Neanderthal Orientation Day

I’m sure you aren’t happy to see me, but I’m very happy to see you. My dad told me not to get a master’s degree in Cryogenic Anthropology but look who’s laughing now! I did my thesis on prehistoric eating utensils… the ridicule I suffered! As soon as I was recruited by The Smith, I called him to rub it in. Not much, only a little. Stills pays my car insurance, you see, not out to burn any bridges.

I know you probably wanted to remain frozen in that iceberg. Truth is, we wanted to leave you in there too. Our country’s social programs are stretched thin right now. We’ve actually considered dumping our poor people into icebergs, just for a while, and thawing ‘em out during prosperous times. Unfortunately, we’re a bit short on icebergs these days, global warming and whatnot. Bad enough for the polar bears, now frozen Neanderthals are getting displaced too.

There are way more of you frozen in the artic than we thought. Dozens have washed up near U.S. outposts, all over the northern continent, stuck in ice like mosquitos in that orange amber stuff. Canada defrosted some for their hockey teams. I hear your kind doesn’t skate well but holds a hell of a defensive line and never gets cold. Anyways, America won’t welcome you like that. We’re less polite over here and want to keep it all secret. We’re a divided nation, you understand, these are turbulent times. Last thing people need is a reminder of melting polar ice caps. That’s why the Smithsonian Institution here in D.C. has hired me to assimilate you quietly. I hate to root for climate change, but if this didn’t happen, I’d still be unemployed.

I’ll be brief. There’s a pandemic going on. You probably aren’t familiar with that term, so think of it as “big disease.” You probably had disease in your day, plagues and such. Remember when everyone in a village got sick so you packed up and went somewhere else? It’s kind of like that, except it’s everywhere. No escape, I’m afraid. And I assume you aren’t vaccinated. Might want to keep that on the down low, lots of social tension. Nobody will befriend you—well, nobody reasonable.

War’s different now too. I’m sure you used spears and rocks in your day. It was probably pretty hard to kill someone. Now, not so much. We’ve basically got it down to a flick of the finger. There’s a guy in Russia who’s been doing it with his eyebrows and nipples lately. As of this moment, he’s our least mentally stable individual. I’m afraid he also has the most weapons of mass destruction. You surely had war, destruction, but now we’ve got world wars and mass destruction. Same as “big disease” really—world wars are pretty much everywhere. We’ve had two so far, trying to avoid number three, but this Russian guy is making it difficult, flaunting nukes and nips like he owns the place.

Regrettably, you defrosted during a tense time period. But don’t fret. You’re not the first recently defrosted Neanderthal I’ve helped. I’ve had five clients before you. Now they’re all in prison I’m afraid, but that’s not my fault. We heard this awful ruckus outside our support group meeting last year, early January. My clients were restless, didn’t care much for the jobs I got them at Amazon, collecting urine-filled Gatorade bottles from warehouse employees to empty out. Not a glamorous job, but a job! Ungrateful lot if you ask me. Anyways, when they heard a bunch of buffoons running through the streets on their way to assault the capitol, they became agitated. They saw this one hairy man with a Viking helmet and many fur pelts. Felt a certain kinship, I imagine. They went berserk, couldn’t take it anymore. Joined the riot! Whacking things with big sticks, howling and rubbing feces on the walls of the U.S. Capitol… I tried to locate them and bring them back to the Smith, but they blended in, I couldn’t tell who was a recently defrosted Neanderthal and who was an insurrectionist! The feds got ’em a few weeks later. Anyhow, I have high hopes for you. We have your house set up nearby. Once you learn the ropes, you’ll be fine.

Oops! I have to rescind that last statement. I’ve just received some dreadful news here on my email. It seems you’ve been evicted from your home. Didn’t even get a chance to move in. Pity. Our grant money appears to have dwindled and a distant bank bought your house to constrict the market and exploit the lower middle class… Well, that’s real estate for you. Bad news for us both, really.

Tell you what, I’ll get you a train ticket to Los Angeles. Cities on the east coast have been shipping homeless folk to L.A. for decades now, I’m sure it’s nice there. Take this ticket and walk in that direction. The train station is just a few blocks away. Don’t forget your animal furs! You may need them. Yes, I know it’s hot out, 97 degrees as a matter of fact, but it’s supposed to drop to 8 degrees tonight. Oh, right, that sort of weather flocculation probably sounds ridiculous to you. I’m afraid its par for the course these days. Blizzards, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, pretty much anything is liable to happen at any moment. Have you seen L.L. Bean’s doomsday catalog? North Face is doing one too. Swimsuit/jacket hybrids, insulated flip flops, earmuffs that reverse into a bikini top, lots of clever ideas.

Well, it was a pleasure meeting you. I’m going to spend the rest of my day groveling for more grant money. I have rent to pay, and I much prefer begging museum executives than my father, especially since I called him a doddering fool last time we spoke. Be careful of big disease! It’s invisible, by the way. Avoid wildfires whenever possible. Good luck with everything! Adieu!

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