Inevitably Boring

I don’t want to age. I want to make that abundantly clear; if I had it my way, I would stay where I am mentally and physically for the rest of my life. Essentially, I want to be an immature highlander.

This with a Midwestern accent.

But one constant issue that has been plaguing me at work; everyone is as boring as flat diet coke.  All of them are a solid five or more years older than me, with either kids, a fiance, or a steady relationship with NPR.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these things, let me make that abundantly clear.  But, when that’s all anyone really knows about you, all you really talk about…it becomes your identity.

I know what your thinking “Bastard Archaeologist, you haven’t tried to get to know these people; you’re a judgmental whore asshole!”. Well, dear reader, your wrong. I have unleashed my personality bit by bit.  For example, this past week, when discussing the issues with politicians, I suggested ‘election by Hunger-games’.

He would win every election.

I was met with looks ranging from mild disgust to less mild disgust.  One of  the more outspoken ladies looked me in the eye, asked me if I seriously enjoyed watching people get murdered; when the other day she was talking about the latest episode of a “Game of Thrones”.  Whether or not I enjoy watching people die is not the issue, but if you watch HBO…you don’t get to judge me.

If you watch this show, you love watching people die.

The conversation then turned to the latest ‘chapter a day’ on NPR.  I’m not kidding.  We could be discussing how a “Biden vs. Palin Vice-presidential smack-down” could have been the best TV in history, and instead we were talking about a woman who reads books aloud on public radio.  And by the way, my money is on Biden unless Palin uses teeth…so, there’s that.

The bottom line, I’m afraid of aging if it means I turn into someone who is dull. I would rather receive graphic texts from a geriatric convict than let that happen.

The Perks of Having No Work Friends

Recently, I’ve taken a job that requires me to stay in hotels around the state throughout the week. However, after having quite a few friends at my previous job, I’ve got to deal with the issue of having no friends at work.  This week, I worked on historical documentation with a woman who literally grunts in response to what I say.  But then, as I sat there, i started to appreciate the solitude, and so I made a list of all the advantages of having no friends,

1. Arts and Crafts

Any alcoholic writer can tell you that nothing inspires creativity like solitude. So, after grocery shopping and binge-eating on the powdered cheese in the Macaroni and Cheese box, I was left with a lot of dry, flavorless, noodles.

Who the fuck would eat noodles without sauce?

So when life and impatient eating gives you noodles, you make art.  I didn’t have any glue or paper, so I used peanut butter and hotel stationary. After five minutes of failing, I decided to cook the mac and cheese with peanut butter as sauce.

And two nights later, I cooked something else in the hotel room. In the toliet. It was shit.

 If I had friends, they probably would have stopped me. Thus, the advantage of having no friends is very apparent.

2. Videos a Blaring

You can watch anything that you want, without anyone judging your netflix or internet video preferences. Three cats fitting into a shoe box? Youtube it on! Twin peaks? Who else will solve Laura Palmer’s murder?   German midget shemale porn?

Blare it Loud and PROUD, you sick fuck!

I myself enjoy the comedic stylings of Jake and Amir. If you haven’t seen it….

WATCH IT

I actually just leave the TV on HBO while I’m away on full volume, with the do not disturb sign on the door. There’s a good chance random strangers think I getting laid now (or shot or beheaded).

3. The Classic ‘Drink and Sob’

The archaeologists favorite; drinking.  But this activity can only be done if you are alone. You take a bottle of your favorite alcohol and think of everything in the world that you hate while chugging it as fast as you can.

Don’t stop until your computer watches you do German Midget Shemale Porn

At the end of the night, if you don’t end up in your bathtub, asking your ex why they hated your eyebrows over a shotty mobile connection? You did it wrong.

I tried so hard to pluck it to your exact specifications.

4. Self-Reflection on Deep and Beautiful Level

There are some things that you shouldn’t do in public, and that’s find your self…

Not like that, you!

I mean of course, talking to yourself.  Now, I will occasionally partake in this in public, but completely by accident.  For example, at work the other day, I was telling a dear co worker about my research. After five minutes of talking she turned and told me she stopped paying attention several minutes ago.  This is when I recognized my super power: I can say anything I want at work without anyone hearing me. So I decided to start saying my thoughts out loud to better interpret and work through them.

“Giant Cookie-hooker!”

The other day, I talked my way through the moral dilemma of euthanasia of endangered animals (to spare them the loneliness of being one of the last of their species). By the time I reached my solution,

“KILL THEM ALL”

-the archaeology lab was completely empty. The degree to which people didn’t notice me was so strong that they forgot to invite me to join them for lunch.  So, you see, having no friends is really quite a benefit.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather go into business?”

There are a lot of people who give archaeologists shit about their career path, myself included. Apparently, there are no jobs for us, and if there are jobs, they are in Ivory Towers, waxing poetically about ruins and Egypt.  That is patently untrue, there are actually quite a few jobs out there, although initially seasonally, definitely  with the possiblity of better work. It’s just that many archaeologists get burned out (like many other social science and hard science fields) working the hours to wait for the golden opportunity.  But enough with that, let me introduce you to my job:

So, what exactly does the average archaeologist do?  You’re in luck, because I can totally tell you! They work in CRM to protect the archaeological resources in the United States (the U.K. calls this ‘commercial archaeology’, many countries have a bureaucratic designation for this).

What is CRM?  It is what almost every archaeologist will or should do at some point in their career, and how most archaeological data is found in North America and the United Kingdom today.

Basically, the idiots guide is this (because it was a very confusing class and there are a lot of parts of it.)

