on 102nd and Broadway.
Final Leg: Up the West Side, eventually to 168th
Time: 12:40 p.m.
Even with the oven at Sal and Carmine’s blasting at a reported 450 degrees, there is no air conditioning in the small store, not even fans. Just an exhaust above the door. The pizza joint’s own thermometer reads 101.3.
Luciano Gaudiosi, who was making pizza, acknowledges that he might have one of the hottest jobs in the city, but his family is from Naples, he says, and he knows how to deal with the heat.
Photo by Ryan McCartney/msnbc.com
Luciano Gaudiosi pulls out a pie at Sal and Carmine's Pizza on 102nd and Broadway, where the temperature reached 101.3 degrees Tuesday.
I move on to the final destination: deep underground at 168th Street, the 1 line, where the temperature reads 105 but feels much, much hotter.
A police officer, who patrols the station, tells me that officers typically work there in 4-5 hour shifts, but not on a day like today. It’s simply too hot.
As for being a police officer in a train station with such stifling temperatures?
“Are you hot now?” he asks. “If you’re feeling 100, 101 down here, I’m 10 or 15 degrees hotter than you are right now,” he says tugging on his vest.
But does he have the hottest job in New York?
The track workers, he says. It’s got to be the track workers that carry that title.