The Countdown Continues: 19 Days to Go

As I posted yesterday, I’ve embarked on an ambitious plan to share a personal Top 20 each day as the clock ticks down on my Antarctica adventure. Some lists will be more mundane than others.

Here’s today’s offering:

20 Things I’m Grateful That Antarctica Doesn’t Have

20. No cruising. Surely one of the dumbest human activities ever conceived, never mind popularized, is sitting in your car in an intentional traffic jam where every vehicle has its souped-up speakers on full volume, invariably playing crap music. Thank the gods there’s none of that nonsense here.

19. No campaign ads. If you go online, sure, they’re there, but our tv is mostly locally-programmed movie channels and the Armed Forces Network, and I’ve yet to see a lawn sign around here. Especially given that we’re in the run-up to a presidential election, I love not being subjected to the spin of either side. It’s going to be a tough adjustment when I get back to the real world.

18. No need for cash. While we have an ATM, it’s possible to go a whole season without needing the green. Free food, no commute…yes, I still pay various “real world” bills online, but it’s kind of nice to throw my wallet and passport in a bottom drawer and forget about them for months.

17. No farmer’s markets. I know. You’re probably surprised by this. But I have a terrible habit of going to a farmer’s market and, wanting to support all the farmers, spending ridiculous amounts of money on excessive amounts of produce and local cheese, then consuming it like a kid awash in Halloween candy. The next day I’m broke and in intestinal distress. It’s not pretty.

16. No Starbucks. Go ahead, all my hipster/hippie friends. Have your little rant about how I shouldn’t be drinking Starbucks coffee anyway because it’s so corporate/exploitative/mainstream/overrated/under-roasted/not fairly traded/union-busting/inorganic/whatever. My $5 quad shot skinny hazelnut latte is a hard habit to break. Here, I can resist. But only because I have no choice. (Though I do know where the nearest Starbucks is from here…Invercargill, South Island, New Zealand. Southernmost Starbucks in the world. I have been there.)

15. No spiders. I conquered my arachnophobia years ago, but it’s still rather nice to be somewhere that does not have spiders, or any other creepy-crawlies, on ceilings, beside pillows, in shadowed corners, and so on.

14. No lawn or sidewalk maintenance. Yes, grass is nice, but if it’s your lawn you’ve got to mow it (personally, if I had a lawn I’d want to rip it up and plant a garden, or get some goats to do the trimming for me). Aside from occasionally shoveling the snow off the stairs to get to the library, my Antarctic experience has been happily maintenance-free.

13. No stores. Okay, we have a small store, and on Thursdays we can go over the hill to the Kiwis’ smaller store, but once you’ve done a lap or two through either, especially in winter, you know what’s on offer. As someone who goes into Target or Trader Joe’s for two or three things and comes out with 20, this is a good thing.

12. No utilities. Laundry? Free. Electricity? Free. Internet? Free. I try to conserve and be a responsible steward of the planet’s resources, blah blah, but it’s also just really nice not to have to deal with any of that.

11. No robo-calls or telemarketers. Seriously, do I have to explain why that’s awesome?

10. No permanent human population. Last year, when the editor of an alumni magazine contacted me to do a profile, she sent me a bunch of rather head-shaking questions that told me she’d never even seen Frozen Planet, never mind done any research about Antarctica. One of the questions was “tell me all about the indigenous peoples.” Uhm. When I told her there were none, she got a bit prickly. Really, lady? Anyway, remembering her question, I was thinking about how much I love that Antarctica remains the only untamed continent on our planet. Yes, there are stations operating year-round, but as far as I know, every country limits the number of months a worker can stay here consecutively. No one lives in Antarctica the way people live in, say, Peoria or Melbourne. And I love that. I love that this continent is harsh enough to put us puny humans in our place.

9. No way out. This applies really just to the winter season, but there is something to be said for being forced to make the best of a situation you may find less than ideal, whether it’s having a roommate who compares herself to the Unabomber or working with people who continually try to convince you that Obama is no different than Hitler. I think I’ve improved in some of my more obviously flawed areas of temperament, gaining greater patience and being more tolerant of really stupid people who should just be freakin’ smacked upside the head –uhm. Still a work in progress.

8. Nobody to impress. Okay…I don’t want this to sound wrong but…ain’t no reason for me to be wearing eyeliner down here (though sometimes I do, just to make sure I still know how to put it on). I typically walk around in my pajamas, no make-up, glasses, my Fuggs. And I don’t care. I’ve seen almost every one of my coworkers in their jammies, and a few of them in a towel and flip-flops walking to or from the shower. Don’t get me wrong: I luuuuuurrrvvv me some cute shoes and pretty skirts and, yes, eyeliner, but pulling it all together on a daily basis can be exhausting. By resembling Nick Nolte’s mug shot for the whole season down here, I can conserve my FancyGirl energies and apply them with greater enthusiasm when I’m back in the real world.

7. No generic garbage bins. All of our waste gets shipped off-continent, but before it does, we sort it, at work and in the dorms. Recyclable plastic, non-recyclable plastic, food waste, paper towels, glass, mixed paper, fabric. aluminum, metal, cardboard, mixed media non-recyclable, hazardous, grease, and on and on. I like to think that we’re not only helping to preserve Antarctica but maybe doing something for the planet overall.

6. No children! Okay, a disclaimer, if you have children and I have met your children, they are the loveliest, sweetest, smartest, cutest, most well-behaved darlings ever and this does not apply to them. But consider the collective shrieks of a gaggle of tween girls spying a guy who totally looks like that guy from Twilight, or the ear-splitting sonic horror of a colicky baby on a long-haul flight, or the toddler pushing his boundaries by throwing candy at everyone in the store aisle…I could go on, but I won’t. Of course, while we don’t have kids, we do have some folks trying to out-immature each other, usually with the “enhancement” of alcohol, but hey…when I stick my foot out and trip them, no one is aghast.

5. No sand flies! I am, unfortunately, delicious. At least New Zealand sand flies, and mosquitoes the world over, seem to think so. When I trekked around New Zealand it was not unusual for me to count 60 or more maddeningly itchy, red, ulcerated welts just on my ankles and lower legs. Fortunately, I’m out of range down here.

4. No commute. I know a lot of people who think they have it good that they spend “only” two hours of every day in a car/train/bus getting to and from work. I walk down the hall. It’s wonderful.

3. No hot, humid weather! Well, duh. The only time I sweat here is when I go to the gym. While the lack of humidity can wreak havoc with my skin and hair, that’s what moisturizers and conditioners are for. It is bliss not to deal with soul-draining swelter of any sort.

2. No pollen. This was actually very nearly number one, but, let’s face it…I can always take a Benadryl. There’s no cure for the plague that made it to this list’s top spot. But the moment I step off the C17 and onto the Ice, my lungs feel like they’re twice their size. I don’t have terrible allergies, or the chronic sinus problems that plague the rest of my family, but being able to take huge, deep breaths without itching, sneezing, coughing, tearing up and throat scratching is fantastic.

1. No cell phones. Of course, no cell phones also means no one walking/driving into me because they’re too busy texting, no one shouting to his broker at the next table, no Justin Bieber ringtones shattering the silence, and so on, and so on. Bliss.


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