South Pole has exactly one store, usually called “The Store” but known sometimes as PoleMart. It’s cash-only — no credit cards — although if someone is coming up short and payday is on the way people spot each other. You know where to find them.
It’s also the Post Office, which is also cash-only. That will be annoying near the end of the season when people are mailing home things they don’t want to cart around as luggage. A lot of people don’t go directly home, and traveling with an extra case of crap is annoying. When we first flew in the hallway was packed with boxes slathered with one-dollar stamps. Over the summer we got a machine that prints tapes of any value, so that will be easier. And when the satellite isn’t up, it doesn’t always work.
I think the main items moved through the store are alcoholic. There’s a pretty good supply of wine, beer, and hard liquor. When better-than-average beer shows up, there can be quite a rush on the store. We are now out of Sierra Nevada for the rest of the summer, and that is sadness. It’s also peculiar that all of the hard liquor is $30 a bottle. That’s the same price for Triple Sec and Laphroaig. As would be predicted by economic models, the Laphroaig doesn’t stay on the shelf for long, and I doubt the Triple Sec has been moving. At McMurdo there are two bars and you can’t buy bottles. Here you can buy bottles and there’s no bar.
It’s the video store. Amazon and Netflicks haven’t been able to penetrate the market here, since it would take most of the season to download anything, live streaming would be impossible, and the idea of getting and sending back actual DVDs is laughable. I don’t have trouble finding things to watch, but I try not to watch much and am sometimes successful. But I admit that queued up right now is Gremlins.
There are also souvenirs and toiletries. We are at the mercy of McMurdo in terms of what we actually get, no matter what we request. I believe earlier in the summer there was a shampoo shortage, which has now been resolved. It’s rumored that the McMurdo store has better South Pole swag than we do.
The store manager is not a full-time job, which seems to have surprised the store manager. He was told after getting here that he’d be working in the galley as well. Michael is the youngest person at South Pole this year, clocking in at 22. He’s also by definition one of the most responsible since he handles the store money, liquor, and cigarettes. It turns out he’s also one of the nicest. Although I don’t think he likes ALF.