“…after eating a hearty breakfast of salt beef, I found myself taken with a pain under my left breast, where I had formerly received a dangerous blow. From this time the sea scurvy increased upon me…” -William Hutchinson, 1794
At recent Employee Orientations, Raytheon Human Resources representatives made the startling boast that in 2002, reported employee injuries in Antarctica reached an all-time low. Even a graph was flaunted to show that in 2001 a line representing worker injuries moved downward upon the arrival of the x-axis notch marking the 2002 fiscal year. What the Human Resources representatives overlooked in order to maintain their encouraging numbers was that 2002 was the year Raytheon, with the oversight of the National Science Foundation, paid employees not to report injuries.
During the winter of 2002, each employee was paid an extra $50 for each month that their department reported no injuries. In the minds of number-crunchers with ergonomic office chairs, the $50 was an incentive to encourage safe work habits. But to bloody-knuckled grunts with work-sprained wrists or smashed fingers, seeking medical treatment now came with the added bonus of owing co-workers their money’s worth in cases of beer, to ward off the murderous stares. A mob of mechanics deprived of their rightful dough is not an enemy to be aggravated for need of a band-aid.
Do cash incentives create a safer industrial environment? Or do they merely pit the hungry herd against the injured gazelle? Do cash incentives breed careful workers? Or do they breed a ruthless corps of opponents eager for new fishing rods? Do injuries decrease as reported injuries decrease? Or do dollars quietly bury the blood?
In an effort to understand these complex influences and to promote a Safer Antarctica, Big Dead Place announces the Scurvy Awareness Program: we offer an ounce of gold and a romp with a prostitute in Christchurch to the first Antarctic participant who is diagnosed with scurvy.
Why? There has not been a case of scurvy reported in Antarctica for almost a hundred years. This historic affliction, which once racked the bodies of the greatest Antarctic heroes, including Robert Scott, Ernest Shackleton, and Douglas Mawson, has fallen from fashion since the 1932 discovery that scurvy is caused specifically by Vitamin C deficiency. With the cure firmly established, incidents of the heroic illness dropped to nil. Or, “reported” incidents of scurvy have dropped to nil. Does scurvy still afflict polar heroes? Are there silently suffering Human Resources representatives on the verge of collapse, unwilling to report the unfashionable disease for fear of the mockery and humiliation of their peers? Enough is enough. Suffer in silence no longer. Come forward with your disease and reap your rewards.
If Raytheon’s ethical compass is properly calibrated in paying people to hide their afflictions, then we’ll navigate by the same logic and pay you to report them. We are not paying you to get scurvy. We are merely offering incentives for reporting your legitimate case of it. See?
Here are the prizes, valid through the winter of 2006:
- An ounce of gold, wrapped in black velvet, and tied with a scarlet ribbon bearing a commemorative Big Dead Place wax seal. A definite collector’s item!
- Three bottles of Flintstones chewable Vitamin C tablets.
- Two hours of fully-paid debauchery in the Atami Room Massage Parlor in Christchurch, New Zealand (or) Thirty minutes of fully-paid relief in the Atami Room Massage Parlor plus a meal for one at the Sala Sala sushi restaurant (or) a $100 gift certificate to Dux Deluxe (or) equivalent value prizes in Punta Arenas or Hobart. As the three principal ports of exit from Antarctica, it is expected that participants in the Scurvy Awareness Program will pass through these places. Big Dead Place will not pay for transportation costs to or from these ports.
- Recognition on Big Dead Place as an Antarctic Hero, accompanied by your very own page on the site in which to spill out your delirious scurvy-riddled thoughts.
Here are the rules:
- You must contract and be diagnosed with scurvy while stationed in Antarctica which, for the purposes of the Scurvy Awareness Program, includes any location within the Antarctic Circle. Additionally, the contest is open to participants on South Georgia, as well as all sub-Antarctic islands below 60 degrees south.
- Your diagnosis must be official, documented by a legally recognized physician. You wouldn’t want to contract scurvy without being recognized as having the first case of Antarctic scurvy in almost a century, would you? The history books belong to the brave, and they’re yours for the taking!
- You must provide photos of your visible symptoms to Big Dead Place for publication.
What if I spend four months trying to contract scurvy and then someone else beats me to it? Do I get any prizes?
“There is no try, only do.” –Yoda
Incentives go to the first officially diagnosed and documented victim of scurvy. Big Dead Place cannot afford to sponsor the noble intentions of slowpokes. Did Robert Scott expect a consolation prize when Roald Amunden beat him to the South Pole? Does Raytheon send Christmas cards to the smaller companies left crushed and mangled by its legions of lawyers and lobbyists? In any case, we do not recommend that you attempt to contract scurvy. We are merely offering incentives for reporting your legitimate case of it. See?
What if I contract and am officially diagnosed with scurvy, but someone else is first to report their diagnosis to Big Dead Place? Do I get any prizes?
In the unlikely event of an unexplained hundred-year spike in reported scurvy cases in the Antarctic, Big Dead Place will negotiate at that time to compensate affected victims who contract this dreaded disease within one month of recognition of the first victim, at our discretion. In any case, the first diagnosed victim of scurvy will still receive full compensation as stated above. The best way to be compensated for your bout with this terrible debilitating illness is to periodically send updates of your progress to Big Dead Place for publication so that others considering participation in the Scurvy Awareness Program will be deterred by the prospect of getting a late start.
Why are you paying people to contract scurvy? Why don’t you get scurvy yourself?
