Drinking (hot chocolate) in Antarctica

As the bars on station make me feel like I’m in grotty old beer cellars for the most part (which isn’t a bad thing but not usually what I’m looking for to relax and unwind after work), the Coffee House has been my place of choice of late. While it also has no windows (like the bars), it definitely has more of a cozy, ski-lodge type feel and the bonus is that it has ethernet drops to plug in and write blog posts!

The problem with going there now that I work days is that it’s way more fun to talk with everyone who comes through the door since people are actually awake when I’m there now! So Wednesday night, I rolled in for some hot chocolate, my poison of choice, and ran into firefighters Justin and Lance. We parked it at the bar for awhile and I told them the story of how I had gotten dive-bombed by the resident skua as I left Bldg 155 that night:

Dinner had been lamb and I LOVE lamb but I really wasn’t hungry by the time I got off work, so I wrapped a bowl up in plastic wrap and left the building. Immediately, I saw the skua and he saw me. We made eye contact. I said, “No. MINE.” He made like he was going to take off. I gave him a very wide berth as I made my way to my dorm. He made like he was going to take off again. I started walking more quickly, and gave him an even wider berth. Then he actually did take off, flew a lazy circle, then dived for me. I skittered across the ice and ducked behind one of the vans. He landed on the other side of the van and walked back towards the door to Bldg 155, fluffing out his feathers. Meanwhile, there was a guy standing outside smoking a cigarette and CRACKING UP. I stood up and yelled, “WHY DIDN’T YOU HAVE A CAMERA?!?” Then walked very carefully back to my dorm, looking over my shoulder every few steps.

So the guys had a good laugh over that, then Scott and Andre, the two Airmen I had chatted with at The Tatty Flag a week ago (Andre was the one that rode home on my lap), came in to play darts (shoot darts? throw darts?), as was their habit – by the way, the two of them are NEVER apart. Seriously, I’ve been seeing them for weeks now, at the Coffee House, at Scott Base, and every meal in the galley and I’ve only ever seen one without the other maybe twice. Anyway they asked what was so funny so I told them the story too. Scott, who has been coming here for years and years, then told me that the standard Antarctic hazing practice is to crumble crackers into the hood of the parka of the new guy and send him to 155 to get something, then sit back and let the skua do all the work. So prospective Antarcticans, beware! Always check the hood of your parka before going outside because those birds are scary! And the worst part is that thanks to the Antarctic Treaty, the most you can do is put your arm up to protect your head and face! You’re not allowed to hit them, no matter how much you want to. I think it’s why they’re so bold, they know nothing will happen to them.

After that little piece of Antarctic trivia, the conjoined twins went off to play darts and Justin and Lance and Steve (who was working as barista that night) and I continued to chat about Happy Camper School (outdoor survival training that they all HAVE to do but I am only offered if there’s space and I have the days off…it hasn’t happened yet and I’m getting a little bitter about it). Lance’s advice on Happy Camper was that no matter what they ask you, “cannibalism is never the answer.” Lance also started telling stories about peeing out the back of a C-5 while in flight….the lesson there was that “sometimes, it’s not just rain.”

Then Steve told us about the vaporizing water trick they do at the Pole where you heat up a cup of water to just about boiling, then throw it into the -130º air outside. Apparently it will vaporize in a puff of smoke. If I winter at the Pole ever, I simply must try this.

Then somehow, we started talking about having roommates and how living with roommates was going for us. Lance’s problem is apparently that he has no modesty and likes to walk around – and sleep – naked and thinks he should be given a “Naked Sleeper” sign the way the Midrats are given “Day Sleeper” signs.

I told him I’d start work on getting one made for him. In turn, he threatened (promised?) to streak the dorm naked some night and knock specifically on my door (we both live in 208 so this is entirely possible). Sounds like it’s time to start locking my door at night.

Then the conversation morphed into why isn’t there a streaking team and I guess apparently there was and they all got caught and fired for it and would we get fired if we simply wanted to have a photo taken in front of the station sign while naked and then the suggestion was made to create a Firefighters of Antarctica calendar featuring suggestive poses around the station if we could get away with that without getting fired. And on that note, I decided to call it a night and go home. So those are the kinds of things we talk about when drinking hot chocolate in Antarctica.


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