Back Home Again–Finally

The conference wound up on Saturday with a really interesting circumpolar archaeozoology session, organized by Max Friesen of the University of Toronto.  I’ll do another post about the papers; this one is about coming home.  A bunch of us went out to dinner at a restaurant on a little square up Rue Lacépéde from Rue Monge.

The next day I started home.  My flight was late in the day, so I had a while to hang around Charles De Gaulle (the airport), which resulted in spending money at the duty-free shops on chocolates (for Glenn) and perfume (for me).  The Air France flight had really good food, and was even a bit early into JFK.  Passport control and US customs were the usual slow lines winding around like snakes, but eventually I made my way (by train) to the place where the hotel shuttles stop and got to the room.  A few glitches with the card keys (apparently their machine is on its last legs and only one of 3 worked) and I was able to sleep.

I had to get up quite early Monday, which wasn’t such a chore since I was still on Paris time, since my flight was at 7AM.  While checking in, I discovered that what had appeared as a JFK-ANC flight actually stopped in Salt Lake City.  And that’s where the trouble started.

We arrived in a perfectly good plane, a bit early, and were told that we were going to change planes.  They re-boarded us an hour or so later on the new plane, closed the doors, and discovered that an engine light was on.  They replaced a part, took the jet-way away, tested the engine, put the jet-way back, did something else, took the jet-way away, tested the engine, put the jet-way back, went looking for some other parts, found them, started replacing them, decided that they should deplane us because one of the parts was hard to get at and it would take a while  (they didn’t know that until they started doing the work?  what kind of mechanics are these?),  but we could leave larger luggage on board to speed re-boarding.  They handed us $6 meal vouchers and told us not to leave the boarding area (where there was only one place to get food for 100+ people).  Several hours later, it was clear that I would not be making my connection in ANC to go to Barrow.

When I went up to get re-booked, they were not able to find me a seat from ANC to Barrow until Wednesday.  I had them book it anyway, so I didn’t wind up having to wait even longer.  Eventually, they had us go on the plane five at a time to get the stuff we’d left there, and then sent us to another gate with another plane.  We finally made it to ANC about 4.5 hours late.  A few of us were stuck overnight, but at least the large contingent of senior citizens from the Midwest heading for a cruise ship didn’t miss their sailing.

It took them quite a while working on my ticket, and in the end they took my email and emailed me the itinerary later.  I did wind up standing around so long that when it was time for hotel vouchers, I’d checked the room availability, and was able to get them to put me in the Millennium, which has a decent restaurant and a gift shop that sells T-shirts (which I needed since I didn’t want to do laundry), instead of the Puffin Inn.  I think the problem was that they managed to book me on a Tuesday flight to Fairbanks, with a layover until the Barrow flight arrived, but hadn’t canceled the Wednesday reservation, so the prices weren’t coming out right, and the poor fellow didn’t have a calculator and was having to do all the math by hand.  They handed me more meal vouchers (which didn’t go that far in ANC in the summer) and off I went to catch the shuttle.

The flights on Tuesday went smoothly, Glenn was there to meet the plane, and my bag was one of the first out, so it was only about a 45 minute wait.  We then went over to the library where there was a BASC-sponsored talk going on, to hear the rest of the program, and pick up our daughter and an archaeologist friend, Rick Reanier, who is in Barrow getting ready to do some survey for Shell Oil down the coast.

Naturally, the first couple of days back have been a zoo.  One client has a procedure where they need to get letters estimating how much you are likely to charge them until the end of the fiscal year (September 30) so they can move money around.  The person who does that is going on vacation, so they needed this done ASAP.  So I made those letters, only to have them discover they didn’t have enough money in the projects to do that, and they didn’t have time before the woman left to move the money.  So I had to rewrite the letters to fit their budget!  I really don’t know why they don’t just do it themselves…  That took most of the last 2 days.

In between rewrites, I had a group of Secretary Salazar’s staffers (he’s in Barrow holding a public hearing) tour my lab while touring the building.  Fortunately, they were busy so the tour was brief.  Then I had a regular teleconference with clients, which I got called out of to go and photograph a very large tooth for a local man, Matu.   We think it may be a saber-tooth cat.  Photos have been forwarded to various paleontologists & mammologists, and we await the verdict.

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