The Summit winter crew adopted a theme song. It’s appropriate now for our crew to adopt it also: “Work Song.” I strongly suggest you queue it up as the soundtrack for this post.
After the storm, we dug out the Green House north door, the freezer trench, the snow melter tank, the snow melter door, the microturbine door, the microturbine interior (where there should not be snow), the fuel tank valves, and the whole west side of the MSF.
♫ ♪ I got all the fucking work I need. ♫ ♪
Digging is especially difficult at Summit. Our elevation is 10,500 feet. There is approximately two-thirds as much oxygen here as there is at sea level (by volume, not percentage―that doesn’t change). Some people acclimate to the altitude in just a few days―like Sam, my fellow science technician, who is a damn snow-hauling-energizer-bunny-Sherpa (“Who needs snowblowers when you have science techs!” he says). Others never fully acclimate―like yours truly, who collapses in Sam’s wake like an asthmatic fish after six shovelfuls.
This is my workplace: the MSF, or Mobile Science Facility (also known briefly as the Motor Speedway Facility―I won’t go into that now; eventually you can read all about it in my book). When I finally gained entry (and regained consciousness from digging-induced oxygen deprivation) I was faced with a maelstrom of problems.
♫ ♪ I got all the fucking work I need. ♪ ♫
The MSF’s ventilation system was blocked up with snow and ice, and the carpet was soaked where snow had blown in through the cracks around the rear cryogenic door (the kind you see on industrial walk-in freezers, with a huge latch on the outside and a plunger on the inside. We have lots of these). Several of the scientific instruments that I take care of weren’t functioning optimally, and some weren’t functioning at all. One was packed with snow. One was packed with ice. Two had frosted view windows. Three had been frazzled by static electricity.
♪ ♫ I got all the fucking work I need. ♪ ♫
The static electricity was intense. During periods of strong wind, the dry blowing snow caused serious static buildup. I don’t know why that is, but I know that touching anything metal while standing outside in the wind resulted in a painful shock, even through my thick gloves. Holding the railing on the Green House roof was like holding an electric fence. The shocks came rhythmically, about every second. Disbelief compelled me to continue torturing myself.
The upside? The Big House survived the storm, and my Scotch was still there. But it’s going to take a lot of whiskey to get this melody out of my head.
♪ ♫ I got all the fucking work I need. ♫ ♪