The Miss List

Walking back to the galley with Will, Heather and Sarah after our impromptu music jam on Sunday, I was lamenting how much I’m going to miss this place. Heather did one of those squinting-with-one-eye things, sizing me up.

“I think you’re missing it already, aren’t you?”

Heather’s one of those people who notices things about you before you know them yourself.

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess I am.”

I thought about it a moment and reflected on previous transitions. I’ve always known that I don’t tend to miss things once they’re gone, but pre-missing something was a new idea for me.

“Uh, I guess maybe I do tend to miss things before I leave them It gives me time to appreciate them while they’re still here.”

We pondered this for a bit before we heard the chocolate chip cookies calling.

But I’ve been thinking about this ever since: there are tons of things I’m going to miss about this place. And things I miss about home. It is worth spending some time making sure I appreciate them properly.

Things I miss 

  • Dusk. Stars. The hushed feeling when the day is over and night falls. It seems like a crazy dream to realize that, for the past three months, the sun has just gone round and round in the sky, never perceptibly rising or falling. Just round and round. I’m looking forward to feeling night creep over me. 
  • Showers without a stopwatch. I’ve gotten really good at getting clean and still having almost half of my twice-weekly two minutes of shower to simply relish the hot water spraying me. I’m rather proud of myself for sticking to the rules and not having indulged in what’s called a “Hollywood shower” down here. I know lots of people say to hell with the rules on this, but I dunno. If nothing else, I think it’s important to set a good example. But man, what is it about us humans? We’ve got all the technological wonders of the world down here for our comforts, but if you want to hear someone wax lyrical about the decadent comforts of home? Those two minutes of hot water spraying out of a hole in the wall will be right near the top of the list, every time.

    When I get to CHCH, I’m going to take a bath that lasts all afternoon. Every day. Okay, probably not, but it’s a good fantasy to work with. 

Helpdesk central – Ben’s still miffed
at having to have shaved for the
Emergency Response Team
  • Discretionary days off. Back home, we’ve got vacation days. If you’re feeling beat, or want to take a day for a project, or just to goof off, you take a vacation day. Here, we’ve got Sunday. Unless you’re sick, you’re on the job at 7:30 every morning, six days a week, holding on for Sunday. I’m surprised how much it weighs on me, knowing that I just can’t take a day off. 
  • Family. Duh. 

Things I don’t miss 

  • Green. It’s strange – I feel like I should. Everyone tells me what a shock it is getting off the plane in CHCH: everything’s green, and moving, and everything smells with an unimaginable intensity (I understand that you start smelling “dirt” – no better word for it – once the plane starts its descent over the island, and people start freaking out). But I went by the greenhouse this morning and plonked down in the chair outside the growth chamber. Looked at the already-overflowing squash and verdant starbursts of tomato leaves. Sniffed the Italian basil and chives, and was surprised to realize that I’d not stopped by in weeks.

    When I got here, I assumed I’d be camped out in the “happy room” (the warm, humid and well-lit antechamber to the greenhouse itself), but it’s just not happened. Thinking about it now, it feels like I let it go, like the memories of friends who haven’t crossed my mind since I came down here. When I go back, I know I’ll be wonderfully grateful for their company, but for now, it and they seem so far away, like a half-remembered dream, that it seems strange to invoke them down here. So, somehow, I’ve just let it all go for now.

    [That being said, yesterday I poked my head into the greenhouse while Jos was harvesting lettuce. Without pausing, she thrust some Japanese Mizu-something at me and said “Here – eat this.” It was reaaaaaaaally good. Maybe I’ve forgotten what real freshies taste like.]

  • TV. Every once in a while, someone brings a disc down from McMurdo with copies of the past week’s football and Hockey games, and folks crowd into the downstairs lounge to watch (“Warning: spoilers will be keel-hauled” – note: I don’t think being keelhauled under the station is a survivable condition). 
  • Traffic. 

