Monday, June 11, 2007
Everyday: From June 11, 2007
I was recently asked what a normal day for me is like.
Groundhog Day, that's what. Seriously.
Objectively, I do cool things, almost everyday. It is, frankly, easy for me and everyone else in my position to "romanticize" our responsibilities, our tasks. Yet we take it for granted. We cannot remain objective. If we did, we'd lose our minds.
In the span of just a few seconds, I might go from just-short-of-comatose to just-short-of-shitting-my-pants. But the expectation going in is, of course, that the shitting-of-pants won't happen. We bank on it (again, lest we lose our minds worrying.)
Nonetheless. I'll just recount today, as it's really no different from any other day. (Groundhog Day, as I said.)
Given that we had double-pumped yesterday (meaning that we had performed two back-to-back nine-hour missions), I was very tired. Exhausted. On our way back to camp, I was feeling oddly energized, and thought I might go for a run once I'd returned, but this feeling of elation quickly subsided. I chose not to visit the chow hall, as I didn't expect the fare to be any better than the cold-cut sandwich I'd eaten while away.
Instead, I went straight to my tent and undressed to my underwear. Though our tent is air conditioned, it is stiflingly hot in the afternoons, as the African sun beats down on the green canvas and overwhelms the sad, under-performing, cheap plastic-y Asian imported cooler. I'd be naked if not for the omnipresent threat of being "racked out" (woken) at any time for an alert mission. Furthermore, the mosquito netting I have pinned to the high corners of my bed, coupled with the ghetto-fabulous sheet that I have strung across my hooch on 550-cord is an effective but unwelcome barrier to what little cool air does manage to make its way into the tent.
Right. So I was lying near-naked, sticking to my sheet, with my feet itching from their contact with the standard-issue-since-1812 GI wool blanket mashed up into a mound at the foot of my bed. I would otherwise discard it, or at least remove it from my bed entirely, if not for the fact that at some later point in my sleep, I will need it. I will need it because after the sun has fallen, the air conditioning will suddenly and vigorously catch-up, and I will wake from my slumber freezing my ass off. I am not entirely sure whether this is a specific result of the conditioned air's suddenly arctic temperature, or my general acclimatization to the surface-of-the-sun African heat (and my body's subsequent rejection of any temperature less than 85.)
I was bored with the book I found in the "library tent", so I powered-up my laptop (creating more heat, natch) and watched a DVD I'd found in an unoccupied rack, it certainly being left by the hooch's previous inhabitant because it was shit. The movie, that is. I nonetheless watched it to the end.
Afterwards, I fell asleep, still sweating. As I predicted, I awoke some time later (the sun now being absent -- and I know this because the tent wall against which my head rests is no longer afire) and pulled the itchy-scratchy wool blanket up over my body, swiftly creating a cocoon into which I immediately fell asleep again.
I awoke to one of my coworkers meekly calling out to me. "Chief? Are you there?" Of course, I was. I replied in the affirmative, and he said that it was time to get up. Groggily, I asked when the mission brief would be held. He replied, "Umm... now."
"Holy shit! What time is it?" It's midnight.
Damn. I'd slept thirteen hours, straight. I didn't bother setting my alarm, as I just knew that I'd wake before the brief. 'Guess I was tired. (I digress: those extra hours are but drops in The Bucket of Need.)
I quickly rose and slipped my Tevas (favorite of lesbians and citizens of the NW!) and grabbed my toiletries bag and towel and shuffled out of the tent over to the shower trailer. I plodded over the gravel in the pitch darkness and realized that there was no way in hell I was going to make the brief, so I might as well take my time and just show up for the Go Time.
I shaved with cream I'd received as a parting gift from the Officer in Charge of the last crew (as the goddamned "Exchange" here is out of everything important) in water that -- no shit -- contains more chlorine than a DC public pool. I have long since ignored the warning placards pasted haphazardly throughout the facility: "This water is NOT potable. Do NOT drink it. Do not use it to brush your teeth. Use bottled water ONLY."
