Iraq: Rules of the Road

I have a difficult time accepting the punctilious rules that (attempt to) regulate life over here.  Case in point: inside-the-wire speed limits.  Around our base some inherited authority posted signs making every driver aware that 30kmh is the max.  In some places the signs are converted from metric to imperial for the humvee drivers’ benefit, but metric is the military norm.  Anyways, most vehicles on the road here are non-tactical, Suburbans and Explorers and Trailblazers and one inexplicable Dodge Charger, all outfitted with speedometers that tell speed by the [thousands o’] meters.

It makes some sense.  When I am driving an up-armored humvee, when the turret is ratcheting and bullet casings rattling and steel plates banging and I can’t see anything out the passenger side and there is an 8-inch-thick post obstructing the field of view from my 9:30 to 11:30- then I am happy to drive slow.  Driving 50mph on Route Jackson through downtown, my headlights a dim candle to the 5 million lumen spotlight of oncoming traffic:

“Sir, I seriously don’t know if I’m about to go off the road, I can’t see a damn thing.”  Blinking rapidly, searching for elusive yellow stripes, probably just dots by now, invisible regardless.  From across the center console, across a hulking stack of radios and sensors and I think a siren somewhere my team leader assures me in a curt and annoyed Brooklyn brogue:

“I’ll let you know if we’re heading into the river.”  I found his enlightened-self-interest of a promise somehow comforting.

Used to that driving I am more than happy to take it easy on the gas.  But give this soldier some head space and timing from that war, a life spent driving around with several tons of armor and rifles on red and a bristling automatic in the turret, give this soldier all that and then take him to a base with a chow hall that seats hundreds, where you have to wear reflector belts at night because you’re more likely to be run over by a distracted driver than shot by a sniper, where you keep the magazine out of your pistol because They think you are more a threat to you than the enemy- then there, here, 30kmh is no longer a comfortable driving speed and a refreshing change of pace from the Convoys (nicotized, caffeinated, deserving of a capital ‘C’ Convoys) but a frustration, an irritant morphed into an overarching analogy to explain how to be driven insane slowly, with frequent speed bumps.

Rockets could rain down at any time, but if you make a rolling stop the post Command Sergeant Major will confiscate your vehicle.  It’s tempting to roll the puffy dice hanging from the rear view and chance that he won’t see, but chow is a long walk when sandstorm season is in its full silty swing.

I can do extreme, I can do dull, but both at the same time is lunacy in practice and effect.

Categories: Uncategorized