Saturday, August 9, 2008


I know I've mentioned it before, but one of the factors that helps mitigate the paltry salaries here is that you don't have to pay for much. Almost everything is provided for you; food, cold-weather clothing, work gear, tools, housing, transport, etc. For the few things that the USAP doesn't provide for us, though, we have the station store. Affectionately nick-named "Pal-Mart"

Pal-mart 1

It's generally open for an hour in the evening on Wednesday, and then an hour in the late afternoon on Saturday. The store is staffed by voulenteers, and the book keeping and such is usually handled by the station admin, or the station manager if we don't have an admin.

Pal-mart 2

It's divided into two parts, the main room, which has tee-shirts and coffee cups and stickers and other touristy sort of stuff. And then a back room, which is that door on the right, which we leave closed when the tourists are here, that sells booze and shampoo and things like that.

Besides all the silly tee-shirts, the store does have some clothing that is VERY nice. Almost everyone on station has at least one of the SmartWool zip-up turtleneck fleeces that we sell; I've bought two. They're very thin, INSANELY warm, and have high collars that are fairly tight against your neck, making them a godsend as a layer under a jacket. Also, there's the navy blue beanie hats that many people wear, including me (you can see me wearing it in the videos I posted a while ago). Many people also have the pull-over hooded sweatshirts, but they're like tents on me, so I haven't gotten one. Outside of tourist season, though, the majority of the shop's trade is booze.

Not being a drinker, I don't know how much booze costs in the states. But from what I'm told by the people here who do drink, our prices are fairly in line with our salary; 1/2 to 1/3 what they would be stateside. I don't think you can make our the prices in these pics, but just to give an idea, a liter of Jack Daniels is $14, and a bottle of Captain Morgan is $9. Recently, they've been selling cans of Guinness for $0.50. This is a bad place to come if you're battling a drinking problem.




Thankfully, with a few notable exceptions, there isn't much of a drinking culture here; people don't drink with objective being just to get smashed. There are some stories of some people (young guys especially) who get here and go nuts their first weekend, but most of them learn their lesson fairly quickly. It's harder for guys who have worked at the other stations, McMurdo and Pole, I think. Just from what I gather, there's much more of a hardcore drinking culture over there. Access to booze is more restricted at those stations (not allowed in the dining areas), it's much more expensive (to try and prevent abuse), but just for whatever reason, the a lot of the lifers who are doing their first stint here at Palmer after working for 5-10 years at the other bases seem to mostly be functional alcoholics. No one gets wasted or anything during the week, but on the weekends, there's a few people who hit the bottle pretty hard.

Freakishly, while booze is quite cheap, they screw us non-drinkers on soda. It's $0.50 a can, no matter how much you're buying. This means that a 24-pack of Mt Dew is $12. WTF?! I've actually given up soda (mostly), though, because . . . I dunno, because I'm really cheap?

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