Great Seats

2009-06-25 10:29:08.000 – Lynne Route,  Summit Volunteer


Volunteering at the Mt. Washington Observatory is a lot more than just cooking. It is about having the best seats to some of the greatest shows on earth. The shows are more than just science and nature: they are eclectic, uplifting, and comforting.

The seat at the dinner table is more desirable than superbowl tickets. Where else can you sit and break bread with a diverse group of people who work in the most unusual office in the world. Although they are scientists and are unusually fond of weather, the folks who work at the ‘OBS’ are also kind and intelligent. The dinner conversation may range from ‘how many days have you gone without taking a shower’ to, ‘which do you prefer, The Pig Man or King Lear?’

The seats after dinner are large, overstuffed and comfortable. And although they are set traditionally around an oversized coffee table facing a monitor, there is no television. What is so great about these seats? Someone might tinkle on the keyboards or strum the guitar: all novices, but so much more refreshing than the nightly news (or even the weather channel!). The evening entertainment might continue with a DVD movie, a comedy DVD, or old sitcom episodes. Sometimes it includes a party game. For ‘Apples to Apples’ we left our overstuffed seats to sit on the carpeted floor around the coffee table. But my favorite seat of all is the one where everyone in the room is quietly reading. During these times it is interesting to see whose lap Marty the cat will sit in.

Some of the best seats are ‘standing room only.’ When you get a knock on the door at 3:30 in the morning and hear a voice saying, ‘Sunrise in 10 minutes,’ there is a profound silence 5 minutes later as folks filter out on to the OBS deck with mittens and hats over their pajamas. This is a group of people – some who know each other well and others who are only visitors for the week – and all are milling around in complete silence. The loudest noise is the clicking of camera shutters. The show, nature at it’s best, is the magnificent sunrise.

Some of the ‘standing room only’ seats are not so quiet. When you hear the call, ‘There are some unusual looking clouds out there,’ or ‘The fog broke in time for the sunset,’ every one stops what they are doing. Folks grab cameras or a coat, and they clamber up the metal spiral staircase to witness another one of Mother Nature’s spectacles.

One evening after dark and after the hourly observation, I heard, ‘Skies are clear.’ Everyone jumped up, except me at first. When I followed, I found out what clear skies on a late spring evening meant. Stars. Stars like you’ve never seen before. And shooting stars! People were more vocal for these ‘standing room only’ seats.

And for those of you who are hikers and tote an insulated mat to sit on, the seating possibilities are TNTC (To Numerous to Count). Although there are copious amounts of rocks everywhere you step within a mile of your OBS home, many of those rocks form great seats. Even with cooking duties, short trips are possible to great seats on the Clay Loop, the Alpine Garden, and Boot Spur overlook. One of the best rock seats is right outside the submarine door.

And finally the most memorable seats of all are the tower and the bathroom. If you are blessed with a wind-free day, climb to the top of the tower and be careful to keep your head below the wind instruments spinning around. You will find a great seat for reading with a 360-degree mountain view, highest point on the summit, and total nirvana. Beware however, if there are tourists on the OBS deck, they will point at you and take pictures. And the most important seat is the bathroom. It is on stage that you need to step up on to. It is a throne!

And so for the best seats with a view, with good company, and a life-changing experiences, volunteer to spend a week at the OBS. Can’t beat the price of these seats: FREE.


Lynne Route,  Summit Volunteer

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