There was a point on Monday where Scott Gaudet had to stop what he was doing and hold the flats of his fingers over his eyes so he could melt the ice crystals forming along his lids.
That was the beginning of the coldest week he’s ever had.
“It was trying, that’s for sure. It was a test of strength I guess you could say,” laughed Gaudet on Friday.
Gaudet has been a Canada Post mail carrier for two years. He and many other Islanders who make their living outdoors year round have had to take extra precautions this past week, when temperatures regularly hovered around -30 Celsius with the wind chill.
In fact, Wednesday was the coldest Jan. 23 on record, breaking the previous record set 66 years ago. The high on that day reached only -17.3 degrees Celsius.
The Journal Pioneer caught up with Gaudet at lunchtime, just as he was on the home stretch to finishing his delivery route.
He hopped into the Journal Pioneer vehicle for the interview, thankful for a few moments of heat.
A lot of the more experienced letter carriers have been saying that this has been one of the coldest weeks in recent memory, said Gaudet, so everyone has been taking extra precautions.
Canada Post does a good job of warning carriers about hazards like ice and frostbite, he added, but some things can only be learned through experience.
Like on Monday, when he didn’t wear any eye protection on his route. That was unpleasant.
By the time Friday rolled around though, he had a system down pat.
His gear included: two hats, sunglasses, facemask, and moisturizing sunscreen around his eyes.
He also has a water resistant shirt, company shirt, and a parka. As well as gloves (two on one hand and one on his working hand.)
On his legs, he wore five layers of pants, underwear and leg protectors.
On his feet he had thick socks and sneakers, but he carried around a pair of slip-on ice shoes in case he needs them.
Despite all this, it was still a chilly week to be walking around town, he said.
“This week especially. I mean the wind has just been hateful really. Just cutting. Any bit of skin that’s exposed it doesn’t take long for it to have no feeling in it at all,” he said.
The potential for frostbite or hypothermia is also something that’s always in the back of Gaudet’s mind.
All his gear keeps him warm, he said, but after a few hours of walking you start to sweat, which can leave you vulnerable to hypothermia.
That means he has to stop several times along his route and maybe open up his jacket a bit, just to stop himself from overheating, he said.
But as cold as the route has been this week, the drive home at the end of the day has been just as bad, he added.
After a day of walking around in sweat, you slow down for a bit and then get into a cold car. That’s chilly, he laughed.
Thankfully, there’s usually a warm shower, hot tea and big supper to look forward to at the end of the drive, he said.
Fortunately for Gaudet and his fellow mail carriers, P.E.I.’s cold snap appears to be ending. Temperatures next week are expected to rise steadily.
That suits Gaudet just fine, he said as he slid out of the vehicle and back into the cold
“This week has been a test of wills for sure. The things we do for money,” he said.
With files from The Guardian.