When I arrived on the ice last year, I made it a point to explain the culture around station regarding FNG’s (pronounced “fin-gees,” or “effing new guy.”) This year, I am no longer the new kid on the block. This gives me a renewed perspective on the term, as well as a great opportunity to point out the benefits of arriving on ice for a second (or first!) season.
I am not nearly salty, seasoned, or weathered enough to find myself annoyed at the tell-tale excitement that FNG’s display. In fact, I find it refreshing. Also, as a second year employee, I now understand that my anxiety about being a FNG was mostly in my head. Yes, people like to poke fun and crack jokes at the new guy- but it’s all in jest. Yes, people get annoyed at outrageous bursts of enthusiasm- but seasoned ice people have their quirks too. (Anyone who has ever worked in travel/tourism should be able to relate to this fatiguing reaction to excited visitors. While working on the Alaskan Railroad, we called these energetic people “foamers.”)
Finally, yes, there is an etiquette to networking on the ice and it may take excited FNG’s a few months to figure out what is appropriate and what is over-stepping your bounds. All of these nuances are things that can be learned and as a returner, I understand that there is patience and acceptance pretty much anywhere you look on station.
This year, I flew from Minnesota to Dallas instead of Alaska to Los Angeles. The moment I hit the Dallas airport, I recognized faces from the ice and it felt like we hadn’t seen each other for years. Even as returners, we were buzzing with excitement. Some of us had even picked up a few FNG’s who happily joined in on sharing adventure stories, but were blatantly out of the loop on the gossip, and overwhelmed by the descriptions of the skuas, the galley, what you can find in a janitor’s closet- really, there was information being thrown at them from all angles.
I found this fascinating since I spent my entire commute alone during my first season- only running into ice people when I finally reached the hotel in Christchurch.
After boarding the airplane, it seemed like every other row on the giant A380 had a person from McMurdo. Each of us smiling and waving, occasionally hugging, possibly confusing the hundreds of other passengers who were probably wondering why so many people on their flight knew each other.
This year, I find myself thankful for the fact that I am approaching the season with a clean slate. Fear is not a factor since I know what to expect. Loneliness is not a possibility since I now know what a strong community I am a part of. This season, I feel more prepared and more confident- and I couldn’t be more ready to start round two!