  1. As of now, all companies who work for the government or who accept any form of government support(most of them) have to make sure they are not building over archaeology sites (or disturbing environmental features).
  2. To mitigate this, archaeologists test areas for archaeology sites; this is usually done years before the proposed project takes place.
  3. Surprisingly, an enormous part of the world under your feet is archaeology. If you are living here today, somebody else thought it was a good idea to live there.
  4. We either protect the major sites, or curate (put into high security storage/museums) the artifacts we find to save them, as well as recording the information, meticulously that we find.

This is pretty important work, believe it or not, and it ties heavily into the overall framework of environmental protection.  There is an enormous amount of work available in this field, but it is physically demanding and sometimes not worth the pay. There are different levels and intensities of excavation, but that is about as interesting as watching slugs mate. (if you want to watch slugs mate : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST_AEmm3GmI. )

With a bachelors, you can do the job that I do, which is the physical recording and collection of artifacts OR curation with supervision in a lab.  I’ve been paid anything from $16.50 per hour (without housing and food A.K.A. ‘ per diem’) to $14.75 an hour with per diem to do this job.  I am pretty lucky, because the average pay is definitely lower than that. A hot tip: government agencies (in the U.S.) pay WAY more and can abuse you WAY less; more internal surveillance, they also have more security.  However, there is more mobility and a greater potential for higher salaries in private companies towards the management end.  OH THE ETERNAL DECISION OF SECURITY VERSES WEALTH!

As far as the U.K. goes, my friends who work in Commercial Archaeology state that entry pay is around £7 or £8 starting pay; not quite sure how good or bad this is, given the exchange rate. It is the same between government agencies and private, likely because there is tighter regulations on wages, leading me to think private companies would go lower if they could*.

Here is the kicker though: as nice as that deal is, I can only work when the ground is NOT frozen. Where I live, that is roughly April through November, from there you can live on unemployment or have a flexible seasonal job.  I substitute teach, personally, and that supplements pretty well.  But, I do not have regular health insurance (luckily, I’m under 26 and eligible for my Dad’s) and no guarantee until I ‘level up’ (I’m a fan of Skyrim, hence the term).

I went through a grueling 13 months of work and thus I have some mobility. I have a masters, so I also have the potential to move up in management, which includes overseeing the entire site and organization of the labor and paperwork.  From there, it moves into further bureaucratic leveling (I am not saying this negatively, but government labor designations are very tiring!).

The place I’m at now travels around the state, having me stay in motels until we are done. Since it is government, it is Monday to Friday, approximately eight hours a day.  Some places have you work different on and off days, for example, ten days on and three days off.  Again, these are usually private firms setting the most convenient schedules for their work.

There are horror stories off course, of having to stay in horrible conditions and being forced to work on little water or no breaks (http://archaeology.about.com/od/careerstories/qt/rebecca.htm, http://archaeology.about.com/od/careerstories/qt/slave.htm ).  I would like to say this isn’t typical, but I only know my own experience for sure, and I can say that I enjoy the work.  Will I do entry level work forever? No, my knees are shit enough without ten years of ‘shovel bumming’. But some people do, so obviously it still draws people in to work.

My biggest advice would be to stand up for yourself and your dignity wherever you work, and always look for a new job as soon as you even suspect the current one won’t cut it.  Don’t be afraid to report being abused; that is the very foundation of human rights and you should exercise them!

If you have any questions, or comments, please share them!  I love what I do most days and would enjoy answering your questions! Also, if you have any stories, in or out of archaeology you want to share, comment below.

*(ANYONE FROM THE U.K., correct me if I am wrong; I only lived in your country for a year, that isn’t enough to say I’m any kind of an expert!  Anyone else from around the world, please give me insight into how things work! I am very interested in hearing about it, and would love to branch out in my own experiences once I stop being poor.)

Archaeologist Anxiety

I have pretty bad anxiety, like to the ‘needs therapy’ and ‘possibly medication’ extent, so that can be a bit of a problem.  This means that I literally cannot enjoy anything new without imagining some horrible new fear; in this case, a new job as a field technician, even though I’ve done it before with another organization.  But this is new, so it’s really quite scary.

There’s the standard archaeologist fears:

What if I find a projectile point and drop it into a pile of dirt filled with ticks and black widow spiders?(Already happened, waiting for the inevitable Lyme’s disease)

What if I mistake sandstone for prehistoric pottery (it actually looks really similar to the untrained eye)?

What if the motels we stay at have dead bodies and cockroaches under the bed? (it’s really possible)

What if I accidentally decapitate my dig partner with a shovel? (At over a meter in the ground, your arm gets super weak.)  And being struck by lighting?( it’s totally possible).

Then there’s the standard work fears:

What if everyone hates me? (pretty standard)

What if I’m horrible and get fired? (really standard)

What if people discover I like to knit and demand I make them hats, then realize I’m really bad at it and can’t afford the yarn without charging them? (Everyone’s been there)

But then there’s these REALLY specific fears that only make sense to me (or to you. I don’t know your life).

What if my married roommate at the motel I am staying in has sex with someone while I am still in the room? (I feel like one in two people have had this experience; hence the divorce rate).

Standard Falling Off of a Cliff? (happened in Achill Island in Ireland, 200 ft drop, caught myself at the last minute).

How about the very high risk of choking on melted cheese? (It happened when I ate potato skins at this restaurant in Mackinac island, and now I fear my favorite food).

What if I meet a really over competitive douche bag who tries to get ahead by ruining my relationship with our supervisor by sabotage? (That seriously happened in graduate school; there was some weird stuff going on in that staff office).

When it comes right down to it, my fears from the most specific and odd to the most standard are currently out of my control.  I can do the best I can, but I know I will screw something up; it’s inevitable at any new job. There is no way to not screw up at a new place, even if you’ve done the same job somewhere else. No amount of experience or preparation can stop that first mistake, and disappointment.

But I’m still going to have a panic attack.