Sunday, February 06, 2005

OF MICE AND WOMEN

It would have been downright humiliating. Getting killed by a lousy mouse my last week in country. Even the most charitable obituary writer would have been hard-pressed to put a positive spin on that demise – “Local soldier dies gallantly in uproar over a mouse”. Somehow that just isn’t how I want to be remembered.

But first I need to lay out the terrain for you. Any place where more than a few soldiers might gather – say, the mess hall, the PX, or the Haji shops at the bazaar by the PX, are guarded by an elite force of soldiers who have been relieved of their regular duties while pending court martial or discharge for mental reasons. Their function is to demand your identification, nod sagely as if they looked at it, and be ever ready to kill anybody who looks like they might cause trouble. That’s the key here. You don’t want to look like you’re causing trouble.

I’m minding my own business, trying to steer clear of Zebras and other forms of pestiferous wildlife, and successfully negotiate the guards at the bazaar. Today’s mission: find some danged phone cards so I can call home and tell the War Bride my return flight has changed again. They’ve been in very short supply ever about a week before the elections. Once again, the phone cards that were promised for today will be in for sure, no really, tomorrow. Well, nothing for it but to try again later, so I meander down the aisle back toward the exit when what to my wandering eyes should appear but an unusually handsome specimen of rodentia Iraqus making a graceful run across the aisle. Right between two young female soldiers. I’ve heard pigs being cut that made less noise than they did. Between the two of them, I probably lost what little high-frequency hearing I had left. Both of them start running toward the exit, just as the guards charge through the door chambering a round in their rifles, and looking for someone causing trouble.

You can see this, right? There I am, standing with that insurgent-in-the-headlights look, causing trouble, with two screaming females running away from me, and two Joe’s nervously pointing their rifles at me. And all I can think of to do is yell at the top of my lungs, “Don’t shoot! It’s just a mouse!” I guess that was so ridiculous that they had to stop to figure it out, which gave me enough time to get behind somebody solid. I may not be smart, but sometimes I am lucky! Thank heavens for my high school extemporaneous speaking class.

I’ve been less fortunate at trying to get my detachment out of here, though. There’s all of 10 of us in the Detachment, so you’d think that it wouldn’t be all that hard to thumb a ride on a jet back to the States, but the Army doesn’t do small well. LT Colombo (name changed to protect the guilty) has just arrived in country, and it was his job to arrange our flights out. Since we were his first attempt, things have been somewhat…unstable, I guess you could say. Now in all fairness, I’m sure it didn’t help that half of us were going to Fort Hood, and the other half were being routed through Fort Bliss. Our first heads-up notification was that we would be leaving Kuwait on the 11th of February. Like a young girl on her first date, I believed his lie and spread the word to the assembled multitude. Called the War Bride, who made flight reservations to meet me at Fort Bliss accordingly. The next day LT Colombo called and said that he must have misspoke himself, what he really meant to say was that we would be going out on the 13th. Make another call to the War Bride, who adjusts fire and schedules a later flight.

Get a phone call from LT Colombo, just brimming over with good cheer and enthusiasm: Good news! I ‘ve moved heaven and earth to get you out earlier, so now you’re leaving on the 9th of February! Pack your bags, guys, you have to catch a flight to Kuwait on the 7th! Another call to the War Bride, who by now is on a first-name basis with the reservation agents at Southwest Airlines.

Time passes (but not much). I call Lt Colombo on the 6th to find out what time our flight to Kuwait will be tomorrow. Long pause. Uh, well, it seems there’s been a change. Now it’s absolutely positively for certain, probably, that we will leave Kuwait on the 12th, but we’re still flying up to Kuwait on the 7th. Oh, I inquire sweetly, and what time do we leave tomorrow? Well, he’s working on that, don’t you see. Still don’t have anything firm on that, but he’s sure that somehow something good will happen. I figure this time I can save the cost of a phone call to the War Bride, and preserve what little respect she has left for my ability to arrange something as simple as an airplane flight.

Stay tuned for more exciting adventures of The Journey Home.

One good thing did come out of all the visits with LT Colombo, though. The last time I was up at Battalion I stumbled across an Australian unit having a barbecue. I make it a point to never turn down an invitation to an Australian barbecue; my experience with that genre of cooks has been that they’re always bloody good company, mate, and today was no exception. They let me climb all over their armored scout vehicle and we swapped weapons and both came to the conclusion that their army got the better end of the bargain when it came to rifles. Heck, they got the better end of the bargain on just about everything; their standard tour over here is only 4 months! I diplomatically left the party early so I wouldn’t have to witness any violations of General Order #1: thou shalt consume no alcohol while in Iraq. Easy enough for a teetotaler like my ownself to comply with, but it strains imagination to the breaking point to believe a whole company of Australians get through a barbecue without someone discovering an abandoned case or two of Foster’s Finest.

Good on ya, mates!

1 Comments:

Blogger blitz said...

You are deployed in Iraq now? I think you are veyr brave :) God bless.

Sunday, February 06, 2005  

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