Monday, January 23, 2012

Wisconsin 101: Ice Station Zebra


So here's what I'm doing. I'm waiting for the snow to stop or at least get to the right depth so I can shovel it. There is no point in shoveling it yet: the radar still has snow over eastern Minnesota coming our way and there is only an inch on the ground.

That's the big question with snow: when do you shovel? You don't want to let it get too deep because then you can't push a load all the way across the driveway. But you don't want to start too soon because then you are wasting shoveling effort. You want to get it just right - enough snow but not too much - to optimize (i.e., minimize) the shoveling effort.

Unless you like shoveling, which means you have a very different idea about what is fun and what is not and I probably would no get along with you.

The dilemma about the shoveling timing reaches back into other activities. If you have ever studied operations research, you learned about bottlenecks and critical paths. If you have to 1. shovel, 2. drink coffee and 3. take a shower all in the same day, how do you time these activities? Which one is the bottleneck?

It depends. It depends on what you are going to do when you are done shoveling.

If you drink too much coffee before you shovel, then you will be wasting time coming back into the house to pee. But if you don't have enough to drink, you'll be thirsty.

If you take your shower early, your hair will be dry by the time you have to shovel. But if you shower before you shovel, you'll get sweat all over your clean body. If you shower after you shovel, you get rid of the shoveling sweat but then your hair is wet and you want to go out for pizza and gallery night with your husband and have to use the hairdryer on your hair, which is not so good because your hair has finally rebelled against your frequent coloring of it.

If you wait long enough to shovel, you might get out of it - your neighbor with the snowblower might do your sidewalk. Then you can leave the driveway undone. Although SH is all, "No! We can't drive on the snow! It leaves those hard tracks and they turn into ice!"

I say, "Just walk carefully. It's not like our driveway isn't going to turn into an icy Driveway of Death anyhow."

The other thing I am waiting for is for it to get warm enough to put air in the tire that is low.

Yes, this is one of those things that I never would have needed to know if I hadn't been tricked into moving to Wisconsin. If it is too cold, you can't put air in your tire. Why? Because when it is one degree, with the wind chill of 15 below, it is possible for the valve to freeze open. Even if you fill the tire, by the time you drive from your house to the Y, the air will be gone. Which is not good for the rims.

I didn't know this until I took the car to the tire place down the street to see about inflating said tire before I went to the gym for the afternoon body step class.

When it is 20 below with the wind chill, I don't exercise outside.

SH was sure I would have to go to a gas station and pay for my air, but I said I was going to ask the Firestone guys, at least. Sometimes people are nice and put air in your tire for free.

I drove the two blocks to the store. I asked the mechanic if he would put air in the tire. He told me it was too cold.

Too cold to inflate a tire?

How could that be?

"Da valve freezes open and den you have a flat," he said.

Well crap. I had eaten cookies all day in anticipation of my gym visit.

I know. It takes about two cookies to fuel an hour of aerobics. I was fueled for 7 hours. But what if there were a blizzard and I couldn't get to the store? And the power went out? Wouldn't it be better to have some extra padding to keep me warm?

I asked if the tire was too low for me to drive to the gym. He peeked out the back window of the garage. Nope. I could drive on it.

Then I asked him about how much he would charge for the air and that's when I proved SH wrong because he (the Firestone guy) said he wouldn't charge anything because sometimes, that's how people roll. And now yesterday's post might make a little more sense. I have been lacking creativity and editing abilities lately. It's too cold to think.

1 comment:

sharon said...

Seems like the Firestone Guy gave you a snow job, but not one that requires shoveling.

Too cold to put air in tires because the tire valve will freeze open and deflate the tire?.....Sounded odd to me, so I checked with my very own SH on this, and he's a car guy 'par excellence'.

And then came the reason -- because there is always logic and a teachable moment when you are a SH.

It's true that compressed air has moisture in it. Small ice crystals can occur at the compressor when the drain valve releasing the moisture inside the compressor is opened. They disappear very quickly. But no ice at the nozzle end. The air is going into the tire, not out, so no ice. If you happen to have a green cap on your valve stem, that indicates your tires are filled with nitrogen, not oxygen. And nitogen has less .....

OK, you get the idea.