A Happy Beth-day in Antarctica

October 2nd was my birthday.  I’m not uncomfortable with getting older and don’t try to hide my birthday or my age (43).  Some years I could care less about celebrating and some years I really want to live it up more.  This year, I insisted my new coworkers know that the grand day would be while we were in Antarctica.  Why not?

So it started during orientation in Texas in August.  “It’ll be my birthday on October 2.  I like chocolate, you know.”    It came up a few times during our 4 days there.  Like when we found out the second crew of medical staff would be flying in on October 2nd.  “Well, you know what day THAT is, of course.”  A girl’s gotta do, what a girl’s gotta do.   All in good fun.  Apparently I was in need of some attention this year.  And, well, I got it.

Also back in Texas, I had suggested, that when the new staff for Medical arrive, we have a party or dinner at Hut 10 as a “meet and greet” event.  Hut 10 is the “house” on station that can be reserved for parties or meetings.  It was once the quarters for the highest ranking officer when McMurdo was a military post.  It’s an ugly utilitarian building on the outside, but inside it looks like a real home with a living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms and baths.  It’s basic and plain, but a lovely little spot with a great view.

Once we were on the Ice and settled in a bit, I reminded Brian, the clinic manager, about reserving it.  By this time, it was viewed as me conniving to get a birthday party out of it.  I swear I was not!  I wanted to do something for my birthday too, of course, but I really felt we needed something for the new folks. They could be separate parties or together, but it didn’t need to be all about me.  That went on deaf ears.

You have to understand my Winfly brethren here;  they don’t let go of things easily.  Like a bunch of pit bulls, they clamped on to the Beth-day razzing and didn’t let go.   I encouraged Beth-day at first, but then it became Beth-week, then Beth-tober.  Oh, boy.  What have I done?  There was discussion of bringing me in to the galley on a raised throne, like Cleopatra, on my birthday.  Trust me, it was all talk, but pretty funny thinking about it.  And the people on this station would barely bat an eye at something like that.  Just another day in the galley.  We showed up to lunch in neon wigs the previous week and were met with slighty amused glances.  This announcing of my birthday, though, has taken a whole new direction that I had not anticipated.

Then as it got closer to my birthday and I wonder if anything was actually planned.   After all that talk….nothing.   Hmph.  They had asked what kind of cake I liked, so that was coming at least.  “And what about Hut 10 for the new folks?”  It was reserved already on Saturday night.  “Well what about another night during the week?  Or next week?”  It was met with a shrug, an eye roll and sarcastic comment about being surrounded by women.  If you know me at all, you know that went over REALLY well with me.  “Don’t deflect with a sarcastic comment.  Come on.  You didn’t do it?  What have you been doing?”  I was thoroughly annoyed and he knew it.   Sigh.  But for my birthday, at least, I decided to arrange for a bunch of us to have dinner together at one of the lounges the next night.   I wasn’t going to worry about the rest.

So my birthday arrived on Tuesday and it starts with my roommate Kristi playing a special birthday music montage while we got ready for work.  I came to work to find the door to my office decorated and was greeted with a pan of homemade brownies and a crown.   The only candles available in the clinic kitchen for on top of the brownies were a “6” and a “1”.  You can guess which order they put them in.

Then at lunch, as I was entering the seating area of the galley with my blue lunch tray, when I was locked in to side-hug and corralled by Bob, our dentist.  Uh-oh.  He had a microphone in his hand.  And he announced to everyone in the galley that it was my birthday and proceeded to Shanghai an innocent bystander into leading the galley in song.  Good thing I wasn’t the 16 year old version of me.  I probably would have been mortified.  So I held my 61 year old, bejeweled head high and soaked in the almost enthusiastic rendition of Happy Birthday.  It was pretty funny.

Dinner that night was with friends including the new people from Medical.  It was a good time.   The newbies were pretty tired since they just got in that day, but at least we got a little bit of social time with them.  Drinks and laughter were plentiful.   I was lifted in to the air three times.  Not kidding.   Played shuffleboard.   Yes, I see the senior citizen joke in that.   But it was a great birthday.

Then next day the razzing did not end.  The Air Force guys in the clinic continued to wish me Happy Birthday at every turn and discussions turned to Beth-toberfest.  “Ok, guys.  Really.  I’m good now.  My birthday is over. ”  Then the day after that, we find out that one of our new staff who just arrived, had a birthday the day after mine but she kept it to herself.  I felt bad, but we quickly coronated her and decorated her area.  So some of the attention was deflected.  Whew.

By Friday night, Beth-day discussions had subsided greatly.  Now to plan my evening.   I was going to our local bar that evening for Trivia Night.  The topic was “Movies”.   I love movie trivia.  That’ll be fun.   I also was invited to Hut 10 for a private party with a bunch of guys I know from another department.  So sure, I’ll stop by and hang out a bit before 8:30 Trivia.  And yea!  I’ve never actually seen Hut 10, so that’ll be cool.

My friend, Joyce, asked what I was doing that night and wanted to come along.   She was rather pushy about it too.  I didn’t think she knew any of these guys and didn’t know if it was a big deal to bring her, so I waffled a bit about it.  But ok, I guessed it’d be fine.   Then Brian said he was invited and said that he was sure it was fine.   Joyce was being really clingy wanting to know when she, Brian and I could meet so we could all go over to the party together.  Brian was pretty intense about what time we were going.   Am I needing some alone-time or something?  But sometimes people are just weird, right?

Yea, it was a surprise party for me in Hut 10.  I had NO idea.  And looking back there were a few signs, but apparently my coworkers and friends are really great at lying to me.  It was quite nice, but also disturbing that they deceived me so easily (or that I was so oblivious).   Yes, Brian HAD reserved Hut 10 and was absolutely LOVING that I had gotten all annoyed with him.  And we had to relive that moment a few times over that evening.  They got me good.   Oh and they told me the Cleopatra entrance WAS in the works and firemen were recruited to carry me in, but there was some difficulty in construction of the throne.  Hmmm.  Maybe we’ll see what can be done for Halloween.  All in all it was a great birthday in Antarctica, thanks to my very sneaky friends.

14 thoughts on “A Happy Beth-day in Antarctica

  1. Hi Beth, What a wonderful birthday surprise. I loved the penguins in the last post. They looked like they were all dressed up and ready for your party!

  2. Beth, I’m a real laggard in responding to your birthday bash blog, but I’m so glad you were truly surprised. If you are back in the States next year, it will take a huge effort to even come close to the Antarctic experience. My brother’s birthday is also on October 2nd, but at 91 years, I assure you it was more sedate. Looking forward to your next post on keeping life interesting – something you do very well!

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