Having sufficiently scraped my face and throat, I moved over to the shower where hot water is Nuclear Reactor Discharge Hot and cold water is Standing in the African Sun All Day hot. Cold water only, then. I shampooed with a tiny travel-sized bottle of Aussie that I'd fortuitously found only two days after I'd run out of my own stock, as (you guessed it) the Exchange is also out of shampoo. (Yet I can buy four copies of Dance, Dance Revolution. WTF? I hate the Exchange.)
Finished, I returned to my hooch where I donned my uniform and prepared my mission bag. Next, I rushed over to the dining facility, where the "sandwich side" is open 24-hours and made myself two meals: 1) PB&J and 2) Turkey and Cheese. Grabbing Gatorade, Red Bull and water on my way out, I then made my way back to the tent where I could stuff it all into my sack. (There is a strictly-enforced Don't Leave Bags Anywhere or Carry Them Into "Public" Facilities rule here, what with the threat of me and other crewmates mistakenly packing IEDs rather than PB&J sandwiches.)
Leaving my food-booty in my hooch, I then trudged the long trail to the top of the camp where there is my favorite Vestige of Home, a pseudo-coffee shop, "Green Beans ("Deployed Everywhere You Are.") An quick exchange of pleasantries with the staff girl who knows me by face, and I left, freshly armed with my requisite big-ass cup of tea.
I then retraced my steps back to the hooch, where I grabbed all my crap (and despite the hour, now sweating profusely from all the walking willy-nilly here, there and back) and headed to the Operations Tent where I grabbed gear necessary for my mission.
Ten hours later, I returned from the mission, again feeling fresh despite the long workday. I was relatively sure that I'd play some basketball (and since it's only 11AM, there'll be plenty of sun) and perhaps hit the gym. Little did I know, but having my "morning constitutional" drained me. Seriously. I was fine until I took a crap. Finished, I had to try really hard to resist returning to my hooch and sleeping.
Grudgingly, I changed from my uniform into clothes suitable for an ungodly sweat-drenching, and found my way over the basketball court. Damn if a bunch of Army kids weren't using the court as a drilling field. I spread out over a row in the bleachers, and used my Camelbak as a pillow. I'm certain I would have fallen asleep were it not for the "Orrrrrrder Ahms!" and "Mahk Time..... Maaaach!"
They left thirty minutes later, and I played one-on-none for an hour, hoping that someone would come by for a pickup game. No joy. Irritated, I went into the gym and did a basic body-weight exercise routine. Afterwards, I left, intent on going for a run on the Death Trail (7 miles long), despite the sun's ascendancy and its consequent effect on skin (and life).
I barely squeaked that run out -- it was murderous -- and made my way back to (you guessed it) my hooch. I showered and changed back into my uniform (required unless exercising or sleeping or perhaps dying) and went to lunch at the chow hall, where I was (as expected) grossly disappointed at the fare. I cobbled together a grilled turkey and cheese, took a spoonful of succotash and drowned it all down with a Pepsi.
I then went straight to the barber shop where an Indian man of dubious sexuality massacred my hair (alas, I have no one to impress, anyway) and thoughtfully gave my temples a finger-massage. Now, I'm not sure if women experience this, but men will understand instantly: they don't wash hair at the camp's barber shop. Nor do they FlowBee your melon. This, of course, results in a thousand little snips of hair down your shirt, where (especially when coupled with oppressive heat) they become a thousand little angry fire ants. This sucks.
I then marched (now angrily) to the laundry shop, where an African woman of not-dubious-sexuality, swaddled in yards and yards of the most colorful tie-dyed rayon, returned my giant sack of laundry I'd turned in two days before. Now clean and fresh-y, of course. (I take great excitement in Fresh Uniform Day.)
From there, a drop-off of the sack (remember! Don't leave it anywhere!) in my hooch, and then a trip to the "Morale, Welfare and Recreation Tent" where I have internet access for my laptop and the Consequent Blogginess.
And here I am. I'm "half-staff" with my uniform -- meaning, I've taken the top part down and wrapped it around my waist, leaving me dressed topside in only my brown-dirt-brown-poo-brown undershirt.
I think its funny that I've just looked down and seen salt rings tracing the outline of my pecs. Does this mean I'm huge? Must be all that working out.
Posted by ~Justin at 11:33 AM