Monday, February 16, 2009

Becoming Traditional Cheese

Traditions. The Army is full of them, from raising the flag in the morning to lowering it at night, from saluting senior officers to drinking grog at banquets. Every occasion brings with it a tradition handed down from one generation of warriors to the next. Each holds a special place in the grand scheme of Army life. Still, one stands out above the rest in its universality among soldiers. We call it "Hurry-Up-And-Wait"

There is nothing like it. Regardless of the context there is always...ALWAYS...a sense among everyone present at a given event that whatever it is you are doing must be done with all haste so as to avoid the inevitable domino effect for everything that follows. The rush to complete a given step of a given task drives Officers to sweat, NCO's to scream, and Joe's to scramble aimlessly in an effort to appear to be doing what they think they are supposed to be doing even when they don't necessarily know what that is. And the longer things take, the greater the sense of urgency to complete that thing until the universe reaches a fevered pitch, a crescendo, a tidal wave of activity that comes crashing down around everyone in the vicinity resulting in abject silence and inactivity for as long as it takes to reach the next moment in history that requires frenzied movement forward. Minutes turn to hours...hours turn to days...days become your next birthday! Card games and conversations magically appear where only the void of unused time once hung in the air like so much salt in the cured ham of life. Suddenly, all parties find themselves doing ANYTHING to make the time pass, which it eventually does. The sprint begins anew. Such is my predicament today.

Several days ago I hopped on an airplane in frozen Alaska with the express goal of joining my brothers in arms in the struggle against evil in the blazing sands of the Middle East. It was a race to get packed and loaded and manifested and hurry hurry hurry so that we could finally arrive at our first stop where we would wait for transportation to our second stop where we hope to someday reach our brothers in arms struggling against evil in the blazing sands of the Middle East. However, that was several days ago. Soon after reaching our first stop time took a detour. We thought we had a date with destiny and that she was going to order the lobster. It turns out we appear to have been stood up. Here we sit, all hurrying done and departed. Now we wait and like a good cheese...we age. Indefinitely. I'm nearly a sharp cheddar bordering on the perfect Roquefort.

We have now entered the "I'll-do-ANYTHING-to-pass-the-time" stage. Today, for instance, despite having hair no longer than the width of an average human hair I decided that, in order to kill some time, I'd get a haircut. One of the defining characteristics of this part of the world is the ability of the local populace to speak just enough English to make you think they understand you when in fact they do not. So when I said, "Short here, long here" all the while pointing to "here" and "here" I assumed the "Barber" understood what I was saying and pointing to. As it turns out, she seems to have understood my strange groanings and gesticulations to mean, "I can't see enough of my scalp and I'd truly appreciate your assistance with this terrible affliction!" So she vigorously assisted me. First, the #4 adapter on the clippers from Hell followed by the #3, the #2 and just to keep things fun, right on into the #0. As I watched my hair being removed one seminfinimicrocentemeter at a time I quietly whimpered, which my "Barber" understood to mean, "A little more off the top and sides and back and edges please." Then at last she was done. This was a rouse. For even as she was putting down the clippers from Hell with one hand she was picking up Mr. Norelco with the other and before I could hold up the universal, "This hand in your face means cease and desist at this moment" sign, she and he were enjoying a guided tour of my melon. At long last, they were done with me and I escaped the logical next step...wax!

It worked. The haircut that became a shave of sorts succeeded in absorbing 45 minutes of my endless day. So here I wait, enjoying one of the Army's finest traditions...and turning into a delicious Limburger.


Anonymous said...

Oh the memories of my Army days of waiting. On the bright side, with your new hair cut you now look alot like your father-in-law or even a pro basketball player.

Popa Dave

Jackie said...

I just made my husband swear that he will never get his hair cut unless it is by an American whenever he is overseas!! Oh my lord! I would have been terrified sitting through all of that!

Jon & Ashley McP said...

Well, at least you won't have to have another haircut while we are deployed.

Anonymous said...

Oh Brad, you can make something funny out of anything.