Dangerous Work

Dangerous Work:

Via Arts & Letters Daily, a story about working in the Arctic.

If something happens, and you leave your vehicle, you will not be rescued in time. You do not leave the road; to leave the road is to die. You are given an orange safety vest, so they can find your body, in case you don’t listen.

The road is usually a frozen river. To break through the ice and fall into the river is yet another way to die. Sometimes the road is the frozen-over Arctic Ocean. When you break through that ice, you sink. They say it’s the air bubbles in your decomposing body that cause it to float, and in the sub-freezing water of the Arctic Ocean, human bodies don’t decompose. If you fall into the Arctic Ocean, your corpse may be well-preserved, but no one will risk a life, or expend the cost, to retrieve it.

Suppose you do fall in. By the time you reach the surface, the hole you fell into may have frozen over already. If you can punch through ice with lungs full of 35° water, maybe you deserve to live, but then you’re soaking wet in subzero temperatures, and you will spend your last few conscious minutes too delirious with hypothermia to be thankful that your next of kin will have something to bury.

Once, I asked a guy who’d worked up there for twenty-five years if he’d known of anyone who’d fallen through the ice and lived. He could think of only two.... [one] rescued driver immediately went to the bar, where he wasted no time telling his story. A number of his listeners didn’t believe him and even took umbrage with the tale, at which point, the rescued driver became aggrieved, and a fight broke out. Less than twelve hours after he was submerged beneath the ice of the Arctic Ocean — a situation that no one in recent history had ever survived — the rescued driver was nearly beaten to death in a dingy bar. He was taken back to the same hospital he had just left, and this time, he was there for two months.
The story about walking to the Post Office is amazing, too. The description of the place as resembling the Moon reminds me of FOB Hammer; and indeed, it suggests that someday we really will go places like the moon, or Mars, to live and work. We already do.

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