Things I’m going to miss 

Crazy sunbows, parhelia and arcs from an ARO
fisheye shot in 1999 (click image for full-size).
  • Sunbows. Yeah, we get sometimes sundogs back home – those two little bright spots in the sky about 22 degrees off the sun on either side. But it’s pretty insane what ice crystals can do in the clear blue sky down here. Full sunbows whenever there’s ice in the air, and when the wind kicks up, the show can get spectacular. Couple of days ago, walking over to Construction Camp, there was a beautiful second ring topped by a circumzenith arc (“rainbow horns”). Hard to photograph, but lovely to look at. Never see anything like that at home. Here’s an ARO shot from 1999 showing about 20 different solar refraction phenomena a once (coronas, tape arcs, 120 degree parhelia, Wegner and Hastings antihelical arcs and more), many of which have never been observed anywhere except at the South Pole. 
Aaron demonstrates the range
of frozen facial hair possible
at the Pole
  • Frozen eyelashes. Okay, call me crazy. Done? The sensation of having your lashes freeze together when you blink really drives home how extraordinary the environment is here. And the fact that you’re just going about your business while the continent tries to encase you in ice. It’s like watching your breath turn to fog on a cold day. Only a hundred times more intense. 
  • Stepping out the door at DZ. I swear, this never gets old – I still feel like Buzz Aldrin every time I clamber down those stairs. Just stepping out across the surface of an alien planet on my way home from another day of work at Moonbase Alpha. And related to that… 
  • Not having to worry about doing stuff after work “before it gets dark”. Sledding at midnight? Yeah, why? The sun just goes round and round. Yeah, I miss dusk, but this weird solar orbit feels as alien as Tatooine or something, and I’m going to miss it. 
  • Food pull. Lined up on the DZ stairs when the freshies come in, calling them out as you hand them along to the next person: “Pineapples!” (yea!) “Eggs – fragile!” “‘Shrooms – no not that kind!” “Koala! No, sorry, more ‘shrooms…” It’s an itty-bitty barnraising. Everyone comes out and literally lends a hand for fifteen minutes, working side-by-side to get food into the station. Everyone – station managers, GAs, carps and UTs. Makes me feel like we’re a real community. 
Freshies pull at DZ
  • Driving a Cat 935 loader. It’s just huge amounts of fun, and I don’t think they’re going to let me drive heavy machinery when I go back to my old day job. 
  • Sitting in the little cut-out alcove near DA, playing guitar after work, and having Trudy, Elissa, Mark or Jos stop by and just start singing along. It’s a pretty special feeling. 

Things I’m not going to miss 

  • Long underwear. Yes, it’s wonderful, but it has its time and place, and that place happens to be very cold. I want to wear shorts again. 
  • A few of the women here who treat a passing “Hi” in the hallway like “Hey baby, what’s your sign?” I’m not hitting on you, honest. Maybe some guys are hitting on you, but you can take the time to figure out the difference, can’t you? We’re a small community, and I say “Hi” to everyone. Please get over it. 
  • Summer Camp. I’m really, really done with Summer Camp. The lullaby of a mattress-shaking D7 regrading the berm behind my Jamesway. The frozen floor and drafts. The need to throw on coat and bunny boots, carefully manipulate the jerry-rigged plywood door and tiptoe down the hall (just try to tiptoe in bunny boots!) and scamper across the ice if I need a midnight trip to the bathroom. The creaky mattress and snore of my neighbors. The sound of every zipper pull and dropped shoe. The alarm clock down the hall. I’m sure its owner is not happy that their shift starts at 4:30 a.m., and they need to get up somehow, but misery would rather not have company that early in the morning. No, I’m not going to miss Summer Camp – not for one moment.

    (Those folks in Station rooms who romanticize the “coziness” of Summer Camp and lament how sterile and boring their own rooms are? Sorry, it just comes across as condescending, and no, it doesn’t make us feel any better. You want “coziness”? I’ll switch. Right Now. Yes, right this minute. Don’t forget to dig through the recycling for a good pee bottle.) 

Okay, starting to sound a little bitter here. Maybe it’s time to stop writing. There’s a lovely sunbow out right now – I think I’m going to toss on my bunny boots and take a walk down the DZ stairs to recalibrate my perspective…

2 responses to “The Miss List

  1. Of course my story doesn't relate, but we had no hot water in our house for a week in October. The day the gas company fixed our intake line, I took a long hot shower _and_ a long hot bath. I was pink. Long way of saying, enjoy yourself.


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