In the midst of one of Washington's worst heat waves, Robert A. Ott, 23, still insists on wearing a stocking hat, gloves and heavy sweatshirt to work.

But when you're in "solid-state hydrology" - more commonly known as ice-making - things can get pretty cold.

Ott said temperatures inside the Charles M. Beverly Ice Co. at 4515 14th St. NW, where he works stapling boxes of ice, averages 8 degrees above zero and have fallen as low as 2 degrees below zero.

"Working here is OK," said Ott, "where the weather is in the 90s, but the cold weather gets to you after a while."

Even with the Washington-area temperatures hitting the high 90s, Ott said he still has fond memories of his last job - as a lifeguard in Kentucky. "I enjoyed the heat," said Ott, who is also a part-time economics instructor at the University of Maryland.

While working in the ice house may be a "cool business," life in the firm's front office is hectic as three persons answering telephones turn down requests for ice.

Charles Beverly, owner of the ice factory, said his company, which sells about 750,000 pounds of ice a week, has been unable to meet the increased demand for ice during the hot spell.

"I could have sold between 4 or 5 million pounds this week if I had it," said Beverly. He said he had received calls from ice companies in Atlantic, Richmond, Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities asking him if he had any ice to sell. "Apparently this shortage extends up and down the entire coast," Beverly said.

Beverly said he had received a number of unusual requests for ice: swimming pool owners wanting to cool their pools, a Rosslyn building owner wanting to put ice in the duct work of his building to cool it off when the air conditioning went out and concrete companies wanting ice to cool the concrete mix so it would set properly.

Beverly said he was still trying to provide ice for his regular customers, but he was having to turn down other requests.

Laurie Miller, 25, of Rockville, says her working clothes make her feel "pretty weird," especially in the summer heat.

Miller is a laboratory technician at Flow Labs, the National Institutes of Health serum bank, which ships freeze-dried serum samples to 400 labs worldwide for use in kidney and bone marrow transplants. Miller works in rooms where the temperature is 4 degrees below zero. She is dressed in a suit similar to those worned by astronauts.

She estimates that she spends the equivalent of one or two days a week in the storage room's frigid temperatures, dressed in the flight suit, winter gloves, boots and sometimes a hat or scarf.

"We work as fast as possible," she said. "Usually you can only spend about five or 10 minutes at a time in there and then you get out for a while to try and thaw out. It takes longer if you wear glasses because they're always fogging up."

Miller said of the hot weather, "It hits (us) harder than most people because you're so cold your body isn't used to it. You never get used to the heat or the cold."

Working at subzero temperatures might sound refreshing these days, but Larry Mirman says it's anything but that.

Mirman, 33, is the owner of Mirman Brothers, a wholesale meat packing firm that supplies hotels. He said he spends "85 to 90 per cent" of his 13-hour workday in temperatures ranging from 20 degrees below zero to 36 above.

"Heat thins the blood, but cold thickens it," said Mirman, who supervises 60 employees, most of whom also work in refrigerated rooms. "One of the most prevalent problems are arthritis and bursitis and thickening of blood which causes a problem with the rest of the body because your heart has to pump twice as hard."

Mirman said he is younger and in better physical shape than most meat packers. Still, he said, "At times I have tremendous pains in my legs because of the cold and the concrete floors. I have varicose veins, you see a lot of that in this business."

Mirman said that the hot weather makes an already physically demanding job even more punishing. "We're all aware of the tremendous heat outside, even though we work in here," he said. "This is a very physical business. Working one day in the meat business is like working almost two days most other places."

"I feel (the temperature extremes) more than in the winter. Getting in the car and driving home I feel like I'd just like to crawl in the back seat and have someone drive me home. I feel like I've been drugged," Mirman said.

You may have seen Louis W. Burrows. He's the man sitting next to the air conditioner in the 12-by-25-foot guard house on Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River.

Yesterday he said he could look down at the traffic and see some of the symptoms of Washington's week-long heat wave. "In weather like this, if I have to stop everyone to open up (the bridge for ships) they cuss, but they always cuss (when the bridge is opened). I think with this heat people really tend not to bother with things too much," he said. "They're too tired to get angry. They're just glad to get back inside."

Burrows, 39, said he don't mind the "heat as much as the air. You can see the particles in it and you can't even see the Capitol from here," which he can easily see on most days.

Burrows said his job is sometimes a lot warmer than yesterday, especially when the air conditioner break down. He said that happens frequently and that the glare from the windows then makes him feel faint.

The District employee, who also works at the South Capital Street Bridge, said he helped buy an air conditioner for the post at that bridge when "air conditioners bought by the city five years ago were left in packing."