We made it out of Angry August relatively unscathed. Each month tends to have a reputation: Bad Decision April, Crying July, Angry August, Silent September…you get the idea. Each season has it’s own rhythm and genre for the months. But for this season- we are one month from first flight, and 12 months from when most of us landed in McMurdo. A long haul to be away from family and friends, fresh fruit, and at-will showers.
According to folklore, August is the month that people start losing their shit. Crying July is the lead-up, but we are in full swing of folks who are done being on the ice. Some of us have been on the continent since last October. We started training for our fire and trauma team positions last August, so there is some weariness occurring. We miss our families, we miss using a bathroom alone, we miss fresh food, we miss not having to see co-workers at every meal, and we miss the warmth of the sun. Most folks are holding up admirably. Showing their Polie grit and grace in this last little stretch.
Of course, there are some whingy babies that blew into town right at station close in January/February and listening to them count-down to October makes me want to go all Honey Badger on them. Especially the office dwellers, I generally just smile and nod when what I really want to do is say is:
“Really? You spineless dim-witted little moron. I have been on ice since last October. I spent the good part of my summer shoveling on my knees, (no, I am not that kind of snow shoveler- it’s better for your back to shovel on your knees) outside, at 40 below zero. And here you are EXHAUSTED from sitting on your ass in warm station, wearing flip flops, and forgetting to shave for 4 months because you are an idiot.
Listening to you grumble about how ‘toasty” you are makes the enamel on my teeth ache! Maybe you should get a cookie from the galley and go lay down with a cold compress on your head.”
In a valiant attempt to show my Polie grit and grace -I do not say such horrible things. I just mutter them under my breath, and sometimes out loud in my room when I am alone, but we are so close to first flight that all that really doesn’t matter now. This will be the last time all of these souls are in one place, and the last time we will all be gathered here at 90 degrees south.
Now, I just try and focus on how fleeting this all is. There were days that felt like months. There were hours that felt like years. I can’t say I am enamored with everyone I spent a year with, but I am proud of everyone I spent a year with. Everyone did the best they could with what they had, during an experience that nothing, sans being an astronaut, could prepare us for.
In one month, all of these people that I ate with, spoke to, worked out with, drank with, laughed with, shared a home, a bathroom, laundry facilities, and a commute to work with- will all be gone. Scattered to the four corners of the world. Some I will stay in touch with, some I will randomly cross paths with, some I will never see or speak to again.
And in one month a new crew of people will land to create their own amazing experience of spending a year at the South Pole. It will be completely different, and exactly the same as ours. As it should be.