Thursday, December 11, 2008

Guest editorial: Spoof story pokes fun at state’s proclivity for pork, and blowing things out of proportion

Tundra Coast, Alaska (MEWS) — The 2008 Alaska hurricane season ended Nov. 30 and, for the 22nd year, there were no named storms. Alaska Hurricane Center director Hector Forum, Ph.D., conducted his annual end-of-hurricane-season press conference Monday morning before a sparse gathering of the press corps.

“Well, um, another hurricane season has come and gone,” Dr. Forum began as he replaced a pen into the pocket protector of his freshly-starched white lab coat. “And, as you probably know, we once again didn’t have a named storm. I’ve been with the AHC for some 40 years and this will be my final report. I will be retiring as of tomorrow,” Forum advised, raising his voice to be heard over the sounds of maintenance men who were busy dismantling the huge AHC operations center located near the tiny village of Tundra Coast.

“I began my career in 1968 at the National Weather Seer’s Anchorage office. I had a windowless cubicle by the elevator on the second floor. There were no funds available to send me out to western Alaska to make personal meteorological observations in those days, so I spent quite a lot of time reading, especially in the winter months.

“In 1972, Alaska’s junior senator came up with the money to relocate the AHC way out West here to Tundra Coast. As you can see, he made sure that there was plenty of room for expansion,” Forum added, alluding to the 20 fully equipped but unmanned operating positions in the multi-storied center’s main tracking room. “Senator Ted wanted us to be closer to the action.

“Up here in the Great Land, we are encouraged to use our own set of names for so-called ‘qualifying storms’ each year. I was tasked with making up the list. Although I would come up with 26 names each year, in alphabetical order, we rarely used even the ‘A’s’,” he admitted. “There was that one year, umm, 1982 I think, that we actually got as far as ‘Boopsie,’ but for the most part it’s been kinda quiet.

“My superiors in Anchorage suggested that it was time for me to think about retiring a few years ago after they discovered that I had put out a job vacancy announcement that called for ‘an assistant meteorologist, female, 30ish and attractive, who likes to hang around geeky weather guys. No experience necessary.’ I got a few nibbles, but nothing ever came of it. I did get a phone call from an attractive-sounding woman, but it turned out to be one of my bosses. She told me that it was time to get out of Dodge and/or get a life. Like most of my storms, she shall remain nameless.

“Well, I took the hint and put in my paperwork. But, due to there not being regular mail delivery out here, the boys in the Head Office didn’t receive it until last month, just after the senatorial election recount,” Dr. Forum disclosed. “They figured that this office would soon be put on the fast train to Palookaville. And so, in closing, as they say in the Austrian Alps: ‘So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu, adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu.”

Dr. Forum then donned a yellow hard hat, stepped down from the podium and exited gracefully. Staccato clapping could be heard from one or two reporters. As he reached the back door, Forum deftly sidestepped a crumbling wall and then turned to add a final thought.

“I only wish that I could have gone out with at least one more named storm,” he sighed wistfully. “My favorite was ‘A-coming,’ so that the disk jockeys and weather briefers could say, ‘Hurricane A-coming is a-coming’.”

That said, Dr. Forum then went out into the prenoon darkness. The workers paused for a moment, and then their foreman boomed to his crew, “OK, boys, back to work. Rumor is that the new junior senator from the Last Frontier wants this here building to be turned into a performing arts center by a month from Sunday.”

Bill Gronvold is a freelance writer who lives in Kenai and Florida.

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