It is good to know, among the hooplah, that there are still priorities established that make sense of our lives.
As we mill around getting mortared about twice on the average day, the Army and KBR decided that we were going to be spending too much time in our vests and crazy hats (our helmets, which I dubbed the crazy hat because the way I see it, if I’m going to put that thing on for any length of time, something crazy better happen). This led to what I can only imagine was an animated discussion of what that would do for our morale, and the logistical problems that could ensue should we have to remain in all of our gear for any time period long enough that it would become a significant inconvenience (note: it is rare that a mortar will actually hurt anybody around here, vest or no, so the entire procedure is really very entertaining to watch so long as you don’t have to partake in it yourself).
The answer that they came up with to save our forces in central Iraq: bigger porta-potties.
They replaced the standard outhouse-sized porta-potty with gargantuan huts of plastic and blue-watered luxury. They have mirrors inside, as well as sanitary no-wash cleanser dispensers inside each humble abode. They even removed the urinal bins from several and put little stickers on the front that distinguish between male and female. The urinals are interesting, anyway, because they look like space-pod eggs or something. One of the lieutenants was giving me a detailed description of how much more fun the cocoon-shaped urinals were, something about “more room to play around with,” at which point I told him that this was too much information for my poor enlisted personnel ears and ducked into someone’s office. They need more to do in the operations center.
You would think that the constitution finally being written would take priority around here, but no, gossip is about the new porta-potties. That shows priority, because really, the constitution makes little or no difference at this juncture. Now it just gives another excuse for the people to pick up their AK-47 rifles and shoot at each other, and sometimes at us, and run around crying about how the world is unfair and woe is me because my people didn’t vote so now they don’t have a say in the direction the country is going. It affects me remarkably little, because it doesn’t matter if they have a constitution or not for them to answer all of my questions with “Walla, ma’arif…” at which point my partner has to restrain me from pulling out my pistol (though admittedly it is becoming more of a race to see which one of us does it first rather than either of us actually stopping anyone).
Quite frankly, I would be surprised if most of the people we get to talk to even know anything about the constitution. According to them, they all go to and from work and go straight to sleep anyway and would never DREAM of going outside after curfew and they don’t even talk to their neighbors because oh it is dangerous out there but I don’t know WHO is dangerous because you see I am sleeping but they come in black opel cars with tinted windows and they all had AK-47s, beards, sandals, and dishdashas. Walla, ma’arif. In a country like that, who needs a constitution? They weren’t going to agree on it anyway. But these people barely know their own names, much less what a five-syllable word like “ratification” means. When they finally get to the real vote in December, and they have another 1,548,956 candidates running, we will see what happens, but half the people around here can’t read the constitution anyway because half of them can’t read, so around here it is business and explosives as usual.
I am putting in a vote, I decided, because at that point we will have been in the country for about ten months, which I think is long enough for me to have a say in what happens.
Plus, I should get a vote because I don’t shoot at people for no reason, or into the air at a wedding, or into the air at a funeral, or into the air when my friend is released from U.S. custody, or into the air when a baby is born, or into the air when the moon is three days from full, or any other reason.
Plus, I know what ratification means.