Monday, January 25, 2010

But the End of the Assignment

There's more work to be done here but it snowed again and the temperature keeps dropping, so the customers can't pretend that the snow is going to melt. They need less than ten centimetres of snow on the ground to do their work, so the word came this morning from their head office to shut it down here.

They still have us contracted and don't want to let us go yet, so they pack up and leave but ask us to stay here while they decide what to do with us next. Meanwhile my boss is getting prepared to send us elsewhere. It's Saturday and he boss asks me to buy charts for a trip to West Virgina, possibly leaving as early as Tuesday. There's no way in hell that any shipper will get charts to me here by then, so I check if I'll be able to pick them up en route. I call the FBO where we will clear customs, should the West Virginia trip materialize, and ask if they sell what I need. They don't, but agree to receive a shipment on our behalf. See, I have the charts to get that far already, and we'll have to stop and buy gas there, anyway, might as well pick up the charts too. That way I can order the charts from a US supplier, guaranteeing stock, and the charts don't have to cross the border and they don't have to go into the neverland of northern Canadian shipping. (Honestly I sent a friend a t-shirt in November and in early January I got an excited thank you e-mail from her. It had just arrived. She doesn't even live in the sticks. It's a fair-sized city in Northern Ontario).

I call Sporty's to order the charts and he's happy to ship to a c/o address at an FBO but I have to twist the guy's arm to get him to ship the current charts now, because they expire very soon and normal policy is to wait and ship the new ones. "But I need this week's charts, because I'm going this week." He finally agrees, cheerily telling me that he will ship the updated ones at the end of the week. "But I won't be there at the end of the week. I'm only going to be there on one day." I don't think I can stop him from shipping the follow up ones, but perhaps if we actually get to West Virginia I can divert them to wherever we actually end up. Wouldn't be the first time.

I tire of sitting in the least comfortable hotel chair ever, apparently designed for someone whose curved spine somehow connected to their legs without having an intervening butt. So I put on practically all my clothes, one on top the other like Heidi, and go for a walk to the post office. It's twenty-nine degrees below freezing. As soon as I step outside I feel my nostril hairs freeze inside my nose. It's quite dry here, so I'm not getting frost on my face or eyelashes as I walk along. My eyes tear--that is tears come out, not that they rip--from the cold. As I walk along I reject the idea that my tears would freeze. They are salt water, after all, and I know that the Fahrenheit temperature scale is based on the freezing point of a saturated saline solution, 32 degrees below the pure water freezing point. (It was a good idea, really, because it's easier to get a saturated saline solution than pure water). And it's only minus twenty-nine. You'll immediately spot the error here, but that was my thought process. I only thought about it for an instant. I guess part of my brain was frozen.

It's only when I take the sunglasses off, just before entering a store, and see slush on them that I recalculate and realize that while a saturated salt water solution freezes thirty-two little Fahrenheit degrees below the freezing point of pure water, that point was passed many big Celsius degrees ago and it is indeed cold enough to freeze tears. It's not cold, or maybe just not windy enough to freeze my lashes together, though. I mail my postcards, wander around town a bit more and then go back to the hotel. The customers are having a conference call tomorrow to decide where to send us.


Aluwings said...

re: "There's no way in hell that any shipper will get charts to me here by then"

I wonder why charts are not available as a locked .pdf download yet? I'm sure there are liability issues someone is covering but wouldn't a locked/secured .pdf file cover this? I could also allow for printing customized portions of charts for our individual missions... Curious.

Aviatrix said...

PDF charts wouldn't really help me without a custom high quality printer, because I don't have an electronic cockpit. Maybe I'm a Luddite, but no matter how many GPSes I have on board, I still track my position on a paper chart, folded to a convenient size to show where I am.

Echojuliet said...

From experiments in Chemistry class, we were able to get water salty enough that it would be below zero (F)and it still wouldn't freeze. I don't remember all the dirty details of the process, but I do remember trying to find the exact ratio of salt to water that Mr. F used when establishing his scale.

As we established, the salt content is less than what Mr. F. used, it will freeze somewhere between 0 C and 0 F.

Now if you will excuse me, I am off to start my own country, develop my own temperature scale, and call myself American :)

Anonymous said...

Your face is producing quite a lot heat so it needs to be quite cold for tear to freeze on your face.

GPS_Direct said...

Hmmph... Maybe my tears are more pure...

I distinctly recall trudging through the snow in MSP and having to periodically take a glove off to hold a finger against my lashes in order to see again. And while it was mighty cold, not 0 F. (At least not that time... -37 at Fargo later on maybe.)

Of course I also recall it being so cold the relays for the headlights in the car would freeze up and come on one after the other - usually with a several second delay whilst the current heated things up. It was fun to think of it being cold enough to slow the electrons.

Sunny Florida is MUCH better.

Aviatrix said...

Echojuliet, I knew the American scale used salt water but I guess I forgot the details and just assumed that it was a saturated solution that he used, so as to make it easily reproducible.


Your face is producing quite a lot heat so it needs to be quite cold for tear to freeze on your face.

That's why it was on the frame of my sunglasses that the tears turned to slush, and why it was not cold or windy enough for the tears to freeze on my lashes.