Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Slowing Down In the South
by James Glaser
May 30, 2008

The first thing people told me when I moved down here was, "Hydrate." It is true that the heat and humidity down here can be hard on you, and you have to replace the fluids in your body as often as you have to change shirts. The man I rent from says it is a good day if he has to change shirts four or more times. Of course the guys like to sit in a hot sauna, too.

The last few days have been too hot, and I started a new routine this morning. I was up early and made it to work before seven. According to my truck thermometer it was 69 when I opened up my overhead door at the studio. I started cutting on the table saw, and it was nice, none of the saw dust stuck to my arms. But by 10 am I was drenched, and it was in the 80's.

I have a big 48 inch fan that I turn toward where ever I am working, and that hot air rushing by tends to keep you dry, but the minute you step out of the air stream you start to perspire. This morning I worked until 11:30 and then Wanda and I met for lunch. In the afternoon I am at the gallery, which is air conditioned, and there I work on making boxes and small wood things for sale. After the heat of the studio, working in the gallery is a real pleasure.

This past week I have been working inside and out on the gallery. The guys who work across the street came over and told me, "Slow Down." If only the guys I worked with up North could have heard that. Here is the deal as far as I can figure it out. Down here, if you really work hard in the heat, it is not at all unusual for somebody to get heat stroke. Almost everyone has a story of that happening, and a really bad headache is a universal symptom. From what I gather, a headache you will never forget, and you could lose several days at work before you recover enough to return.

So, the advice I got was to take work slow, especially outside work. Just keep a steady pace, but stop every so often and sit down or walk away from the job. I guess up North it looked like we were working really hard, but actually we were just trying to keep warm. I did take those guys' advice, and I did slow down. Early in the morning it is nice to hit it hard though, but when that sun starts to climb, I believe you have to respect the heat.

Speaking of slowing down, that pretty well fits the condition of the retail economy in Tallahassee now. The college kids are gone for the summer, and they are a big portion of the population here, and the rest of the people are really thinking before they spend their money. Every shop I talk to sees the same thing. I think it was Tuesday and only a few people stopped in, and nobody bought anything. So, after I closed down, I stopped at the shop in the Square that by far has the most business, and I asked the guy working there how they did that day. He said all he sold was six bottles of cold water, and that he had bought two of them. That made me feel better, as it is true, misery does like company.

Hope does spring eternal though, and next week we have First Friday when thousands of people will be coming to the park. Fathers day is coming up, and I am going to put a coupon in the paper and see what that does.

Monday, Wanda and I took a ride down to Apalachicola down on the coast for an outing. The place is a tourist town with a few nice upscale stores and galleries. We looked around to see what we might be able to sell in our shop and found some soap that looks just like a rock with quartz running through it. Others looked like pieces of marble. Soap sells really well. I have a lady from Tallahassee who make soap for me, but this rock soap looks real cool. Also I found a nice candle company and a place down there that sells sponges they harvest right out of the bay.

With the economy going the way it is, I need more low cost items, because people want to buy something, but they don't want to spend as much as they used to. I don't blame them either, I feel the same way.

So, for a while things are going to be slower — the economy and my work. I think I'll be able to handle both.

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