Plan D

“What was your Plan B if I wasn’t available?”
“You were about Plan D.”

Bill, abord our transport to the South Pole, looking very happy to be leaving McMurdo

Bill, abord our transport to the South Pole, looking very happy to be leaving McMurdo

That was a quick conversation I had with Bill, my manager, while Denver was working hard to rush paperwork through. It’s probably not verbatum; quote-abuse will continue until further notice.

There are a lot of answers to “So how did you get this job, anyway?” depending on just what that question means.

I’ve been thinking about doing this since I was a boy; I remember that when I started to do darkroom work one of my thoughts was, “people with extra talents are more likely to get to South Pole. This will help.” [I recognize that my memory fails in several ways, and admit this could be a false memory.]

My friend Pablo worked the Helpdesk here two years ago. It reminded me that it was possible, and that it was something I might like. He also has had a bunch of polies passing through his house and parties, and they seem like fine people, and they were also encouraging me to swing for it.

I applied to be an employee of GHG, a company which seems to make payroll software and has the sub-contract with Lockheed to supply IT and Comms in Antarctica. The best part of that is that filing my hours and getting paid has been really easy. People hired by other non-GHG sub-contractors have been griping fiercely.

I took a bunch of medical tests, and was Physically Qualified for the job. I figured that if there was a deadline looming for hiring and I was the guy who had already passed the physical, then my odds of getting the job were better. There was a urine drug test, a blood test called “Standard Antarctic Panel” [which was hard for me to think of as “standard”], a TB test [That was fun. There was a specific test requested by the job, my doctor was telling me how he preferred a different test, I was telling him “nope; what they want.”], HIV testing because I’m part of the Walking Blood Bank here, probably a vision test but I don’t remember, new wing-bite x-rays from my dentist, and the cardio-stress test. And I didn’t fall to the fate of many, with lost paperwork and HIPAA privacy tangles between agencies. Eventually I got some email telling me I was PQ’ed.

Oct 5, 2012

Mr. Hayes
This to inform you that you have been Physically Qualified (PQ) for summer deployment.  Your summer  PQ status is good through 3/31/2013.

That was the last action I could take; now it was all up to the fates. Time went by. People would ask me how it was going, and I would give them the recent results. The more time, the less likely it seemed.

It’s been interesting for me to go through this exercise, though, and realize that I am the sort of person who, given the opportunity, would go to Antarctica to work for four months, and that my life is resting lightly enough on me that I could.

Then the fates stepped in, not with a pregnancy or a broken leg, but with a failed psyche test. The primary to be Network Engineer was also going to winter over. People who winter over have to take and pass a psychological test — I think it’s some version of the Minnesota Multiphasic — and he failed in October, sending Bill into a bit of a spin. I have no idea what plans A through C were, but eventually he managed to get a crew of old hands, gave some of them new assignments, and shuffle the deck so as to leave the IT Helpdesk position available for the Secondary aka me. The shuffle also means that while some of the IT people are doing new jobs they’ve either seen it done before or someone one desk over has done it before. The cross-coverage can run pretty deep — one of my cow orkers has had more than ten deployments.

And so here I am, slowly learning what the IT Helpdesk helps people with. I’ll have it nailed down pretty well by the time I leave.


2 responses to “Plan D

  1. Walking Blood Bank? Are you more likely to get accepted if you’re a universal donor? Less likely if you’re a picky recipient?

  2. Accepted to the program? I don’t think so. But if anyone needs a transfusion, the call will go out. Nothing so far.

    By the way, IT has had more than its share of medical emergencies. One of my cow orkers had an emergency flight for a broken zygomatic arch last year, and another had his appendix removed by the winter doctor.

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