On scorching hot summer days, the owners of Old Town Auto Service boil eggs on the dashboard of broken-down cars.
"I wanted to see how hot it is so I put the eggs out for fun," said Chai Chitayapuntagul, who runs the Takoma Park repair shop with his partner Kit Veopradith. "We'll eat them when they're done," Veopradith added with a laugh.
With the temperature soaring to 97 at Reagan National Airport yesterday afternoon, those working outside or without air conditioning were happy to find anything to distract themselves from the oppressive heat. Many businesses tried to stick to a regular schedule, but some offered employees a respite by starting the workday earlier or delaying some tasks. But aside from a few slight adjustments, most people had to clock in and out like any other day.
At Old Town Auto, where most cars are repaired outside in the front lot, mechanics coped by taking breaks in the shade and drinking lots of water.
"It's so terrible," said Omar Mazariegos, who was fixing a flat tire in the blazing afternoon sun. "It is especially hard this time of day," he said in Spanish.
Nearby, sweat beaded on the forehead of Ricardo Moriles as he was repairing a water pump on an Oldsmobile that sat underneath a red canopy. It was too hot to work in the garage's single indoor repair bay, he said.
"On really hot days like today, we just try to take the easy jobs," Moriles said. The fan that the mechanics used to cool down was broken, Moriles said. "We'll get another one later."
The auto shop's owners said they couldn't let the weather interfere with their repairs. "We get used to it," said Chitayapuntagul, adding that mechanics also work in the snow during the winter.
Others toiling outside yesterday said they were doing their best not to let the heat get the best of them.
"Work just goes on," said Jerry Medley, a foreman for VMP Construction in Lanham who was overseeing preparations to rebuild a residential driveway in Takoma Park. Medley, his shirt soaked with sweat, said he couldn't afford to give people the day off because he needed to keep his project on time.
"I know it sounds bad," he said, "but you've got to work a little harder on a hot day."
He said his crew usually gets an earlier start on warmer days, and he makes sure there is extra water on his site so workers can stay hydrated. He also encourages employees to take extra breaks and work in the shade when possible.
At Friedrich's Modern Dry Cleaners in Takoma Park, Mihyun Lee sat in front of a metal fan while she sewed patches on a dark blue tae kwon do uniform. Lee said she opens the front and back doors and runs a number of fans to cool down her shop, which doesn't have air conditioning.
"Hot is hot," Lee said. "I'm used to it."
Still, some employees had a hard time dealing with the extreme temperatures.
"You get fatigued," said LaVora Better, who had parked her U.S. Postal Service mail truck underneath a sprawling shade tree.
"Sometimes when you're out here in the heat, you just want to get to a shady area," said Better, who was taking a break from her Takoma Park mail route. "You've got to cool off and take your time."
Better said the Postal Service encourages carriers to start their routes early and allows employees to wear cooler clothing on sultry days.
Despite the extra precautions, many businesses end up having to tough out the hot summer weather.
"It's the nature of what we do," said Todd Nedorostek, district manager of Care of Trees, a tree-trimming operation with offices in the Washington area.
"Our job is outside," Nedorostek said, "so we have to take the good, the bad and the ugly."