Time is all about what side you are on.

2008-02-28 03:00:54.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

In one of my American Studies classes I took, I was introduced to Zall’s Second Law which was about time. It goes: “How long a minute is, depends on which side of the bathroom door you are on.” Working at Mount Washington, I have tweaked this to reflect our feelings on time. It goes “How long a minute is, depends on which side of shift change you are on.” I like to call this Wednesdays First Law.

As you may or may not be aware, Wednesday’s mark the day of the week when crews switch on the summit of Mount Washington, weather pending. A crew of three plus interns and volunteers meet at the base at 0800 EST and load up the Bombadier. We also shovel out our coworkers cars to save them the trouble when they get down. We hop in the Bombadier and slowly crawl up the auto road to the summit. We form a chain of people to bring bags in for the upcoming crew and bring bags out for the down going crew. Then, weather pending, we have our shift change meeting and away the week old crew goes leaving us to take over where they left off. And that, in a nut shell, is shift change.

The upcoming crew meets at 0800 EST but the down going crew usually doesn’t get down until around 1300 EST. For the upcoming crew, that is only five hours since the start of their work week. For the down going crew that is 173 hours, or 10380 minutes, or 622800 seconds since their work week started. That is a long time to be away from movie theaters, a good cup of coffee, a hot shower, or our loved ones (for those that have them nearby).

For the down going crew, anything that slows shift change means an extra minute on the summit. We are all aware of this but we are constantly reminded that Wednesday is a full work day. But for every minute spent doing our jobs on the summit means another minute is added to the 10380 minutes since we arrived here. Many things can slow us down. Low visibility or heavy snow drifting slowing up the snow cat. Heavily discussed topics at the shift change meeting. Reviewing intern applications or, when the time comes, interviewing interns. These are all things that need to be done and when we are here, no one complains, like an unspoken rule, but it is defiantly on our minds.

Eventually the time comes for the Bombadier to pull away. Prior to the down going crew departing, we exchange last minute news and tidbits and become as productive as we can be at the last minute. And as the Bombadier fades away, the minutes start ticking until next Wednesday. But when all is said and done, shift change feels like it went by in a minute for the upcoming crew, but I am sure I won’t feel like it went by in a minute come next Wednesday when I am on the other side of shift change.


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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