Answer: If you said, "4 7/8 inches" then you might have what it takes to be a qualified rail car inspector.
Today we got our first taste of outdoor training when we took turns taking one of the ATVs on test runs through the snow. The weather was a fresh -19, with a 60K wind out of the north that was whipping up cruel, blinding clouds of fine, dry snow. Though this is not the coldest weather we are likely to see, I thought it would be a good test of my new collection of cold weather gear.
I picked up some new cold-weather steel-toed boots, and a down parka earlier this week at the company's expense, but on today's outing I was just wearing a couple of layers of my regular clothes, and my regular safety boots with an extra layer of socks. The instructor assured us that we were allowed to wait inside the building for our turn on the ATV, and that we could go in again as soon as we were done, but I stayed out for the full 75 minutes to see how bad it would be.
The thinsulated gloves they gave me did not give very good protection, and my fingers were quite frozen and stiff by the time it was my turn on the ATV. Everyone chastised me for wearing them rather than the thick, insulated mittens they had issued me on Tuesday, but I forgot to pack the mittens. Also, when I had to remove the gloves a couple of times to deal with a recalcitrant clasp on the motorcycle helmet, I discovered that the gloves were doing far more good than not. It was not a day to be outside with exposed flesh.
Other than my hands, the only other problem I had was that my safety glasses began to ice up the moment I started driving the ATV. The problem was that the goggles and the balaclava did not play nice together. I found that by inhaling through my nose and exhaling through my mouth, I could mitigate the icing a bit. I noticed a few of the others were having there same issue, and when I asked our trainer about it he mentioned that there was another style of balaclava he could issue us that was designed to work better with glasses.
Instead of having two eye holes and a mouth hole, it just had a single, wide eye hole. One of the girls in the training class got her hands on one, and when she put it on, it looked remarkably like a niqab. I'm not too concerned about fashion though, as long as it can keep my safety glasses from fogging or icing over.
I am going to order a pair of the insulated coveralls that are on our approved apparel list. I would have picked up a pair earlier this week, but their largest ones in stock were still too small for me. When I asked about larger sizes, they said that they could get them in, but that it would likely take at least three weeks. Today I learned that the earliest strike date is sometime in February, so there is lots of time for them to arrive if I order them this weekend. At worst, the car maintainers don't go on strike and I just have to return them to the store for a refund.
When we returned to the classroom, the cold finally started seeping through my uninsulated boots. I guess the steel in them had been quietly soaking up the cold and holding it in reserve. I was glad that I had layered on my socks, because it felt disturbingly like I had blocks of ice tied to my feet. We will be spending very little time outdoors tomorrow, but I am going to wear the insulated boots to work so that I can give them a real-world test before next week.
Next week is when we get to spend a full week out in the frigid temperatures. It is supposed to "warm" a bit over the weekend, and by Monday we might even be giving Mars a run for a balmy climate. Ah well. If I still have working fingers on Monday evening, I may report back here.