Saturday, January 2, 2016

Imaginary Workplaces

While reading on the internet recently, I was reminded of a passenger...

The pickup address was at the Mercedes Benz dealership on Scottsdale Rd just north of Frank Lloyd Wright. The passenger was a single gentleman who I estimated to be in his mid-70's. I asked if he'd dropped his car off for service. He said that he'd dropped a car off at the auction, across the street, and was going back to his condo for the other car that he was selling.

One of my standard questions was to ask people if they'd lived in Phoenix all their life. If not, I'd ask how they found their way to the desert. Then I'd just go with my intuition to figure out if this person had something to share that I'd be interested in.

Maybe because he was old, or because I was just a random taxi driver, he told me of some things that younger retirees with security clearances would have never even hinted at.

This passenger said that he'd moved to Phoenix because it was half-way between the labs in Los Angeles, the labs in New Mexico, and the testing sites in Nevada. My next question wasn't so much a direct question as an idle inquiry: "When was that last above-ground nuclear test?"

"1962. I was there."

We chatted for a bit, then another question came to me. "I've heard that the government has a lot of underground facilities at these bases. Is that true?"

He confirmed that the bases he'd worked at had underground facilities, then said... "but there is WAY more stuff underground at Area 12, than at Area 51."

Life on the secret bases was pretty good for a single guy. Ammunition for the shooting ranges was "10 cents", and all meals were "$1". You could have Steak & Lobster every night for the same price. The guys who were married didn't enjoy their time sequestered at the secret bases nearly as much as the single guys.

The passenger had come into possession of a large property somewhere in the south - Louisiana, maybe? His condo in Scottsdale had developed a leaky ceiling while he was away, and one of the cars had rusted a bit from the drip. He'd decided to sell the two classic cars which had been stored in the garage. Maybe he was selling the condo too, I don't remember.

The page that triggered my memory was The Unlikely Struggle Of The Family Whose Neighbor Is Area 51. This tells the story of the family whose homestead is right across the dry lake from the military's secret base:
Plenty of landowners have fought the government over plans to seize their property. But the Sheahan family of Nevada have not spent decades defending some mundane corner of farmland from being covered by a proposed interstate. The Sheahans' ancestral mining land is getting seized over its very unique next-door neighbor: America's top secret flight test facility, known to most as Area 51. ...
One thing this page says is that Area 51 didn't officially exist until the mid-1990's, when some people who'd worked there sued the government for their health problems.

foxtrotalpha's Area 51 tag has some other interesting stories. Apparently the base has decided to take the family's homestead because they have some new aircraft that need to be tested in secret. They've recently built a new hanger, to better hide their new toys from the satellites.

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