I dashed this off for one of the Notcot contests to try to get a free Fisheye camera. They wanted an office anecdote, and working in the TARL was the best I could come up with.
I’m an archaeologist, so for at least part of the year, my office is outside, slinging a shovel. But we have to do something with all of the things we find, so for the rest of the year you’ll find me typing away or in the lab, sorting artifacts. Back in 2003, I was working in the Texas Archaeological Research Lab, re-labeling artifacts that were excavated in the 1970s and 80s. The lab was located in a WWII Munitions factory that was half-condemned. There was the side that was fine to wander around in, and then the dark, cordoned off area that was off-limits. Some of the paleontology labs were in the same place, so there was a big mammoth skull in a crate sitting in the hallway. Also stashed away was one of the first X-ray machines, giant and gleaming in the dark. Probably my favorite thing was the cabinet full of non-artifacts. That is, things that people brought in that were fakes, like big-foot castings and rocks with monkey faces chiseled on the front. There was also a small mound outside filled with radioactive monkey remains, but that’s a whole other story.
Anyway, so one day I was finishing off a sack of rusty nails. I hated labeling the nails because it was completely pointless, as the white nailpolish that we used as a background for tiny little black accession numbers would just flake off and leave the things as blank and useless as before. At that point I had ceased to complain, as it would just get me another sack of rusty nails to label. I reached into the archival box for the next bag and pulled out…something strange. It looked like slightly fuzzy, black, glassy fluff at the bottom of the bag. I opened it up and tried to see what it was, but couldn’t figure it out. Finally, I fished out the white paper label that someone had provided. It read:
So, I’m guessing that some archaeologist was on a terrible project in south Texas, getting bitten up, and finally just started bagging the damned things out of sheer frustration and perversity. Then it was archived in a state facility and came to me, 30 years later. Horseflies. Good times.
Wish me luck!