May 18, 2011.
Dateline: Shower Huts, Camp Phoenix
From: George Shreves, Ambassador to USCENTCOM from BS
Back home, water is taken for granted. There’s plenty of it, for one thing, so much so that half the time we end up cussing at it, because it floods and screws up the fishing, rots the tomato vines, etc. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. The first week I was here, it rained twice, one a real frog strangler. I come to find out that might be it for the year. FOR THE YEAR. The average rainfall in June, July and August is ZERO.
I tell you this because water is a big deal here. First, you got your bottled water. There is bottled water everywhere here, you can’t walk across Patriot Square without tripping over a pallet or two. They want you to drink it too, there are signs everywhere telling you to, and reminding you that if you don’t, you could fall victim to the effects of lack of hydration (or being thirsty, as John Berry would say). If you read the posters, lack of hydration is worse for you than being held captive by the Taliban. Apparently, you can turn clammy, fall down, and die right where you are unless measures are taken pronto! (I guess like giving you some water) You won’t believe this, but there is one single contract here that provides for bottled water for $347 million dollars. Yep, they prize bottled water over here.
Your next type of water is black water. This is water that contains animal, human or food waste. Shit water. This water has to be toted away and disposed of. Its nasty and I don’t know what exactly they do with it, but they get rid of it. Now don’t confuse black water with grey water. Your grey water is water from sinks and showers. It’s nasty too, but it can’t hold a candle to black water for nastiness. They suck the grey water up in trucks, disinfect it with tons of chlorine and then use it to wash trucks and other vehicles. They wash vehicles all the time because they don’t want them to have shit on the undercarriages that could fall off on the streets (and I use the term street loosely, more like half pavement, half rip rap paths, actually).
Anyhoo, water is a big deal here in every form, and there are whole groups of people whose only job it is, is to get it, distribute it, re-use it and get rid of it. So, I was surprised the other day, when I overheard a conversation about a type of water I was heretofore unfamiliar with – portable water.
This conversation took place among a group of HVAC guys who are contractors from the Memphis, TN/Tunica, MS area. Good ole boys, they’d fit right in at BS. Anyway, the leader of this group, Nuck (I don’t have any idea what that is short for) is talking to his workers, Darryl and Bob Ed (I swear I’m not making this up) and says “Bob Ed, look at that sign on the shower hut there, will ye?” It says “Portable Water”. “Now what kind of an idgit puts up a sign that says Portable Water?” Darryl and Bob Ed shook their heads in commiseration. Nuck continued: “Of course its Portable, they bring it in with a truck every night”. Darryl and Bob Ed had to agree, they had seen the trucks themselves.
After they left, my curiosity got the best of me, and I wandered over to the shower hut. Sure enough, there was a sign on the outside of the hut, in big letters that said “POTABLE WATER”. Goes to show you, just when you think you know it all…….
Your humble correspondent,