It's interesting being stupid

Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2001

They're all here... they're tan and loud and they talk fast, and there are lots and lots of them. I didn't realize until they got here how many ways I' ve adjusted to our small, stable community. I've gotten used to waving at every moving vehicle and saying hello to every person I meet, no matter whether I can make out the driver or discern who's inside the parka and goggles. I'm thrown off in the galley not only because it's full and loud, but also because I can't make eye contact with every single person I walk past any more. All the crowd skills will come back soon of course, but it's been an interesting phase to observe. Most of all it's been interesting to see how much I've changed. I knew we had all slowed down some but when I'm talking to someone who looks unhealthily red or brown and talks in odd patterns, and gives me a strange look when I pause for 15 seconds trying to remember a word, it emphasizes the change a bit. Of course many of the people coming in are friends from previous seasons and it's great to see them and catch up, but there's a feeling of relief when I'm just around "us."

I also mock myself because of course McMurdo is summer camp compared to the Pole. But the changes are real and there's no sense denying the phenomenon: winter changes people. People who have done multiple winters tell me that you do change back.... mostly.

I happened to be in 155, our main building, when the first flight people arrived. It was a shock, even if expected, to see them bursting through the doors in their bright red parkas carrying their bright orange ECW bags. Fortunately that group included only a few people I knew so I could focus on one at a time. A returning friend who wintered last year handed me an apple. I knew we'd be getting plenty of fresh fruit soon but it was the highlight of my day sharing slices of fresh apple with all the winterovers lurking along Highway 1.

Work has been pretty busy but not horrendous: our advance work to prepare people's accounts and workspaces paid off. We've got all kinds of daylight now and the view from Crary is something else.

I don't know if what I've written has expressed how I feel. I've seen the same phenomenon from the other side, coming in Winfly here two years ago and Pole last year. I wince a bit at the memory of my own brashness and lack of understanding, but that helps me tolerate the new people now who tug at me over the telephone and in classes to move faster, answer more questions, explain the limitations of our system. I'm low on tact and patience but I think I'll make it through without cussing anybody out. I just requested an early October leave date. That seems like a good idea.



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