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A travelling man


A travelling man

The rope was strung waist high and ran the full eighth of a mile from Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Alert to the Department of Environment's (DOE) weather station. Given this was the land of the midnight sun, one might wonder what the rope was for.

"That's so you don't get lost in a snowstorm," my so-called boss told me. I referred to him in this manner because I had been asked to leave Resolute Bay, NWT where I had originally been posted to come up here to the gray-haired top of the world to unofficially run the place. "We're having some problems," my real boss had said to me; this was the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Environment at the time. Knowing the guy, it was probably a fabrication, but here I was.

I was given the tour of the station. Not much different than any other I'd been posted to. A weather office, a computer room where we tracked the balloons we sent up twice a day and did our analysis of the data, a large, fiberglass dome for the ancient tracking dish and a hydrogen generation building (the hydrogen was for the balloons). Ah! There was one difference: a very comfortable living room with all the movies a fellow could want, a reel-to-reel tape deck and a library. I spent many happy hours there.

Which brings me to the point of this little monologue... It wasn't all fun and games. The sun didn't stick around all year. And the snow did come back.

There came a morning when I had to use the rope to get to work. You couldn't tell it was morning--there was no sun and the snow was flying horizontal to the ground. I was lucky to get a glimpse, every once in a while, of the rope my hand was attached to.

Anyway, I made it to the weather station, and the fellow I was relieving made it back to CFB Alert. Not long afterward, I received a call. "You can't come back, and there won't be anyone down to relieve you," the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) said. "All personnel have been confined to base."

This didn't seem like much of a big deal. I was comfortable, and I had my guitar. I settled in for some serious practice time.

Two days later, it was a big deal. I was bored. Food was also getting scarce. But the storm was still raging.

What to do? The answer was simple, and it was also the reason I never ended up in the armed forces. I went out into the storm, walked the rope with my eyes closed (because they froze shut anyway), had a bite to eat at the cafeteria, then went and knocked on my relief's door. I left it up to he and the OIC as to what they were going to do next. I figured the DOE wasn't going to fire me if a weather observation or two didn't get made.

Turns out I was right.

Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2009

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