So, Jim got up at midnight one night in early March to reserve us seats, because, apparently, Hanford tours are like Elton John concerts and sell out in minutes. They are free, so I guess, with the economy these days, free entertainment is snatched up fast. Please note: you get what you pay for. So he signs us up for the day before my Birthday, oh yippie, I could not wait. The day before the tour comes, Jim has me watch a video so that I could be "prepared." I was so thrilled, I popped popcorn and got my M&M's ready for the big show. Ok, I didn't do that, but I should have, then, at least, I could have said it was worth it for the candy and popcorn. I watched the video
So we got up the next morning, packed some snacks and drinks and headed out of town. Jim did stop along the way at McDonald's and got me a Sausage McGriddle, yum. Who ever invented pancakes filled with little syrup morsels should be given a medal and recognizes as a national hero. I mean, really, those things are the best! I probably ate a whole day's worth of calories in one bite, but who cares? There is not a McDonald's in our town, so it will take me some time to become the 1 ton woman, so no worries there, yet. If anyone wants to help lobby the congress for a McGriddle Day, I am totally on board. Jim did not, however, divert our trip to Washington D.C. for my "breakfast-sandwich-lobby event," he continued to drive to his beloved nuclear reservation.
We got to the starting point on the tour and our ID's were checked and we were given our security badges. I was wondering when the finger prints were coming, I should have packed our FBI fingerprint clearances we have for the adoption, then maybe they would have allowed a camera to take pictures of all the glowing animals we were sure to see. We were ushered into this room with chairs in the center and pictures on the walls. We went around looking at pictures, I started to think this could be kind of interesting, until I got to the picture labelled "3 unidentified girls" from white bluff or something in the 40's. At the top of the photo was written 3 girls names (first & last). Now, I don't know about you, but I have a strong feeling that those names belong to those girls and if they have names then they are not really unidentified are they? This is when I started to realize what was happening: Jim had taken me on a government run dumb-fest.
My feelings about this were confirmed when we were done looking at the pictures and ready to sit down. There were not enough chairs!! OK, this is ridiculous! People had to get up at midnight to sign up for this tour more than a month in advance and they don't have enough chairs. They knew exactly how many people were going to be on the tour. They had our name tags all printed up and a list so they could check us on and off of the bus. BUT they could not get enough chairs for the opening presentation. They have a 4 billion dollar budget a year and they could not provide 8 more chairs. I was a little peeved and that is when the sarcasm really kicked in. Did they think that 1/3 of us wanted to stand and listen to the "whole picture" from a guy that talked to us like we were 7 years old? I wish I had taken a pen because the witty remarks we flying out of my mouth and, unfortunately, I can not remember them all.
Once the presentation was over, and boy, did that make me excited for the rest of the trip, NOT, we got on the bus. We drove and we drove and we drove and the tour guide talked and he talked and he talked and he really said nothing I did not know. My homework assignment over-prepared me for this tour of sage brush. At one point I turned to Jim and asked "there are going to be dinosaurs on this dinosaur tour, right?" But, sadly, not such luck. We did get to see stumps of an old orchard, the tour guide said something to the effect of "they are still in perfectly straight rows, just like when they were planted" Really? Did he think they were going to move? They were tree stumps! We are not in Middle Earth, here, the trees stay where they were planted. I am telling you the high intelligence on this tour was spectacular. When he did not know the answer to a question he just made it up, that was mildly entertaining.
We did get out of the bus at the B-Reactor, which is being made into a museum of sorts. Before we went into the B-reactor we were told that food and drinks were not allowed inside. That seemed to be an understandable request, it was a museum, right? Oh No. That was not the reason. Apparently, according to the tour guides, there could be "critters" that want our food and water. WHAT!!!! We were in the middle of the desert what kind of "critter" is going to come after me for my bottle of water? We were not going into bear country or anything. I believe I asked Jim at this point if we were likely to see R.O.U.S (rodents of unusual size, for you non-Princess Bride fans). Then they implied that there could be snakes inside. It was about 50-60 degrees in there, um correct me if I am wrong, but snakes are reptiles and they DON'T LIKE COLD. So I was not particularly worried about an animal attack.
The actual reactor was interesting and the guys there had actually worked in a reactor, so they really knew what they were talking about. But then again doing my homework (thanks again, Jim) made it kind of boring since the same video I watched was part of the presentation. The size was impressive! I would like to see a working energy reactor some day, just to see the differences. Amazing that the physics were taken from the laboratory and put into production on such a massive scale.
After the reactor, we went to the dump where they dump radio active dirt. From what I saw, they are just moving dirt from one place to another, but we were there forever and you could not hear the speaker because of the wind. So we just stood there looking at bulldozers and loaders pushing dirt around. Now, if I was a 4 year-old-boy, that would probably be pretty interesting, but, as I am not a 4 year old boy, it was quite boring. I was begging to get back on the bus at this point, but you know, since I look like a terrorist or something, I was forced to be corralled in the concrete barriers and stare at THE DUMP. And, if you ask me, if there are no seagulls it is not really a dump anyway, it's just a large dirt pit.
Finally, we were allowed back on the bus. I held it together until I heard the tour guide say to someone that the plutonium was used in the Bat Man bomb. I could not help it, "Nana nana nana nana nana nana BATMAN" escaped my lips. I now understand that he probably said, "Fat Man bomb," but at this point I think the government dumb-fest had fried my brain. Then they made it sound like we were done and heading back. They LIED. Again we had to get out and stare at a tank in the cold wind, I was about ready to lose my mind and run screaming into the desert, but that would have probably confirmed my terrorist status so I stood there feigning interest.
When we got back on the bus there were evaluation sheets for us to fill out. Oh, how I wanted to go on and on about what I really thought about this tour, but they gave us like 2 minutes to fill them out. It was so unfair that they waited until the end to pass out the pens, when my best witty remarks came at the beginning of the tour. I think it was a strategic plan to fry everyone's brains first, so that they no longer had the energy to give an honest evaluation. Maybe they will read this, I am sure there are enough key words in this post to land me on a watch list somewhere.
Jim and I were just going to go out to a nice lunch after that and then go home, but after that torturous 5 hours I needed a little more than a nice lunch as compensation. So, off to the mall we went, a new outfit and pair of shoes followed by nice dinner was a better way to end the day. Although if you ask me he still owes me a little.