Iraq: Happy Birthdays

Yay!  More rockets!

This time we were in our office on pause from a Battlestar Galactica marathon (don’t judge, I can explain: my team leader and I were skeptical as well when one of the other guys recommended the show.  Reluctantly, we half-watched the first episode and by the end I was surprised to find that my anti-nerd antibodies had accepted the show as legit.  That was four days ago and we are already halfway through the second season).


Not too close, but once it pops they don’t stop until the third or fourth.  Like guidance from higher, more to follow.  The door rattles a bit with the concussion, we throw around a quick consensus-building glance to confirm that yes, we are being attacked and then down to the ground we go.

We didn’t used to hit the deck, but last week a salvo landed close enough to send shrapnel into our courtyard, providing both a reminder to respond prudently in addition to several souvenirs if I can smuggle the shards past customs.  Though we live and work in a small concrete building, what were the windows are now politely painted plywood sheets that wouldn’t do much to stop an exploding artillery round.  Hence, ground.

I had just finished the arduous task of deciding which prepackaged ice cream snack to enjoy while watching the first half of the latest episode of Archer currently in mid-download on iTunes.  (Battlestar Galactica was on pause while we waited for one of the guys on our team.)

I chose chocolate before remembering last night was chocolate night, so I put the wrapped cone back in the freezer and claimed my vanilla.  I don’t think I can adequately explain how huge a mistake this was.  Whereas the chocolate option had cocoa shavings on top, my poor choice had chunks of soft almonds instead.  I’ve never really been a big fan of nuts, and this variant was just plain gross.  Plus, the treat I had put back was the last chocolate left.  AJ, one of our interpreters, swooped in after me and grabbed it from the freezer before I could change my mind.

I accepted the loss and summoned up the strength to power through the nuts like vegetables before an entree.  Before long my tongue was digging into creamy frozen yogurt, really beginning to savor the whole experience, and then, of course, naturally, BOOM!

So I am on the ground, one hand covering my head, the other protecting my quarter consumed frozen treat.  I snuck a lick here and there, enjoying the sharply contrasting experiences.

The term “rocket attack” may seem menacing but it’s merely part of the violent scenery.  Unless you get your bell rung (or worse) the experience is a nuisance, like an upstairs neighbor making a fuss at 2am.  Actually, kind of better in some ways: instead of having to grab a broom and jab at the ceiling for some quiet, here you just hug the ground and wait a minute or two.  Far less effort.


“Bet AJ dropped his ice cream cone at that one.”

“What is this, Night of a Thousand Rockets?”

“Bastards waited until Archer was getting good, too.”

“Nah, they don’t care about your show, they knew we were all getting ice cream.  They knew they could interfere with our enjoyment”

“I now consider each bite an assertion of my liberty.”

“I second that.”

Everyone’s a comedian when we’re under attack, and it’s not just the nerves talking.  The guys I’m with are a genuinely hilarious lot.  It was one of our interpreters’ birthdays last week and we decided to get him something to show our appreciation in the most quasi-genuine fashion our sarcastic selves could tolerate.

The PX on base doesn’t have too many SKUs of Hallmark cards so we had to improvise.  The last card left, To the Woman I’d Marry All Over Again … With Love on Your Birthday hit a note we were not quite comfortable with; some strike-throughs and a little extra ink later we had something we could use.

To the Iraqi We’d Hire All Over Again … With – Let’s Not Push It – on Your Birthday.

I snuck out a piece of fudge cake from the chow hall but we didn’t have any candles so a cigarette had to suffice.  The flame wasn’t the same, but it’s the thought that counts.  So I’m told.

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