Why do managers send others into asbestos-filled buildings? Why don’t Safety Representatives work outside on the slippery ice themselves? Because they seek to preserve their hides. It is their job to make sure the work gets done and to take credit or blame for those daily successes or failures. It is the grunt’s job to do the work and to stand in harm’s way so that no injury comes to the “brains”, so to speak, of the organization. With these roles established, it is then the administration’s job, with an eye to insurance costs, to daily belt out slogans and devise new schemes for convincing the grunts that soaking up bodily harm is not a fundamental job requirement assigned to them, but a mysterious aberration resulting from deviant behavior. And since deviant behavior can be controlled with rewards and punishments, there is nothing more natural than the follow-up trumpetblasting that cash incentives (or the withholding of cash incentives) are ultimately for the Good of the Workforce. Using these tried and true corporate tactics as our guideposts, we are thus properly positioned to claim that Big Dead Place strives for a safer Antarctic experience, and thus wishes to stamp out any case of scurvy that might arise due to methodically poor nutrition. We do not wish to contract scurvy, nor do we overtly promote it. The Scurvy Awareness Program claims to eliminate scurvy forever by acknowledging any heretofore unreported cases of it. We are not paying you to get scurvy. We are merely offering incentives for reporting your legitimate case of it. See?
What is scurvy anyway?
Scurvy is an illness that results from a nutritional deficiency of Vitamin C. Curiously, only primates and guinea pigs do not manufacture their own internal supply of Vitamin C, and must consume it from an external source. (Guinea pigs are not eligible to participate in the Scurvy Awareness Program.) Symptoms of scurvy include red lesions on the skin, swelling in the armpits, blackening of the joints, and bleeding of the gums. These symptoms may persist for some time before death. Scurvy is typically an illness suffered by sailors and polar explorers with no access to fresh foods, but any person deprived of Vitamin C may contract this grim and painful disease which in its heyday turned more navymen into corpses than the wars in which they fought. However, in those days, the cause of scurvy was unknown. Today we know that a victim suffering scurvy may be rehabilitated by gobbling Flintstones chewable Vitamin C tablets before fatality sets in.
What if I die of scurvy?
Such matters should be discussed with your supervisor.
How can I contract scurvy and collect my prizes?
Scurvy may be contracted by methodically neglecting one’s intake of Vitamin C, meaning that any lapse in vigilance, such as drinking a glass of orange juice, can effectively set you back to square one. Fortunately, James Lind, a seafaring scurvy expert, has left dietary advice on contracting scurvy in his Treatise of the Scurvy from 1753:
“The [patients who were not given oranges and lemons] took the bigness of a nutmeg three times a day of an electuray recommended by an hospital surgeon made of garlic, mustard seed, rad. raphan., balsam of Peru and gum myrrh, using for common drink narley water well acidulated with tamarinds, by a decoction of wich, with the addition of cremor tartar, they were gently purged three or four times during the course.”
To avoid contracting scurvy, simply avoid the diet outlined above. Besides acidulated water and gum myrrh, there are many other tasty foods that don’t contain Vitamin C, such as ice cream, candy, and beer, which provide an attractive culinary experience to accompany the entropic ruin of your scurvy-stricken flesh.
Great, so now my gums are bleeding and my joints ache. What next?
The work’s not over yet. Now you must convince your postmodern medical practitioner that you are suffering from an 18th century illness! This could perhaps be the most difficult hurdle to emblazoning your name forever in Antarctic history books. But no matter how unlikely that a patient in this day and age will stumble into Medical with a case of scurvy, you should remember in the course of your interview that you really do have scurvy, and should politely but firmly deflect any of the doctor’s erroneous diagnoses.
Suggestions for approaching your doctor with a case of scurvy:
For the initial approach to your doctor it might be best to do nothing more than describe the symptoms of your classy illness and then allow the doctor the opportunity to make the correct diagnosis. “My god, you’ve got scurvy,” the doctor may say, handing you your precious written diagnosis and a bottle of Vitamin C. This is the best possible scenario.
In the event that your doctor is blind to scurvy’s symptoms and has not considered it as a possible diagnosis, perhaps remark in the course of your interaction, “Hey, I’ve been doing some reading, and my symptoms suggest that I have scurvy.” The doctor may resent you taking an amateur interest in your own health, or the doctor may simply laugh, but remember that the truth is your ally: you really do have scurvy, and no one can take that away from you. Be polite but firm in steering your doctor’s attention back to the loose teeth, blotchy flesh, terrible pain, and green urine that mark your success as a victim of Antarctica’s most historic illness.
I want to contract scurvy, but I’m in Cleveland. Can I still participate in the Scurvy Awareness Program?
There is nothing to stop northerners from contracting scurvy on their own, but we are unable to sponsor Scurvy Awareness in non-Antarctic environs. It was all that the early Antarctic explorers could do to keep from contracting scurvy, and many of them lost their lives as a result of the weakness brought on by the frightful disease. Today, however, scurvy at Antarctic stations is kept at bay merely by the vitamin-enriched processing of many of the foods stocked in the kitchens. What once required a conscious act to avoid now requires a conscious act to contract, thus scurvy can be used as a vehicle to reflect the eternally shifting focus of human “achievement”, whether on Earth, Mars, or some distant galaxy. Unfortunately, though we continually slog our way through infinite variations of the same hopeless culture, Big Dead Place is primarily concerned with those variations that occur in Antarctica. Though no doubt Cleveland is as futile a burg as any other American colony, that location does not contribute to our chosen theme, so we are unwilling to underwrite your off-topic hijinx.