Mostly the in betweens.
Since arriving out here, 46 years ago, I have had all of the above. The in between is what captured my attention today, finally. Sorry for the delay in posts! The days out here literally melt together after just a few days of the same thing. It starts to wear on your mind because instead of living a long 24 hour day, it turns into a long 48, 72 hour day. There are also times when a bad day encompasses just a few terrible minutes. What this means, is instead of having a standard (24 hours) "bad day" or a "good day", you have these seemingly hybrid days spanning mere minutes to 3 to 4 days with ups, downs, and in betweens occuring over and over again. Let start with the ups.
My up days are the ones when I finish something that I've been working on for several days. When that item is used to help the warfighter stay alive or help the bad guys fail at doing so, I have a very up day. At least twice a day, one of my colleagues and I step outside of our office and throw the football. I have an up day when I throw a nice, tight spiral the whole time we're out there. Recently, I had an up day when I realized that I needed to tighten my belt one notch. Since getting in shape was one of my pros when deciding to come out here, I'd say that is definitely qualifying of an up day. I also received my first evaluation from my company, GTEC, and also my first pay raise. Ka-ching! I made my wonderful wife laugh a lot on Skype the other night. We talked for two whole hours. Those two hours turned an incredibly "standard, bad day" into an up day. This, unfortunately, brings me to bad days.
My bad days have been tough to deal with. When the only thing to take your mind off of bad days is throwing a football and doing work, it's tough to get out of a funk sometimes. And since I'm working 84 hours a week, work is often the cause of my bad days. I've had to deal with only one of the worst kind of day, and for that I thank God, so I will only concentrate on the "more trivial" bad days for the sake of the blog. My bad days have included dealing with seemingly endless seas of incompetence from a certain "Big Contractor" company (Malcolm you were right), I've had to deal with other analysts attempting and succeeding at highjacking my projects and claiming them as their own (one of the biggest no-no's in this line of work). I've also come to realize that not wearing the uniform anymore makes my job more difficult. As a contractor, you have to operate under the belief that no one in uniform thinks you know what you're doing.
I've had soldiers from junior enlisted, with less time in the military than I did, to Captains, commanding entire battalions, tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about. They are, of course, very mistaken. One thing that I've strived to accomplish out here is to show these warfighters that I am nothing more than another round in the chamber for them. I want the warfighter to recognize that when they need me, I can provide a variety of elements to their capabilities when handling the fight. Of course, this means that I have to put myself out there and that brings with it another set of circumstances to account for. Personalities.
The other day I had 3 officers line up, shoulder to shoulder, in front of my desk and lay into me for what they thought was my naivete in how I responded to a situation that, in my opinion, they mishandled. I was instructed to ensure that I recognized that I was speaking to men who have been shot at a lot in the past 2 months. This is the equivalent of being slapped in the face with a 2x4. Assuming someone has not "paid the price in sweat and blood" is simply unforgivable if I were wearing a uniform. Without knowing that I've been shot at, I've lost men, and I've seen death, I had to accept the insult and push forward. Needless to say, this was a bad, bad day. However, I stuck to my guns, maintained the respect of my coworkers, and eventually received an apology from the soldiers. They are just trying to do their jobs the same as me. The phrase, "same team, same fight" comes to mind.
Despite everything that happens out here, my life is lived in the in betweens. Every single day is monotonous and incredibly boring for 90% of the time. At least, to someone on the inside it is monotonous and boring. For some people, the things we do daily would be noteworthy under any other circumstances. This brings me to the event that spurred the thought for this blog post. It is pretty silly, and maybe toeing the line of "too much information", but I can't help but smile when I think about it now. It revolves around Port-a-Potties.
So I'll paint the picture for you all. It's Friday at about 8pm, and by this point it is pitch black out. Afghanistan does not have ambient light unless it is cloudless and the stars are shining bright or there is a full moon out. This night, there were neither stars nor a moon to speak of. Earlier in the day, I decided I would return to my tent to pick up my headlamp before chow. I forgot to get the headlamp. So, the short of it: blackest black, no headlamp. Now, Sorry ladies, it's Port-a-Potties or nothing out here. They have the green plastic boxes placed strategically all over the base. Each station will have 2-5 boxes. In this instance, there were two. Upon realizing that the steak from dinner and I were in disagreement with eachother, I stumble in the dark and finally reach my destination. Now, if it's black outside you can just imagine how dark it is inside. What do we all know about port-a-potties? They are disgusting. You don't touch them, period. Well, in the pitch black, that is exactly what is going through my mind.
So, as I'm standing there refusing to touch anything, I hear the door in the stall next to me open and shut. Through the slits in the top of the Port-a-Potty I can see that this person has some sort of light. Without any concern for how it would sound, I simply said, "hey, would you mind shining that thing over here. I can't see my hand in front of my face." Like a gentleman, he simply holds the light up over his head and shines it in for me. Now, as a guy, there are things that back home you never do. Talking to a man while he is doing his business is way, way up on that list. However, on a completely standard day out here, you may find yourself asking a man to shine a light into your stall so as not to embarass yourself upon walking back into your office to find that you missed entirely. :) Good night everyone!