When people ask why I think I am surrounded by idiots, I usually have a tale to tell.
Yesterday was Monday. This was not a surprise. Everyone knew it was Monday, to include the Soldiers. That meant that, just like in most units that follow Big Army rules, it was time for the weekly vehicle preventative maintenance checks. This is commonly referred to as Motor Pool Monday, and I think it is the flow of the words that makes every unit I have ever known to recognize Monday as the day to check the vehicles and do other random tasks like count holes in the camo netting and repeatedly set up and take down G.P. Mediums (rather large tent structures) in the middle of a parking lot for no apparent reason. Go ahead: ask around to any other Army buddies you might have what a Monday in the Army means. I’ll wait… You back? G.P. Mediums, right? It’s always G.P. Mediums. Not really sure why that is… I just know that every commander seems to only be able to inventory them if they are set up in the middle of a large parking lot, all in a row, and that this act is performed repeatedly, somewhere in the Army (usually multiple somewheres in the Army), on any given Monday.
Anyway, so last week during these checks I very pointedly reminded the Soldier I placed in charge of our vehicles to play particular attention and ensure I am aware of any deficiencies. This is standard, but sometimes they need a little refresher on the obvious. By sometimes, I mean all the time. So the Soldier returns with the report that the wiper fluid was low in both vehicles. We, for some reason only known to the Status of Forces Agreement gods, are not allowed to add fluid to our own vehicles and one of them needed the brakes checked anyway, so that car was sent off to be repaired. We picked it up on Friday, so by Monday morning we once again had two vehicles and I could send them off to check them again. By the way, the wiper fluid is notoriously shifty in these vehicles, but can be checked via a tube which I showed them before. When the tube looks like it is low, it means the tank is getting low. The Soldiers know this, because they reference the tube periodically whenever they mention the wiper fluid. There are also indicator lights, but I have a rule that to the person responsible for maintenance, any random lights on in a car should never be a surprise, because they should know what to look for, having been shown during every previous Monday since time began, or at least since their time in this unit, which to me feels like since time began anyway.
Now that we are all caught up with the back story, fast forward to yesterday. The checks done, The Kids return and report that the vehicles look good. I instruct them to take the vehicle that was not repaired last week up to get repaired. They take the keys and leave.
They return. They dropped off both sets of keys on my desk, which meant both cars returned with them. This is when the conversation got out of control.
Me: Wait… could they not take the vehicle?
Them: No, it’s not due for its routine maintenance yet!
Me: Did they add wiper fluid?
Them: No! Remember? I told you that had to be done at the dealership for some reason.
Me: But you were going to drop it off for that reason, right, so they could add fluid, since you said last week it was low via the tube you checked?
Them: Oooooooh. I forgot about the wiper fluid!
Me: You just told me about it last week… and would have just checked the fluids this morning. How could you have forgotten? Did the wiper fluid magically multiply so now it is not low?
Them: Maybe it isn’t low. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell.
Me: But last week you told me it was low.
Them: Well, see, you can’t really SEE it.
Me: Go look again. If you can’t tell, check the manual. If it’s in German, bring the manual up here and the Internet will do marvelous things for you.
They disappear. I sit and wait, because I know that the manual will tell them about the tube and then they will recall previous lessons. They return a few minutes later, very proud.
Them: You can’t check it really easily! The tank is near the bottom of the block so you can’t really see it!
Me: And this helps me… how?
Them: The manual says it’s a matter of preference how much wiper fluid to have.
Me: I prefer to have wiper fluid. Do we have any?
Them: There’s no light.
Them: There’s no light saying it is low. You said before that on the other car a light comes on. There’s no light. We aren’t sure if there is a light on the newer car, though. I wonder if there is…
Me (interrupting the contemplation of the magical light I regretted ever mentioning): Sweet holy hell. What does the manual say?
Them: Matter of preference. We pushed the button and it works, though, so we have fluid!
Long pause as I hang my head and contemplate bearing the bitter cold and blowing snow for the momentary victory of chucking at least one of them out the window.
Them: So we should take the vehicle back up there, Sergeant?
Me: No. Just go away. Go away and leave me alone. I have a headache.
I had no G.P. Mediums, though that did not stop me from calling around and seeing if the local units had any to spare. All I wanted was for them to take care of a mundane task like maintaining two vehicles without giving me a headache… and now instead I have to maintain my composure.