On 5 Jun 2008, I wrote this blog. About every six months, I go back and read it again. For some reason, I consider my only true five-star blog of the past five years. Yeah, I may have written a number of good ones....and made folks think, laugh, or just appreciate being alive. This was a sad blog when I started, and it is still a sad blog today...two years later.
An associate of mine.....ten years in the Air Force.....has returned back from Baghdad after 120 days there. He was in a safe job where he simply did comm work and made sure video-teleconferencing equipment worked, on-time. Six days on.....twelve hours a day and sixteen hours on some days. One day off a week.
Naturally.....I asked him what he did on the day off. He stood there....in our little vault....with fluorescent lighting above his head....and just a bit of shadow to some degree.....pausing for five seconds.
It was a long pause. It was a pause that you knew he had to tell you something important but he didn't want sympathy from you.
After he ate breakfast on the off-day.....he walked over to the med-groups helipad area and served as extra manpower....between the pad and the emergency area where the ambulance might pull up or the helicopter would land. They had only a couple of folks to help unload wounded guys.....and they appreciated every bit of help they get. So he spent his off-day....taking the wounded guys off the chopper.
This isn't a job that most of us would like or enjoy. In fact....most of us would shy away from this and gladly dig a toilet pit or fill sandbags instead. There is a sad necessity for extra help.....to gracefully pick up a wounded guy and help tote him over to the surgery point. Someone has to lift the stretcher off the chopper and bear in mind the pain or suffering of the guy on that stretcher. You have to look the guy in the eye and reassure him of your best effort. You learn to lie. You learn to sooth a person in great pain. You learn to look not at a bad wound and make yourself sick. You learn to avoid bouncing a guy in great pain as you carry his stretcher.
You get paid nothing extra for this volunteer situation. You ought to be in your cot sleeping or reading a book or watching another hour of "Lost". You ought to write home or convey an email to the family about how well you are getting fed. You ought to be getting a haircut. You ought to be doing alot of things.....but for some reason.....you're at the pad.....waiting.
I listened to the few comments he shared. You could tell a shadow of pain was in his mind. He isn't totally unaffected over his "other" work....the stuff he wasn't sent there to do. He did this one-day a week....just to pass time and to make something out of nothing. He did the right thing. I can't tell him that. I can't calm his soul. I can't pat him on the back. I can't write his momma or wife or daughter to tell them what a true individual he really is. There is little I can do but sit and listen to the story.
For every hundred good stories a guy can tell from his time in Iraq....there is always the story that he really can't tell. It isn't about pride or justice or accomplishment. Its about a deep emotion....driving you to do stuff that most folks standing around America tonight....would prefer not to do. Its about military people who work seven days a week.....for the whole time they are deployed....and just accept it as "normal". Its a life that you can't dream up at 18 or wish upon anyone. Its about looking a guy in the eye and telling him "you'll be alright", when you know he probably won't be. Its about a guy whose girlfriend just dumped him and wrote the "Dear John" letter before he was supposed to go on duty tonight. Its about the mortar round that landed 284 steps from your tent.....you know because you walked it thirty times to consider just how close you came to death that evening. Its about taking chances....whether you are alive or dead tomorrow...and getting to a point where you don't think about such things.
Life isn't fair. But you really wouldn't want it that way. Deep down....you'd like to go to the far extreme....and test yourself.....to know just how far you can go. My associate.....appears to have gone a pretty far distance.....and he wouldn't want it any other way.
It was a long day....and I probably put more writing effort into this blog than the past one thousand....because it had to be written right. The thing is.....I could write a piece like this each day....and likely put my mind into a deep shadow....writing myself into a Nobel prize for literature while soft salty tears dripped. We pay such a price for telling a story.
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Years ago, I took a two-week vacation to Turkey. It was one of those beach vacations along the coast.
At some point, I decided to get a hair cut.
So I went to the local Turkish barber and he did a pretty fair job of cutting my hair. We come near the end and I notice him picking up a q-tip....dabbing it with alcohol.
Then with a flick of his wrist and before I could say a word....he'd lite the q-tip and did a quick blow-out of the tip just as he inserted it into my ear. Naturally....it burned off all of my ear hair. My hands were griping the side of the chair pretty intensely at that point. And he proceeded to the second ear....repeating the process.
There was this 1.5 second pause in my heart....from this process. Even the second application kinda shocked me.
After I paid the guy (it was barely $2 anyway).....I walked out and beginning rubbing my ears. No burns....no hair....and it actually felt pretty good.
I stood there pondering over this....how they came to learn this trick in the first place and if the first guy got burned pretty good? I've never had another Turkish haircut since that trip. For some reason....I don't think this practice would ever take off in the US....just my opinion.
Memphis...at least in my opinion....is one of those towns that you'd best just pass through. The only necessity for stopping is for gas, burgers, or to see Graceland. Otherwise, you don't want to spend any time in the city. There's crime. There's robbery. There's shootings and murder. It's just not a city you want to live in.
Yesterday...the city of Memphis came around to fix a problem that they saw. If they have a city job....there's a box on the application form that you would fill in or "X"....to mention if you had any criminal history. The city council decided that the "X" box was not necessary and it's been banned.
You can imagine the implications here. Without the box...you can try hard to avoid any mention of crime, arrests, or jail-time....and you just might get through the job interview and get a city job.
Desperate to get new and fresh blood into city jobs? Well....I doubt it. Desperate to get the "right people" into city jobs? Well....maybe.
The city claims that they still have a review process and background checks. But if someone in the background checks department is prepared to accept money (maybe for some political party)...then they can just forget to look at the review process and stamp the dude approved.
Yep...you slip $200 over to the backgrounds guy....and this city job is yours. That's my take on this. You might have to ask Mama for the $200 or borrow from your girlfriend....but this could be fixed real easy.
Did this improve the chance of you staying or stopping in Memphis? I doubt it. You'd best fill up about thirty miles east of town and keep on cruising. Don't stop.