P-trak

The last seven (7) days I was taking care of some work study I have been meaning to tend to for some time. This break in school and travel and buying a house was the opportune time to schedule the 7 days this task required. By the end of it I had covered 1,600 miles and been in a minivan for 56 hours but had not gone a single place.

It is all part of the winter monitoring phase for a study to evaluate exposures to indoor air pollution (mainly particulates) in specific microenvironments. In-vehicle exposures is part of this so we rent a minivan and drive around while the air around is being monitored. Other settings for sampling include the grocery store, hospital, bookstore and home. The sampling periods are eight hours and the work needs to be done for a full week in each environment. Here is an absolutely poor picture of the machinery.

I do not work alone. My partner in crime – we are not committing the crime, but rather having a crime committed against us, it must be against the law to ask anyone to spend so much time in a car going nowhere, but they’re from Harvard so they’re untouchable – is Ajay. Most fortunately we got along swell. Primarily because we teamed up to focus our anger collectively at other drivers, pedestrians, ridiculous homes, billboards, and the machinery itself. One piece of equipment was particularly bothersome with its malfunctions, specifically its constant demands for more alcohol. 100% isopropyl alcohol that is. This machine is the P-trak. A couple of times it claimed our iPod capabilities in the car because in order to silence the beep, which I can hear if I close my eyes, need to plug the tape adapter into its headphone jack. Yes, it has a headphone jack to really feel those lo-alcohol warning beeps whenever you’re out doing some ultrafine particulate monitoring. The machine was by far the most problematic and most involved part of the sampling.

Besides changing out the alcohol, there is little else to do but drive. You probably can not imagine how 56 hours on Atlanta roads feels in one week. COMPLETE LOOPS OF 285. Listening to the traffic to find the accidents and then try not to avoid them. Maybe the GDOT HERO units know how it feels. Or at least they knew after the first week and by now they are completely insane.

We did get to see some very interesting parts of the city (numerous times). Parts you would normally never visit. We took exits you wouldn’t ever take with time you’d never have. I feel like I know Atlanta a bit better now. We got to watch Peachtree change over the course of 8 hours. 2PM is much different from 6:30AM. We got some experience with monitoring indoor air quality and earned a little money. And I have to admit I had a pretty good time and have a newfound appreciation for not looking at this every morning.I think I just heard a beep.

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