16 October 2019

Difficult trip that doesn't even go underground

The weather forecast wasn't very good. But people wanted to go and look at a stope near Parc mine. And I was out of the field early enough! So I joined. And I shared transport with David and Paul. We would also have a new person.

We were the first ones to get to the parking lot. We sat in the car for a while as it rained. No need to get changed! I could hardly get back into Paul's car after having changed into my minging caving suit. Then a car appeared. It turned out to contain the new person: Gareth. We introduced ourselves. David was hoping we would change our minds and go somewhere else; doing a stope would mean standing at the surface getting drenched. We would have to first find it, then find a good way to rig it and then descend one by one and only then would be out of the rain.

Then Edwyn arrived. And Mick and Don. And Garry. Time to finalise plans! Mick really wanted to do this stope. So let's do the stope. We got kitted.

Then the evening turned. One of the blokes, not known for being political correctness turned flesh, made a remark that used sexual assault as a joke. The other men didn't respond. My heart turned cold. I managed a quick 'calm down' and then the conversation had already moved on. I am never quick enough with these things! But my evening was spoiled. Am I really supposed to go underground with a bunch of men who condone such things? But they had also driven me here. My keys, wallet and phone were in Paul's car. I didn't expect support from this lot. I have called out misogynist shit many times before in this company, but that mainly involved women portrayed as commodities rather than persons, and I never had support from any of the men. They seem to all suffer from straight white male syndrome; if something isn't offensive to a straight white male it is therefore not offensive at all, and anyone who thinks it is is overreacting, can't take a joke, has to just grow thick skin. So the situation would already have been quite disheartening if he had said something like the usual crap, and this was a lot more explicit. And I can't let something like that go. Condone rape culture and you are part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution! And I was miserable now. These people are supposed to be my friends but when it comes to this sort of thing, I am utterly and totally alone. I have had enough shit to not be able to see sexual assault as an academic question. And even if I hadn't! I can't imagine not having enough empathy for other people to not be hurt by this sort of thing. These men read papers; they must have, for instance, read about people like Chanel Miller. Christine Blasey Ford. Chrissy Chambers. And so, so many more. And yes the bloke didn't actually commit sexual assault but how can you turn it into a joke when you can't not know how soul-shredding it is? So this needed addressing. But how to go about this? I didn't want to discuss it while walking to the stope. If you do that you get interrupted. I had to wait until we would be somewhere for a while.

In the meantime, Jason appeared too. We walked along the road to an almost-vanished path, got very wet, found a hole but one we seemed not to be looking for. Then we walked on, and found a shaft of sorts. We seemed to be there for a bit so I confronted the bloke. His response was one of utter indifference. I told him I could do without that kind of attitude and that I would avoid him from then on. Great! Not that I expected him to be all constructive but it had to be said. But such a response didn't make me feel any better, of course. It was also a lot of bullshit as this chap is not the indifferent kind but that is hardly a consolation if you get your hurt thrown back into your face that way. And, of course, none of the other men (there were two more there) didn't say anything. Nothing along the lines of 'you might have a point, sexual assault isn't funny'. So it was confirmed: the ThursdayNighters don't condemn rape culture. Nice.

I wanted to be distracted from my thoughts and climbed over the fence, having a look at his shaft. It looked OK to me but David wasn't having it. We walked on. And came to a stope further on. David had a look  but couldn't quite see without endangering himself. I was already wearing a harness so I attached myself to a sling and had a better look. It didn't look good. I looked straight at a false floor with holes in. Holes big enough for a modestly-sized person, but it looked risky; pass that level and you might get big bits of said floor on your head after you've passed it. So this was a no!

There was another part of that stope. That seemed to go! There was some faffing and some muttering about which trees were solid enough to rig from. I was still keen on being distracted so I just rigged it and lowered myself. Edwyn had had a small look but seen the edge was made of loose stones; we needed a deviation. Edwyn rigged one and off I went.

I could see the stope went! And not just a little bit! So that was good. But the edge Edwyn had been unhappy with was still unstable, in spite of the deviation, and the edge I was at now was threatening to join the fun. I had lots of grapefruit-sized rocks hurtling at me and I figured I wasn't happy going any further. I did a change-over and came back up. I reported back that it went, but that I didn't want to go down without first solving the hurtling rock issue. I suggested we could try to rig a deviation from a tree straight above the hole; if you go vertically down you don't touch the sides and the sides don't touch you! But Edwyn wasn't happy with trees right above the hole. And David started to ask if anybody even wanted to descend. We were all soaking wet! And nobody was overly keen. Neither was I; I just wanted to go home, but that is one of these other desires that doesn't go down well with the ThursdayNighters. And I felt bad about the new bloke; he had come on a damp squib of a trip if we now didn't pursue this lead. But he didn't seem to mind aborting the mission! I wondered if we would ever see him back. We had shown him inter-ThursdayNighter hostility, a drenching, falling rocks and not a second underground. What a great trip! Advertises us well. But we agreed we'd go back to the cars.

We changed, and then went to the pub. It only had fake fires (that didn't even radiate heat) but it would have to make do. We had a drink. I did my usual 'neutrality' thing with the bloke who had made the remark; not be unpleasant, but not respond to what they say, not address them, generally ignore them as much as possible without making it obvious. My experience is that people don't notice I do it. And you can imagine I wasn't very talkative anyway!

Luckily it was still quite early when I got home. I needed some sleep after a night like this. And it wasn't over. But I didn't know that yet!

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