Cold War Cahoots

Posted: September 18, 2013 in Family, Humour
Tags: , , , , , , ,

dew

Many years ago, in a fit of adventurism and a desperate need to earn an income, I accepted a job in the Arctic. For those that remember the Cold War, pitting our democratic free society against the repressive communist-run Soviet bloc (there may have been a teensy bit of propaganda being disseminated at the time), we had a place called the DEWline, as in the Distance Early Warning line, 21 radar stations spaced roughly 100 miles apart, across Northern Canada. The purpose of these stations were to act as the first line of defense against a Soviet-led attack of North America, presumably with either nuclear weapons, followed by aircraft, followed with a bunch of people to sweep up the mess afterwards.

Now, I may have just been out of school, and a wee bit naïve, but even I knew what a fool’s game this was. By the time we could have ‘warned’ those that needed the information we had to give, the world would have taken on a whole new look, not to mention be minus a few hundred million people at least. But far be it from me to bring this up to the powers that be, because they were paying us copious amounts of money to be vigilant. When one is newly educated, and has student loans to pay off, one does not question the logic of Generals from the US of A, especially when they are willing to pay so much.

Most of the people I met up there were what I called ‘time machines’. By this, I mean that you could tell just by looking at them when they had been hired. They got off the fashion bus the year they became sequestered on the DEWline. Here’s Jim, for instance….tie-dyed  t-shirt with a vest, jeans that are so bell-bottomed that the Bells of St Mary’s would be proud, and a huge beard. Hmmmmm. Jim, were you hired around 1968? BINGO!!

This 3-1/2 year period of my life forever changed me. You’d think I would have come out of there with a better outlook on the reality of how our world works, politically speaking, and in this, you would be correct. But of all the traits I picked up from going north, playing practical jokes was the skill I enjoy the most.

When you have countless hours to do almost literally nothing, as was the case for me, your mind looks for things to do. Most of the people I worked with were really nice. But, put nice, fashion-challenged people with a social-deviant such as myself, mix equal amounts of boredom, alcohol, and opportunity, and mayhem ensues.

I’d have to say my most proud and shameful moment was making my last boss finally lose his patience and ask for time off. It was my last tour, it was 7 long months on an island in the Arctic Sea, and this poor man got me on his staff. It started innocently enough. As I was sitting, eating supper the very first day, I noticed pencil marks on the window next to me. I also noticed the blinds were pulled to precisely this line. Well. Upon further inspection, all the windows and all the blinds were similarly marked and leveled. Hmmmm. Just to satisfy my curiosity, I pulled one blind up about two inches, and lowered another about the same. Then I waited. You could have heard a pin drop.

Our boss showed up about 10 minutes later, freaked out, leveled the blinds, thus commencing 7 months of tit-for-tat that I have yet to see paralleled in my personal lifetime. I was ratted out later that evening, so the boss and I had a ‘discussion’ while I was working in the secure area. My only concern was he was 6’ 5”, and looked to have quite the temper. So, I had to be sneaky, then. He couldn’t know it was me when pranks were pulled. Oh, he suspected me most times, but could never quite prove it.

Like the time he left his bedroom door unlocked (there was an electronic combination-lock on his door, so such opportunities were rare). I had made some home-made itching powder, got his bed, and yes, his undies. I didn’t know he was allergic to fiberglass. At 2 a.m., when we were all rousted out of our rooms, only to see a giant naked man, blotchy skin, ranting and raving and swearing to kill the person(s) responsible, I was a little worried. But, he couldn’t pin this one, as there were no witnesses.

His office was always locked. One night, primed with beer, we trudged the helium bottle to his door, and proceeded to blow up weather balloons under his doorway, tying them, then letting them go. I say ‘we’, because by then, the staff was all in on the fun. The next morning, he couldn’t open the door because his office was full! He never figured out that one.

He got me back a number of times, often by scuffing the floors so I had to buff them (in the secure area, we were also the cleaners). But the last straw was when he returned from a two-week training thingy, only to find we had bought the biggest, baddest stereo, tv,  and pool table that $20,000 can buy.  We had spent all the money in the bank that was earmarked for just such a thing, money he had hidden from us. He had left instructions with his replacement to not let us touch this cash. His airplane was barely airborne when we had the meeting to decide where to spend this found treasure. What followed was a flurry of ordering, shipping, and assembling that would have made Extreme Home Makeover proud.

His ensuing sabbatical for ‘stress-related matters’ was a lesson for all of us, to not take things so seriously, especially when locked away with 16 other psychos in isolation. This lesson I have carried with me for 26 years, as well as a healthy appetite for having fun.

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