phil jacobsen


You’re In for a Wake Up

Here is a photo of my least favorite bathroom at McMurdo Station. This frozen outhouse is located next to the Waste Barn and the Waste Barn is just about geographically the farthest building from the building where I work.

Hold on—let me set the record straight. For those who know the layout of McMurdo, either because you have gone to Google McMurdo Street View or because you work in the Haz Waste building, I do know that the Haz Waste building is farther away from my building than the Waste Barn. I’m only setting this record straight, because it just so happens the only person who, as the lead Pig of the McMurdo Semantic Cops, would comment “No, Phil, actually the Haz Waste building is your geographic polar opposite at this Southerly Polar Outpost” works in the Haz Waste building (Happy Birthday Ben Morin).

Laying out the GPS coordinates of McMurdo is not the point of this post. The point of this post is I do not have a pot to piss in today. Our toilets are broken. This is why, however unappealing it looks to expose my body parts to an ambient temperature of minus 25 (note: a body part that is quite comfortable in its 98.6 package), I had to make the trip to the Waste Barn to dispose of some bodily waste.

I was already at work this morning when my coworker, Zach, arrived and said, “Something smells funny in here.”

To me, the office smelled like coffee. Between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., I’m doing my job with a hot cup of coffee near at hand or beneath my nose. What I didn’t know was that as I was brewing coffee, percolating up through our frozen pipes and coming out of our sink was all matters of backed up fresh poo and pee.

Turns out, when Zach said, “Smells funny,” that was actually a euphemism for “Our office smells like shit.”

Indeed it does.

As I mentioned, or as Ben would have pointed out, there are other bathrooms (closer and warmer) than the one at the Waste Barn, but sometimes, just sometimes, you’re running from one end of town to the other, and your body says, “It’s time to go” even though your mind should say, “You need to wait.”

On the plus side, I did learn something from using the Waste Barn bathroom: Forget drinking four cups of coffee, say “goodbye” to the Caffeine IV, the next time I want a true morning ‘pick-me-up’ here’s all I’ll have to do (again):

First, (once in the bathroom) take off my gloves, so my hands are good, cold and numb. Second, unzip, unbutton and pull down my three layers of clothing (I unwittingly took off my gloves to latch the metal lock on the bathroom door. By the time I got to the point to reach into my pants my hands were so numb, unzipping my trousers was nearly as complicated as assembling a Rubik’s Cube). Third, I tried to find the smartest part of my body—the only body part that actually retreats like a descending thermometer when faced with such harsh temperatures. And, fourthly, do you have any idea how much steam rises when your urine hits a tin funnel? At minus 25 degrees, I was sure surprised. It was like being in a Turkish Steam bath, except in this case, the steam was urine.

Here’s to hoping the plumbers fix the frozen pipes in our building soon. Next step: How do I fix my frozen pipe?


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