The Chilean Mine Collapse In Terms I UnderstandPosted: August 24, 2010
I now know how I will be spending the next four months – waiting for the thirty-three miners in the mine collapse in Chile to be brought to the surface. Considering that I spent the last few months waiting for BP to do anything right, this will hopefully be a more refreshing venture.
A Factual Perspective That Gives Me No Perspective
These people are 2300 feet underground. That is more than 4/10 of a mile from sunshine.
Here is a graph depicting some of the worlds tallest structures – the Burj Dubai, the CN Tower, and the building I will call the Sears Tower, even though I know that isn’t its name any more. You’ve surely seen pictures of the Burj Dubai. These guys are nearly one Burj Dubai underground.
I get creeped out in a dark basement. These miners go thousands of feet underground on a daily basis. Nearly three weeks ago, the way back up became no longer a viable option. They have been down in the earth ever since.
Early this week they were found to be alive, to the delight of their families and their nation. When they finally got a phone link down to them, the thirty-three miners sang the Chilean National Anthem.
They have survived all this time by carefully rationing their supplies – two spoons of tuna, sips of milk and a biscuit every forty-eight hours.
Imagination Helps Put This Into Perspective
It occurred to me to try to find a way to understand what this must be like for those miners. I decided to approach it by changing the cast to me, and thirty-two people I work with. The thought made me shudder.
Try it from your perspective. Think of thirty-two people you work with. Don’t cheat and pick your favorite thirty-two. Get yourself a good mix of your lunch buddies and the people who improve the work environment every time they call in pretending to be sick. Close your eyes and imagine all those people in a dark area. The cell phones don’t work,there is no music, no escape from each others personalities even for a second.
Could you imagine your group rationing the food like that? How long would it take for people to start really getting under each others skin? What would happen when the phone came down and you heard you’d all be remaining in your 500 square foot refuge for four more months?
I compressed myself and my thirty-two people into a twenty by twenty-five foot space. I included some of my favorite co-workers and a few that I don’t like quite so much, like The Singing Guy, Blackberry On The Toilet Guy and The Boss. Here are my projections of what might be going on in our mine:
Days 1-5 – Once we get over the fright of realizing we can’t get out, we’d probably organize and start rationing our food like the Chilean miners. The Boss would try to take charge. It would not go well for him. The remainder would organize despite him and without his input. Finally able to put him in his place, the remaining thirty-two of us would be a cohesive group, The Boss would be miserable. Sometimes it isn’t good to be the king.
Days 5-15 – Blackberry On The Toilet Guy periodically turns his device on and tries to get a message out. He complains about poor service from AT&T. The rest of us are upset because that light is blinding. He falls asleep at some point and the battery is mysteriously removed from his Blackberry. When he wakes and discovers he can no longer thumb type memos to himself he loses control. The rest of us have to restrain him, no small feat in these crowded conditions.
Also during this period we reach agreement that no stories are to be told that have food in them. The Boss votes against it because it wasn’t his idea.
Day 18: The Singing Guy launches into a medley of songs from the musical, Rent. He is gagged.
Day 19: The food supply is holding out, but I am starting to think that I don’t like tuna, even when it is the only food we have.
Day 20: Drilling sounds. One of the more organized of the party forms a committee to decide what we’re going to say or do when the phone comes down. Inexplicably, the committee chooses to sing the Chilean National Anthem.
We also agree that the ban on stories involving food can be lifted. I begin telling stories of the best places to get a Cuban Mix Sandwich. I insist that the best ones anywhere else in the US pale in comparison to those available in Key West. Someone across the dark chamber says “speaking of pale, maybe we ought to ask them for some sunscreen before we leave here. Good point.
Day 21: The drill breaks through and a phone is delivered. We try to sing the Chilean Anthem, but realize none of us know the words. Blackberry guy says he will look it up if we give his battery back. It isn’t worth all that. We opt to go with our alternate, the Thomas Dolby hit “She Blinded Me With Science“.
We’re all thrilled to be going home…and then they tell us that we should be able to do that in four months. Singing Guy works his gag loose at this moment and starts singing “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. It gets ugly at this point, so I’ll stop here.
It Is Going To Be A Long Four Months
Those poor miners are no doubt ready to come up today. Their families would love to have them back up too. I’m going to keep them in my thoughts. Based on my little mental exercise, those people are certainly stronger than I am. I’ll be happy to see them squinting in the sun soon.
8/27/10 update – here is the video released by the chilean government of the miners in the mine. amazing.