The Future Wave Of Humanity

, , | Working | November 25, 2016

This is just a little something that happened to me when I was deployed to Afghanistan with the British Army in 2012. It’s not much, but I like to tell it.

I was working out of our base in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand Province. On ops, every soldier (and Marine, sailor, and airman) on the base had to stand sentry (‘stag’ in the British forces) in one of the many sangars dotted around the base perimeter at some point. With the amount of people on the camp it usually meant that you went on stag maybe once every two or three days.

Lash was fairly quiet at that point, not much going on in the city, and so stag rotations usually ended up being relatively boring, although being in the city proper meant that we got to see some interesting sights from inside our sangars, or whenever we went outside on patrol…

In this particular instance I was on stag mid-morning. It was hot for October, and most crucially, it was one of the days of Eid al-Adha, which in the Muslim calendar is the end of Ramadan, and a time of feasting, celebration and giving — think a combination of Christmas and Easter.

Now, usually the streets of Lash were fairly busy, but fairly drab, too — a lot of black and grey and white and brown clothing. Not during Eid al-Adha. It seemed to me, up in my perch, that everyone was out in their best clothes and off to visit friends and family. While there was plenty of security in place, everyone seemed happy and high spirited.

I’d had a busy morning (up before 0400), and I would go on to have a busy day (head down at 0200-ish, if I remember rightly) but for those precious hours I was doing a simple job with minimal distractions.

You watch everything on stag; you try and cram everything into your tired eyes so as not to miss anything, but one moment stood out for me as I was watching that day. A group of girls came walking down the side of the road that passed the front of my sangar, all decked out in lime greens and yellow and bright blues. I think they must have been anywhere between 10 and 20 years of age (as you may have guessed, I couldn’t see their faces beyond the eyes).

As they came past my sangar, they stopped and looked in. They wouldn’t have seen much of me, in the shade as I was – perhaps the shape of my body-armoured and helmeted form behind the GPMG in the sangar window, and even that through the slats of the RPG cage. But they stopped and I could see them looking directly at me.

And then they waved.

Me, a foreign soldier, not even distinct, not really visible. Just another man in a uniform in their country.

They waved at me, one of them called up to me and said ‘Hello’ in Pashto; whatever else they said I didn’t catch.

I said ‘Hello!’ back, waved back, and then they walked on and were gone.

Thinking on it, I suppose for them it wasn’t much of a thing to do. They were just taking advantage of the freedom of the Eid al-Adha celebration to doing something a little daring: waving at the foreigners. For me, used to the usual endless procession of almost uniformly dressed (and 95% male) people in front of my sangar, it was a beautiful bright spot of humanity in my nearly-seven months in Afghanistan — that those girls had chosen to make a small connection with me on such an important day. It is a memory I will cherish, and it pains me that I will never know who those girls were, or what became of them, but their simple act replenished my faith in human kindness somewhat, and that’s something precious.

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This Car Ride Is Going South (Park)

, , , , | Friendly | November 24, 2016

Back in the early 2000s, my mother used to host day trips through our local community college, meant for people in their 60s and above. If there are more than 10 people, she asks me to drive the college’s second van, since I work for the college as well, and have had the safety course. We’re almost to our destination point when we miss our turn off, and are forced to leave the highway to take an underpass. However, at the red light, I get separated from her.

She calls me on my cell phone to give me directions. Unbeknownst to me, my brother has changed my usual ringtone from a generic ring to “Kyle’s Mom is a Big Fat B****” from South Park. The song floods the small van. What’s worse is, because I’m driving, I can’t stop the phone ringing, I can’t pick up, and I can only sit there in horror as the song stops… then picks up again.

I hurriedly stop, grab my phone during the third call to answer my mom, and get safely to our destination. As my group, all elderly women, exits the vehicle, one of them says, “I’m going to pray for you,” and refuses to ride back with me on the trip home. Years later, and I still slap my brother upside the head when I think about it.

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This Car Ride Is Going South (Park)

, , , , | Friendly | November 24, 2016

Back in the early 2000s, my mother used to host day trips through our local community college, meant for people in their 60s and above. If there are more than 10 people, she asks me to drive the college’s second van, since I work for the college as well, and have had the safety course. We’re almost to our destination point when we miss our turn off, and are forced to leave the highway to take an underpass. However, at the red light, I get separated from her.

She calls me on my cell phone to give me directions. Unbeknownst to me, my brother has changed my usual ringtone from a generic ring to “Kyle’s Mom is a Big Fat B****” from South Park. The song floods the small van. What’s worse is, because I’m driving, I can’t stop the phone ringing, I can’t pick up, and I can only sit there in horror as the song stops… then picks up again.

I hurriedly stop, grab my phone during the third call to answer my mom, and get safely to our destination. As my group, all elderly women, exits the vehicle, one of them says, “I’m going to pray for you,” and refuses to ride back with me on the trip home. Years later, and I still slap my brother upside the head when I think about it.

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All Things Are Not Sound

, , | Right | November 23, 2016

I work at a seasonal produce market that sells local fruits and vegetables as a cashier and grocery bagger. Today, a man and his wife came through with four bunches of garden carrots that still had the green tops on while I was on bagging duty. The tops of these carrots are usually all over the place, so to get them to fit nicely into our bags, we have to bend the leafy tops over.

The cashier hands me the bunches and I start putting them into the bags as usual. As I’m doing this, I hear a faint sound, which sort of resembles coughing and doesn’t really phase me.

As I go to put the last bunch in the bag, I hear a terrifying and loud screech that completely stuns me and the cashier I was working with. I look up to see the man staring at me very angrily.

It turns out he had a tracheostomy and could not speak whatsoever but was trying to tell me not to bend the carrot tops (hence the faint coughing noises).

The screeching sound was him screaming at me through his tracheostomy for not following his wishes, which he clearly could not get across.

Through all of this, his wife, who could communicate and understand her husband perfectly well, said nothing to indicate I was doing something they did not want.

That screeching sound will haunt my coworker and me forever.

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Your Brain Is Cat-atonic

, , | Friendly | November 23, 2016

I have recently fallen ill with a nasty sore throat and fever. What little is left of my voice is raspy and painful to get out, so I’ve taken to conducting my half of conversations via text, even if that person is sitting in the same room.

Suddenly, my cat runs across the keyboard of the laptop I’m using, and she pauses my movie. I want to snap at her to get off the keyboard, but I can’t, so I reach for my phone in annoyance.

It’s then that my feverish brain tells me that I cannot text my cat… because I don’t have her phone number.

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