Whether by water, shade or air conditioning, most Chicagoans have one thing on their minds during a searing summer heat wave: escape. But for some who earn their living outdoors, there is no choice but to shoulder the sun.
Here's a look at a select few who don't back down when the mercury rises:
Atop a Chicago skyscraper, there is no shade, nowhere to run from the sun. On Wednesday, Ken Warner, 50, and Jay Cunningham, 52, worked beneath the pulsing heat, installing windows at a towering construction site on South Wabash Avenue.
"It's a mental battle," Cunningham, a Local 63 ironworker, said. "You just have to do what you have to do and not let the weather creep in. It's basically us versus the elements."
But the midday sun can be a relentless foe.
The large glass plates Warner and Cunningham were working with weigh up to 1,600 pounds and must be lowered into place along the building's edge, often reflecting and focusing the sunlight on the laborers' tan faces and arms.
"It's like being in an oven," Cunningham said.
Slogging through the still, heavy air Wednesday morning, Anthony Nielsen's first thoughts were of lions and seals.
Nielsen, 37, is the Lincoln Park Zoo's lead animal keeper for the lion house and seal pool.
He estimates that he spends most of his job outside, cleaning the grounds and caring for the animals.
Nielsen protects his charges against the dangerously high temperatures with a cannonry of cold: large fans, ice cubes and even meat popsicles, known as "bloodsicles," for his carnivorous wards.
"The heat does take a toll on them," Nielsen said. "The cats (especially) don't want to move."
But when Nielsen himself can't handle the sun anymore, relief can always be found in the red panda room. It's kept at a comfortable 68 degrees.
What's hotter than the city this week?
By midmorning Wednesday, an eight-man crew was already toiling in 90-degree temperatures, pouring 200-degree asphalt at a Darien apartment complex.
"The work's got to be done," said Saul Mancera, foreman for S&H Paving Co.
Wet bandanas and T-shirts wrapped over their heads, the laborers guzzled water to keep cool. When the heat index exceeds 115 degrees, workers must take 15-minute breaks for every 30 minutes of work, said Mancera. The pace of their furious work naturally decreases.
"Typically, we try to move as fast as we can, but we slow ourselves down," Mancera said.
Donna Jambois has never been one to shirk the heat.
Jambois, 46, an associate in Home Depot's garden department, relishes the summer months, the hours she spends outside, watering and selling plants and flowers.
But she always comes prepared. On Wednesday, Jambois slathered on sunscreen, donned a wide-brimmed hat and carried frozen drinks into work. Once there she doused her hair, shoes and arms in water.