Friday, July 19, 2024

Cool jobs are in high demand to escape the Ottawa heat

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With the humidex making it feel like mid-40s C, “cool jobs” are just the thing to have this week.

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It was 32 C in the shade Tuesday afternoon, but Tyler Wohl wasn’t sweating.

Instead, he was just chilling, dumping a hose over his head to cool off inside the garage at the bustling Tops Car Wash on Richmond Road.

Taking a brief break from his washing and shining gig as a self-described “car wash jockey,” the 21-year-old felt fortunate to have a water-oriented job as a way to escape from the scorching heat.

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Just outside the door and across the street, construction crews were battling the elements — the humidex hit 43 on Tuesday — as they went about their daily business on the LRT Stage 2 extension.

While Wohl and his co-workers faced a steady stream of car-cleaning traffic, with more than 200 cars running through the shop daily, he shook his head when asked about the possibility of working in the stifling oven-like conditions outside.

“I (previously) worked at foundry. I actually melt the metal,” he said. “A lot of that was outside. It was pretty hot.”

The small perks of working at the car wash go a long way on weeks like this.

“The business does a great job with letting us take breaks whenever we need it. They brought in popsicles and ice cream and stuff yesterday. We have water whenever we want it.”

Cool jobs are certainly in demand these days as the heat dome settles over the city until at least Friday.

A heat warning has been in effect, with daytime highs running between 30 and 35 C and the humidex making it feel like between 40 and 45. There will be only mild relief at night, with low temperatures of between 18 and 23 C.

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Ottawa Public Health is also advising that hot and humid air can affect air quality. Older adults, infants and people with mobility issues are more vulnerable.

An interactive map at displays pools, splash pads and community centres in Ottawa where people can cool off if they need help.

“We have been preparing for these kinds of event for months,” said Dr. Vera Etches, the city’s medical officer of health.

“We’re adapting our own services within Ottawa Public Health to support residents at higher risk, and the city is adapting their programs, such as making pools more available and encouraging more outreach services.”

The heat isn’t keeping everyone inside, of course. Some chose to go shirtless while walking and cycling around town.

Ryan Almstedt Saslove's Meat Market
Ryan Almstedt can cool off in seconds in the meat freezer at Saslove’s in the ByWard Market. Photo by JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia

There was plenty of action in the ByWard Market, including lineups at ice cream shops.

That area is also home to Saslove’s Meat Market, which also happens to be a home to another welcome cool job.

“In here, I find, is a hell of a relief,” says Ryan Almstedt, who works at the meat counter, where the store is kept at a comfortable 18 C to protect the meat out front. “That’s good, but the cooler also helps.”

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Almstedt makes regular trips to the walk-in freezer in the back, where the temperature is 5 C.

You can excuse him if he maybe takes a few seconds longer to complete the odd trip to the freezer and back.

A visiting reporter and photographer chose to linger there for a while, too.

“It’s brutal outside,” Almstedt said.

He said he felt sorry for the Market fruit and vegetable vendors who don’t have the luxury of freezer breaks.

“They’re out there all day, every day. They must be friggin’ dying.”

Almstedt has been working at Saslove’s for six months. Like Wohl, he also has experience working outside in the heat.

“I did landscaping last summer,” he said. “This is more peaceful. It’s definitely cooler, especially on these kinds of days. We had a big heat wave a couple of years ago, when I was working outside, I had worked at a golf course before that.”

Under the heat dome-like conditions, Almstedt recognizes that it’s next to impossible to get a break from the heat.

“But here, you’re able to cool down.”

Not surprisingly, the city’s supervised beaches — at Britannia, Mooney’s Bay and Petrie Island — were busy Tuesday.

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Even lifeguards were taking advantage of a soaking during their breaks at Mooney’s Bay, a definite perk of the position.

Across the Rideau River at the Rideau Canoe Club, a few others were out for a paddle.

“I wouldn’t bike today, but on the water is different,” said Charmaine Akiwenzie, returning from a paddleboard trip. “Bring lots of water, wear a hat.”

She moved to within walking distance of Mooney’s Bay to be on the water and said she would head out on the water at least twice a week.

“It’s taking the opportunity to be out in the nice weather, right? Ottawa is kind of one of those places that could thunderstorm at any minute, so you try and take advantage of it when you can.”

Akiwenzie is also heeding the advice to limit the sun exposure in times of peak heat.

“I was out with a couple of girlfriends, so you always stay safe and I would never do this alone,” she said.

“We take lots of sun breaks, we sit in the shade for a couple of minutes. We listen to each other. When one person is not feeling well, we take a break.”

X: Citizenkwarren

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