Friday, December 28, 2007

No So Bright After All

Because Buzzard asked for it, here's what may have been the funniest post I sent from Bagram, almost five years ago:

Sent: Monday, January 06, 2003 8:06 AM
Subject: Day 71, Not so bright after all

It's official. I'm starting my TDY mustache today. A little late, true, but this is more by necessity than choice.

"You guys need anything else?"

"No, sir. You're good to go." A slight pause and a chuckle. "Do you need a flashlight?"

As I walked to the shower in the darkness tonight to take out my contacts, I was amazed by how much light that tiny little sliver of a moon was putting out. I could see my shadow. I could see the shadow of the sign in the middle of the path, the one with the big square plywood base and five-foot, four-by-four post with the "No Traffic!" sign nailed to the top of it. Go outside tonight and see for yourself, but give your eyes time to adjust. Mine had had plenty of time to adjust walking back from dinner. My night vision was great, on the way to the shower hut.

"I don't think you'll need any stitches, sir. The thing about cuts in that area is that they bleed like all get out."

"Tell me about it."

"We'll just clean it up and give you some bacitracin for it. Be careful shaving though, that's right on the edge there. Let me just wipe this blood off your face."

As soon as he starts wiping with the alcohol swab, I half chuckle, "That's not blood, that's a cut."

"How about this here on the tip of your nose."

"Ow. Yeah. Cut!" Chuckles all about.

Coming out of the brightly lit shower hut, my night vision was nonexistent. I couldn't see diddly. I stopped for just a second to get my bearings. Scanned my microlight quickly over the road immediately in front of me, then started forward. I remembered the sign, off to the right of my path. Couldn't be right in front of me because I could see the chem-lights tied to the gate ahead. You get used to navigating in the dark around here. You know where everything is, and if you can see light in the distance, you silhouette things as well. I was sure I was clear of the sign, because I could see those chem-lights, a hundred yards away. . . Five-foot sign; five-foot, six-inch eyeballs. One hundred eighty pounds or so of six-foot, one-inch pure stupidity planted firmly dead center on the front edge of the wide base, which, as luck would have it, was sitting a little off kilter on a rock, tilted the other way of course, so that the five-foot, four-by-four post now becomes a lever, like stepping on a garden rake, bearing the sign that says "No traffic!" at a rather high rate of speed, straight toward five-foot nose and upper lip just slightly below five-foot, six-inch eyeballs.

That'll stop you in your tracks, let me tell you. I stood there for a few seconds, not quite sure whether I was going to keep standing or pass out. Glasses akilter. Wondering how many teeth I'd just lost. Even I had to chuckle when I thought about what that must have looked like, had anyone been watching through night-vision goggles. Then I began to feel the warm trickle down over my lips. I regained my balance, leaned forward so that the dripping blood would miss my DCUs and found my way back to the shower hut. Inside I dripped a path over to the sink where I could see my lip already swelling. The gash below my nose looked wide and deep. "Beauty," I thought. I leaned dripping over the sink, wet a towel and staunched the flow, and decided to head to the hospital to see how many stitches I'd need. When I walked in, still holding pressure on the gash below my nose, I said, "Is this where you come to apply for the dumbass award? I think I'm pretty much a shoe-in."

No stitches, it turns out. I'd laugh at myself, but it hurts to smile.

And that is why I look so damned serious in any photos taken of me that second week of January, 2003.