An email notice blipped up in the bottom corner of my monitor. Five minutes until the monthly staff meeting. Joy. I did try to be out in the field during those times of the month. Usually it worked.
I shrunk my work email and opened my Yahoo mailbox. Still nothing from the elusive Dr. Gavin Cleary of Trinity College Dublin. We’d met and then hung out at the BodyWorks exhibition in Dublin when I was there last February. Then he’d tracked me down in October to offer me a job. I hadn’t hesitated.
He was also blond and beautiful and my fascination with dead people didn’t faze him. The only apparent flaw was that he was an archaeologist. But, he’d offered me a job, so what the hell?
I completely admit I was smitten. But the man wasn’t doing anything to endear me at the moment. Did I accept the job because I was smitten? Possibly. But it was to dig a Roman cemetery in Turkey. Hello! What’s not to love? Real archaeology. Real artifacts. Dead people. Yum.
But, it seemed that Dr. Cleary was being the typical Irish — lazy. I’d dropped an email in the ethereal abyss just before Christmas, but still nothing.
There was a notice from the National Association for Physical Anthropologist (NAPA, yeah, I know) for two funded Ph.D. candidate positions at Trinity College Dublin. Funded. Dublin. Was this Fate trying to tell me something?
I’d decided a while ago against pursuing a Ph.D. Too much money, too much politics, and too much institutionalization. After ten years in university, I was already institutionalized enough. But this was funded. And in Ireland. Mmmm…..
I also had an email from my brother, Sebastian. He was the decent one, the one I didn’t owe money to. Well, actually I did, but it was only to pay off the other brother. It was complicated. The end story is that Sebastian saved my ass while he was going through his own personal drama. It had taken thirty-three years for me to figure out that Sebastian was an okay guy.
Sebastian wanted to meet for dinner sometime this week. Amazing what divorce will do to an absentee brother.
“Are you coming or not?” Frank had returned from a month in Mexico. He was tanned, paunchy, and as grating as ever.
“Yeah, yeah.” I typed a quick “Yes. I’m in town,” to Sebbie then grabbed my coffee mug and followed Frank downstairs to the conference room cum lunch room.
The room was already full, or as full as it could be in mid-February. I glanced around the room and noted that I was one of three permit holders in attendance. Most of our permit holding contingent were still on holiday, taking full advantage of their many weeks of accrued lieu time. Morris was sitting next to the other manager, Michelle. Our company owner, Tim Bowden, was absent as ever. I turned toward the kitchenette. The coffee pot was already empty.
“What the fuck?” I blurted.
“Number three,” I heard from the group behind.
“Number three, what?” I heard a female voice I didn’t recognize.
I turned and spied the owner of the voice. She was small, blonde, and new. “Number three,” I said, “on the list of ‘How to Piss Off Marquette.'” I pointed to a list tacked to the corkboard above opposite the door. Granted it was in amongst the safety and archaeology notices littering the board, but she’d have to learn sometime. “Besides,” I added, “it’s not nice.”
Apparently, I used enough venom that she got the point. She rose, leaving her full cup of coffee on the table, and started to dismantle the coffee pot.
“Can we get started, please?” Michelle had applied a fresh coat of her “come-hither-my-devil” red lipstick and it further accentuated her permanently pursed lips. And this woman had the nerve to call herself an archaeologist.
During the winter, not much happened. At least, not in terms of fieldwork. So, when Cam and I were called upon to go out two weeks ago, that was news. That we were shot at deserved a full pot of coffee.
“That’s twice in one year, Marquette,” Frank noted with a grin.
“Seven months,” I corrected.
“It was the red hair,” Chad, the other permit holder present, said. My mother used to call me the raging red demon when I was a kid. Did wonders for my self-esteem growing up.
“That must be some kind of record,”Frank continued.
“Actually,” I heard Cam from the far reaches of the room, “It was the large reflective ‘X’s on our backs.” Snickers sounded around the table.
“Regardless,” Michelle called out above the din, “We now require that all crews call in three times a day: once in the morning, once at noon, and once at night.”
I joined in the group groan. “Like I don’t have anything better to do while I’m in the field. When am I supposed to do any actual archaeology?”
Morris looked over his bi-focals at me, “Elise, it’s one phone call. It won’t kill you.” I rolled my eyes but acquiesced.
“We’re going to have a fire drill sometime in the next 24 hours,” Michelle continued. More communal groans.
“It’s minus 20 out there.”
“I’ve got too much reporting to be standing outside counting clouds.”
“Are we going to be timed?”
We then went around the table, round-robin style, and stated what we each were currently working on. It’s amazing that these meeting managed to finish in under an hour during the summer. “Elise?” Michelle asked as she wrote on her notepad.
“I submitted my report to the client for review on the fieldwork Cam and I did two weeks ago. I’m still working on the mitigation report for the subdivision. And I haven’t started on the oilsands mitigation report for the stuff I did last summer. I haven’t submitted my final digital copies for the Provincial Museum library. If someone needs something to do, they can do that.”
Michelle jotted all this down. “The oilsands client needs that mitigation report by end of April.”
I nearly spat out my coffee. “Excuse me? When did this happen?”
Michelle was a little too calm for my comfort. “I received an updated schedule last month.”
“Hello! That kinda deserves an email to me. It’s a 150 square metres. That’s going to take time.”
Michelle was nonplussed. “You’re already over budget. The client won’t give us any more time.”
The little raging red demon began to show its face. “Over-budget? When was I ever given a budget? Or a realistic schedule? Just like six weeks isn’t enough time to dig 150 square metres, two months is not enough time to complete a two volume mitigation report. I have other clients, other projects.” I looked at Morris for support, but he kept his eyes glued to his steno-pad.
Michelle remained steadfast. “I need it beginning of April for review.”
“You’ve only got three permit holders in the office. Who’s going to do the fieldwork if it comes in?” I tried in vain, but the ‘discussion’ had passed.
I’d tried this before, pointing out the shortcomings of our management. Or, rather, Michelle’s shortcomings. I’d tried it in private when I’d been stuck with an unrealistic schedule, no support, and no crew leadership experience last summer. I thought doing it in public this time would make a difference. Apparently not.
Granted, it wasn’t the most professional way to act. I wasn’t given to arguing with management in front of my co-workers and, well, the entire company, but I was quickly coming to my wits’ end. I had no control over the raging red demon when that happened.
People started filing out of the room. It took me a moment to figure out what was going on. The meeting was finished and I was still seething.
I refilled my mug then fumed back to my desk. I checked my Yahoo email again. Still no email from Dr. Cleary. But I did begin the application process for one of the Ph.D. positions.