As the temperature would indicate, it was a beautiful day here. Sunny and warm, and aside from the fact that I broke my sunglasses, it was one of the best days I have had. It’s rather late this evening for me to be writing. I have in fact, already gone to bed but gotten up to reply to one of the people who wrote in response to a blog entry I have made.
Apparently my description of the fun and silliness we had on New Years was “inappropriate” and somehow disturbed the reader. Maybe I sounded flippant. Maybe I gave too much detail. I think I have left out volumes.
So with sleep evading me for this very reason, I feel compelled to respond to the critic, yet do so in a pleasant and reaffirming way. And with that person’s sensibilities in mind I will continue this dialog in the public forum where it began. So there.
We were having fun. Yes there was some drinking but there was no fighting. There were no recordable instances of anything other than falls on the dirt we called a “dance floor”, and some very soar throats from happily screaming the lyrics to the dozen or so bands that played. While it is true that this base was a military institution for a very long time, and it still has a dynamic and friendly Air Force component to it’s accessibility and security, it has become more of a center of exploration and scientific endeavor. The vast majority of the employees and contractors on this facility are neither scientist nor soldier. We are college students who could not find a job in our chosen career in our hometown. We are Adventurers willing to wash dishes and drive shuttles for the opportunity to say “I have been to all seven continents.” We are professionals with 20, 30, even 40 years of experience as doctors and lawyers and business executives who simply needed a change for the first time in their lives. Why not change in a huge way? We are adventurers all of us.
The season of work here is very short. While it is true that McMurdo Base functions year round with a staff of some 200 people, the temperature and storms make most exterior jobs limited at best. When the “Summer people” arrive in October, our contracts are spelled out quite clearly: six day weeks…9 hour days…no overtime. For those lucky few who arrive on the first flights, they will have worked in what even Alaskan natives would consider harsh conditions for up to 12 weeks with only eleven days of rest. Yes the climate here is just as glorious as my blog has lead you to believe, but I was not here in October. I remind you that I am a mid-season replacement for someone who had to leave. I arrived with two full weeks of warm sunny weather to greet me. I have seen photographs just this week of the snow shovel parties that where held in stead of that mornings regular workload. All hands from a single department dress for the weather and clear the snow and ice from those locations that haven’t felt the kiss of the sun yet. They work with shovels and brushes and go where the plows can’t reach. And I missed out on all of that. I am definitely a team player and I feel like I owe my staff because I wasn’t here to help them.
And I am not unusual. (Well, yeah I am, but back to my point…) There are great people here who stop to help just because you look confused. They pitch in because they can, not because you ask them to or because the boss has said they have to. I will devote an entire day’s blog to the house mouse program we have been running all summer do to the government budget cuts. We know that we are working with older, less sophisticated equipment, and are sometimes blindingly frustrated that a process which takes seconds on our home computer can take up to 6 minutes on our office computer because band width is so precious a commodity here. Do I need to mention that the condition of the roads and the availability of parts can make a grown mechanic cry?
There are frustrations. When we have a chance to have a party, we have a reason to have a party. And because almost all staff are working the same Monday through Saturday schedule, we all have the same time off. We aren’t disturbing anyone. Logistically speaking, we are not even bothering the night shift personnel who are conveniently scheduled from Sunday to Friday:) Saturday is sacred in it’s own precious Antarctic way. And for those of my new friends who have been here for those 12 weeks before I even landed, they clearly deserved two whole days off at Christmas. I think it was just a coincidence that the New Years Eve party happened only one week later…I don’t recall if that ever happens in Denver…but I would short change my own argument if I didn’t mention that to get that extra day off in the middle of the week, we all had to work on the Sunday in between. How about you?
Well now. I feel a little better. For you faithful and friendly blog-o-philes, my apologies for this unexpected rant. I hope I gave a good amount of information (as well as opinion) without sounding to angry. In fact I wasn’t even angry with the writer who complained. I am in truth looking more carefully at what I write in these pages. I don’t want people to think less of this program because of my simplistic and totally selfish account of what goes on here.
I am constantly aware that I am under contract with the National Science Foundation. The opportunity to do something very good for myself and help others at the same time. To do both while learning new skills and giving viable support to both my government and the world’s greater understanding of this planet is why I am here in the first place. But let me have my sense of humor while I’m at it.
With that being said, tomorrow I will show some of the photo’s I have taken of other people’s sense of humor on ice.