A Texas voice
With the exception of leaving my family for a few months, my single greatest concern about working in Antarctica was not the cold, the long hours, the isolation from the "real world." My biggest worry was having a roommate. Hands down, that was the most intimidating thought.
I haven't shared a home with anyone but my family in almost 30 years. Even in college, with one brief exception, I always had my own bedroom. So the idea of living and sleeping in the same room with some stranger, not to mention sharing a bathroom down the hall with dozens of guys, gave me pause.
Wait, did I say someone else? No, no, no. It ended up being three other guys and me in one room. Two bunk beds (Yep, I'm on the top bunk.), four free-standing closets, a sofa, an end table, a desk, a television and just enough room to walk between them. Then, to top things off, one of the guys works overnight and sleeps during the day.
A month into the experience, I am pleasantly surprised to be able to say that it's working out rather well.
Its success lies in the fact that the three of us who are together the most are all easy-going and considerate of each other. If anyone is in bed, the others take it easy with the lights and keep the television on low volume. None of us is much of a party animal.
We consult each other on what to have on television, which is easy since the choice is between two movies, sports, news or a network TV catch-all channel.
I am just old enough to be their father, but they don't treat me like an old man, and I don't treat them like kids. We will sometimes go out to do something together and will often share a table at meals. And we talk about things - mostly families, friends and lives left behind.
Yeah, I like them both.
Our fourth roommate is a little different. Actually, he's the first roommate, and we rather rocked his world. He arrived at McMurdo Station in August as part of winfly (winter fly-in, one flight that comes about six weeks before "mainbody" begins, bringing a crew that helps prepare the station for the influx of people to come). He had the room to himself all this time and then, on the same day, the three of us descended on him.
Now, the three of us are all quite different from each other but our fourth roommate - I mean, first roommate - is, well, more different. He's even younger than the other guys, but that's not it. He's at a disadvantage in that his schedule is opposite ours, but that's not it. He's tattooed and plays punk music on his guitars, but that's not it.
Our problem with him - and problem is really too strong of a word - has been that he wouldn't talk to us. One of us would speak to him, and he would mumble a response, without looking up, and continue on his way, which was usually out of the room. See, we could hardly call it a problem if he was gone all the time. He just didn't fit in.
However, we continued speaking to him, asking questions, waiting for answers to slowly come. There haven't been tremendous changes but some. We've learned a little more about him. It seems that we've come to an understanding about sleeping arrangements. The three of us try to minimize any needs to go into the room during the day, while he's sleeping, and he does the same at night.
Often, the three of us will be in the lounge, waiting until time for first roommate to get up.
It hasn't been easy, but it's working. We're all getting along. By the end of the season, we may all four be great friends.
Steve Martaindale is a self-syndicated columnist. Write him at penmanmail-steve@yahoo. com.