Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June 17, 2011. Hot Dog! It's A Package From Home!

June 17, 2011

Dateline: Kabul, Afghanistan

From:  “Keep them cards and letters coming” George  

Subject:  Hot Dog! It’s a Package from Home! 

Back in the “Good Ole U S of A” (as Sgt Gilmore calls it), people get mail 6 days a week.  If you get any that is.  Here at Camp Phoenix, such is not the case.  Mail delivery is dicey at best.  Sometimes mail comes 2 or 3 days in a row, then maybe nothing for a week or more.  There are several reasons for this: sometimes the mail choppers from Bagram have other, higher priority missions to fly; sometimes they ‘misplace’ the mail (remember, the mail is stored in Conexes, which are containers about the size of a semi-trailer, so you can understand how easy it is to misplace a couple); and sometimes the mail gets here, but there isn’t anyone to go get it and pass it out.

When the mail does come, though, it is a big deal.  Some people get packages and letters almost every mail call.  They’re filled with goodies, letters, magazines, clothes, all kinds of stuff.  Opening these packages is a public matter.  None of this ‘stashing your box and waiting until you’re alone’ to open it, no siree Bob.  You try that and you’ll quickly find yourself outside the “family”, friendless and alone.  You see, the people that don’t get packages live vicariously through the packages of those that do.  So holding back on opening your package is like telling people to butt out.  That may work at home, but over here, these folks are family!  Another unspoken rule is that anything edible that comes in packages from home is “group eats” as Jeff says.  

Enough packages have been opened here in J-8, that I feel a part of many lives and many families; for instance, I have learned to tell the difference in the artistic style of Maj. Daniel’s daughter Mariah’s pony themed crayon drawings from the harsher, minimalist works of young Victor Cuthbert, rendered in pencil and invariably featuring dead Taliban strewn about a bleak desert landscape (you can tell they are Taliban, because there is a line drawn from the bodies to the word Taliban in a circle).

I also know that Jeff brushes his teeth with Pearl Drops (I didn’t even know they still made that product), and that Carl Smith prefers his beef sticks with a hint of mesquite. Col Slater loves his Car and Driver, while Sgt Gilmore insists on added Aloe in his Wet Wipes (I started to razz him about that, but one look in those steely eyes revealed that in this instance, discretion was indeed the better part of valor). 

I had just about given up on ever getting a package myself (I had started to get pitying looks from my co-workers, who would clam up when I walked in on a package opening event, to spare me the embarrassment.  I was feeling like the kid wearing patched bib-overalls at boarding school).  Garry says he has written me four times, but since I never received any letters, I just assumed he got drunk four times and thought about writing.  So you can imagine my giddiness when the mail call included a package for yours truly.  To show you the kind of people I work with here, I truly believe everyone was happier that I got a package than they were with their own!  Bless their hearts!

I hesitated, and had a moment’s trepidation when I remembered Sue and Karol telling me that there was a BS box coming.  Could this be it?  What horrors might reside within the box?  What embarrassments might I endure as I revealed the contents in front of my co-workers….? Oh, to hell with it!  I started ripping it open (nice job on the duct tape, I ended up having to borrow K-balls ever-present Gerber tool to open it).  

I took out the items one by one and tried to explain them to my work family.  First off, copy of the North Scott Pest, dated April 17.  Ok, a little out of date, but what they hey.  Next up: yippee! A backscratcher from the ION’s!  Iowa Hawkeyes too!  Great!  If I were there, I would give Missy, Amanda and Madison a big kiss.  Not Dan.  Next, a battery powered toothbrush from Kevin and Jules.  All right!  I’m cooking now.

I’m trying to take my time and savor the moment.  The top of the box is spread thickly with peanuts, jerky and 2-for-a-dollar candies, so I can’t quite make out the blue object and the yellowish object, but I’ll get to them.  Next up - bumper stickers from the BS rack (thanks Sue and Brenda).  One says: “You’ve Entered Gun Country” and the other “Without our Families, Alcohol Wouldn’t be Necessary” Classics, baby, Classics. 

Let’s keep going.  Some Tums, a chapstick, toothpaste, flavored water to put in water (only in America),… hold on, here’s something good – a green BS ticket!  Woo hoo, that’s 40% of a beer (except happy hour when it’s over half).  I tucked that ticket in my badge holder with my passport and my Peace Dollar Garry gave me.  A birthday card from Karol, a funny card from Meynard and Deb, ½ a notepad from Clinton National Bank with a note from Sue, some Nu Breath (won’t need it here but I will when I get back – Oh yeah), and what’s this?  A blue box, Sammy Sosa on the outside, Hmmm.  I open it.  Its, Its…. It’s crayons!  What the…?  And colored pencils and markers.  I don’t get it.  Either my BS family is trying to subtly encourage a heretofore unrealized artistic skill…. Or… perhaps Deb and Patty got this in the donation bin at the Salvation Army?  Well, whatever, I’ll soon be giving Mariah Daniels a run for her money.  Pony's indeed!

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this box.  Thanks to all my friends at BS for making this a great day for me.  I love you all and think of you every day.

Well, all that’s left in the box is a thick layer of honey roasted peanuts, candy; beef sticks and – wait a minute! What’s that yellow and red peeking through the gummy bears and Grammas’ cookies? (Play sound track from Psycho here, the “stabbing in the shower part” Eek, Eek, Eek, Eek).  


How did HE get in there?  Feverishly, my mind sought to unravel this riddle. I know Karol wouldn’t do it, and Sue hates the little bastard, and everyone else at BS knows how I feel about clowns, especially this little demon.  Did he crawl in the box by himself?  Did he use satanic powers to teleport himself here to Camp Phoenix?  Or… did BRENDA have something to do with this?

Look at him!  Arms outstretched, a maniacal smile on his evil little face.  “What’s that Ronald?”  “You’re going to kill me?” This is bad.  Very, very bad.

I’ve shut him in a desk drawer for now, until I decide how to deal with this situation.  I can hear him now, thump, thump, thumping to be let out.  What to do?  Think George, think…

(to be continued)

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