My Night with the Nuclear Communicators

How to say yes to some adventure, but not all

“Could I arrange a ride?” I asked the hotel front desk.

“Sure, where to?”

“Arthur Bryant’s”

As she looked up the popular BBQ joint, the man next to me at the desk cocked his head my direction.

“Where did you say you were going?” he asked.

When I confirmed my destination, he smiled. “And it’s just you?”

“Just me.”

“This might be your lucky day. You can come on our limo bus parked outside.”

Wow! Sure!

“Just so you know, we’re a group of nuclear communicators, so long as you’re ok with that.”

“I sure am. Thank you so much for letting me join you!”

We went outside and waited for the bus to fill. I wasn’t just a freeloader, I was a “special guest,” welcomed by the entire group. At Arthur Bryant’s, I even got to eat with them at their long table. (They even offered to pay for me, but I demurred.)

I even got to eat with them at their long table!

I even got to sit at the head of the table!

I learned what it means to be a “nuclear communicator.” They handle all the communications for a nuclear plant, both internal (like Company to worker) and external (to the public!). I learned about the challenges of nuclear communication, from their every-other-year refueling outages that require near constant communication, to managing misconceptions about nuclear energy (when I mentioned that the new reactor designs were “safer and more efficient” than 1970s models, he almost reflexively reminded me that nuclear energy is safe).

I frequently name-dropped my friend Madicken, a nuclear engineer studying at Berkeley. One of the communicators even represented the company she interned with in Mississippi. I talked about wind turbines and hydro, and learned that there are 5 nuclear reactors planned/under construction along the east coast.

I also ate some fantastic BBQ burnt ends.

I forgot to take a picture until I was almost done!

Soon it was time to go. They’d initially told me I’d have to find my own ride back, which — no problem! But then the host said “Hey, I think we can bring you back.” So sure! Thank you!

Then, right as we were getting on the bus, he threw in a “or do you want to come with us to Green Lady Lounge?”

This, I am told, is a limo-bus

I didn’t know what that was, and didn’t know if I was being like…actually asked, or if it was just a courtesy or something?

I said I could go back.

That was a mistake, though I didn’t really realize it till we were already headed back to the hotel.

Someone else on the bus explained that they were going to “listen to music for an hour or so.” Well sheesh, I could do that.

But it was too late, I felt. They were already going slightly out of their way to drop me off. Can’t say “Turn this bus around!” And I was still a hanger-on, someone potentially getting in the way of this group of people who see each other but a few times a year. They knew each other well, I’m an interloper…maybe I should just go? Maybe that’s right?

But it breaks the law of anecdotal value — that when presented with two options, you should pick the one that will result in the best story.

As I left the bus and waved goodbye to my new friends (see picture) I felt a deep sense of regret. Back in my room, I punched the air in frustration. Then I wrote this, and I feel a little better. I still made the wrong choice, but that’s pretty common.

My new friends are very passionate about energy

It’s been said before that Vanasses don’t know when to leave the party.

Most of the time we leave too late, but sometimes we leave too early. Tonight was too early.

(And unfortunately, neither I nor the nuclear people had cards on us, so I don’t know if I’ll find them to thank them.)