Wednesday, November 7, 2007

the culture of suck

"The best morale exists when you never hear the word mentioned. When you hear a lot of talk about it, it's usually lousy." -
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower


"Please taste this and let me know what you think. I'd like to serve it to the men."

"What is it?" asked Yossarian, and took a bite.

"Chocolate-covered cotton."

"This stuff is better than cotton candy, really it is. It's made out of real cotton. Yossarian, you've got to help me make the men eat it. Egyptian cotton is the finest cotton in the world."

"But it's indigestible," Yossarian emphasized. "It will make them sick, don't you understand? Why don't you try living on it yourself if you don't believe me."

"I did try," admitted Milo gloomily. "And it made me sick."

--Catch-22

I am deployed to the Horn of Africa. There is a lot to complain about.

Over fourteen years, I have been deployed all over the Middle East. There has always been a lot to complain about.

But where does it end? When are we -- the boys and girls of your American military -- happy?

Never.

Let me give you a recent example:
I have been tentatively promised AAA batteries by an in-camp hook-up, which I need for my GPS watch and are NOT FUCKING AVAILABLE HERE... why, you ask? A good question. The story:

Me. In the "Exchange." Hey, look, I can buy a FUCKING 32" FLATSCREEN TV. That's neat. For a war zone and all. Man, I need batteries. Hey, where are the batteries? No, really, where the FUCK are the batteries? ANY FUCKING batteries? AA, C, D, AAA, 9-volt? Anything, you FUCKING RETARDS? What? You don't have a SINGLE FUCKING BATTERY? How is that possible, you ignorant smiling motherfucker? You must not be understanding me. I'm going to speak to the only American in here. He must be the manager. Oh, look, he is! And he called me, "Chief." This should work out, after all. Hey, Mr. Manager, how come I can't find any batteries? Umm, sorry Chief, it's because we don't have any. How in the fuck is that possible, Mr. Manager? Well, we get cases every month, but the minute they come in, the women on the Camp come in and buy them all up. WHAT? Why the fuck would they.....ooooooohhhhhhhhh. GOD DAMN IT. VIBRATORS SUCK.
  • We have peanut-butter, but no jelly.
  • We have air conditioning, but it fails.
  • We have wildlife, but it is the kind that kills you.
  • We have yogurt, but no spoons.
  • We have juice, but it's not filled in the magic little dispensing thingies until 10 minutes before the chow hall closes.
  • We have "Containerized Living Units" but less than half of them have toilets.
  • We have water heaters for our showers and 60" widescreen flatpanel televisions in the chow hall but neither are not connected to power.
  • We have an oven on the plane to make nifty little heated meals, but we have no aluminum foil.
  • We have shampoo, but no conditioner.
  • Alternatively, we have conditioner, but no shampoo.
  • We have body wash, but no pouffs.
  • We have razors, but the blades only fit the razors we don't have.
  • We have a chow hall, but (sometimes) it has no roof.
  • We have mosquito netting, but no cord with which to hang it.
  • We have Maxim, but no Economist.
  • We (evidently) have vibrators, and some of us have batteries.
And yet we laugh. As recent as only a few years ago, the prospect of posting a blog while in a combat zone was ridiculous; our only connection to the Real World was official message traffic. We prayed for "FamGrams" -- a sort of pseudo-telegram limited to 40 words. Food came out of a brown plastic bag... and among the variety, there were the "Three Fingers of Death."

We're never satisfied, because something is always dicked-up. Complaining establishes a lowest-common denominator. It actually works, I think, to establish a sense of camaraderie. An esprit-de-corps (we have it worse than everyone else, right?)

And kind of like in Joseph Heller's Catch-22, it is sometimes necessary to complain because it reminds us we're alive.*

Last night, I may not have had batteries for my watch (and there may have been an annoying multi-volt chorus coming from the female-only tents), but I got to call someone wonderful who is very, very important to me. My night and day and week and even deployment has been made.

Wouldn't have happened, yesteryear.

Perhaps tomorrow, though, we'll have aluminum foil. Cotton balls -- even when covered with chocolate -- taste like shit.

*Alive (recently overheard):
"Flight station, I need a right turn to 250."
*crickets*
"Flight station, turn right to 250."
*crickets*
"Flight station from Nav, I need a right turn to 250."
"I'd love to, Nav, but right now I'm busy making sure we don't stall."
Me: "What?!? Is there suddenly a 300-knot headwind? Why are we just now hearing about this?"
*crickets*

9 comments:

H said...

this made me sad a little. but also i laughed. you find humor amidst tragedy -- that is an admirable quality for sure.

~Justin said...

Update: Having just returned from the 'dining facility', I gleefully report that the entire camp, evidently, is out of napkins & paper towels. Wipe your hands on your pants, boys...

Oh, and PAE (a division of Lockheed Martin) sucks. When everything was run by KBR (a division of Haliburton, say what you will about them being an Evil Empire and all that) we didn't have these problems. Oh, and the food wasn't gross, like it is now. Bah.

Mrs. IT1 said...

If you ever want me to send something from the US, just let me know. I'd like to help. I mean it.

I think my husband being deployed has made me soft. ;-)

Anonymous said...

dude, post your address and i'll send you a care package with some batteries

Bag Blog said...

Have you ever posted a comment and thought, gee, did I spell that right? But my comment is not up, yet.

By the way, KBR is not a subsidary of Halliburton and has not been for a couple of years. Both my husband and daughter work for H.

startingtoday said...

Email me with your address! Maybe we can send a little care package for you and your friends!

Bag Blog said...

I did post another comment this morning. Hmm, it must be where ever I left my reading glasses. Talk about suck...

carrie m said...

email me your address! i keep a stash of AAA and AA batteries, surprisingly NOT for vibrator emergencies. I was just telling my roommate the other day that you never know. My forethought is staggering. ;-)

Gloria said...

i pity the girl that has a vibrator that uses watch batteries...