I'm still getting used to my new position as a professional Seismic Services Provider, but so far it's far from earth-shaking: a few festive pink ribbons in the woods, the occasional mysterious silent Texan wandering the meadow, an extra fifty bucks in my wallet--it's a tough job, but someone has to do it. On the other hand, if the current budget crisis propels me forcefully into the academic job market, at least I'll have a new title to put on my vita: Seismic Services Provider. That'll make my vita stand out in the crowd!
How did I achieve such exalted status? Well, it's either a very long or a very short story, depending on whether you want to go clear back to the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth and then suddenly didn't, instead being buried, along with wads of vegetation, far beneath the earth's surface, where they slept peacefully for millennia until men started drilling deep shafts through solid rock down down down to the dinosaurs' final resting place, and then those sharp, spiky drill bits poked the sleeping dinosaurs and startled them so much that they farted out great masses of combustible gas. (Did I get the science right there? It's just astounding that I've never been asked to teach in our Petroleum Engineering department!)
The short version of the story goes like this: fracking happens. Not terribly nearby but close enough to make others want to get in on the boom. But first they have to figure out what the rocks look like far below this broad section of Ohio, and they've figured out an ingenious way to do it: they insert tiny seismic sensors along a criss-cross network of lines covering this entire sector of the state, and then they set off a small explosion about 30 feet underground ("You won't even feel it! Cross my heart and hope to die!"), and the waves from the explosion travel in all directions, and if they happen to bump into any sleeping dinosaurs deep beneath the earth, the angry dinosaurs jump right up and eat the sensors. Or something like that.
Of course they (yes, that mysterious "they") first have to get permission to insert tiny sensors on private property, so they sent a guy around to explain the whole process and get us to sign on the dotted line. ("It can't hurt! You won't even notice! Pinky promise!") And then they sent a check for the princely sum of FIVE DOLLARS per acre (don't spend it all in one place!). And then they sent around a trio of silent mysterious Texans in a pickup truck to decorate various spots in the woods with festive pink ribbons and flags. (Both my husband and I, on separate occasions, have gently informed the silent mysterious Texans that the dog will not hurt them but if they leave the door of their truck open, she will jump in and eat their lunch. In both cases, they just stood staring silently. The door stayed open. I don't know what happened to their lunch.)
Judging from what I've seen on my walks through the area, the next stage will be the insertion of the actual sensors, followed, at some point, by the underground explosion ("Just a teeny-weeny explosion. You won't even hear it!"), followed by the collection of data from the sensors, followed by a bloody invasion by sleepy, hungry, gassy dinosaurs.
But we got the check. We're total pros at this. Want to know what it said in the "memo" line on the check? "For seismic services." Yes: we are Seismic Service Providers. Way to rock my world!