11 January 2007

More on readjusting - (warning - poop-oriented)

So, you say, beyond an understandable aversion to explosions, what else has Abby noticed about readjusting to the Real World?

(or perhaps you don't care, which is cool, but since you're hanging out on my blog for some reason I'm going to tell you anyway)

Toilet paper. Sweet, lovely, American toilet paper.

From early June until mid-January, I lived in the land of the porta-shitter. No flush toilets. All the porta-shitters were blue, and were reasonably well maintained by a small army of Sri Lankans who seemed to be in Iraq for no other reason. But Sri Lankans are an entry of their own, and that's not what I'm writing now.

The porta-shitters were the hottest places on earth during the days. Imagine you've been on a mission all day and somehow were well-hydrated enough that you're still sweat-soaked. You're also wearing all your armor, your helmet and a drop-down holster on your thigh. Your mission is over, and since you made the mistake of eating at the World's Least Sanitary Chowhall, there is an impending Gastric Event.

After your truck is locked down, you scurry to your tent. You drop off your machine gun and M4 and lurch to the line of porta-shitters by the tent. Some good soul with a Sharpie marker had designated one "female only." And it's EMPTY. You tear off your helmet and drop it right outside, then bang inside.

Of course, it's damn near 120 OUTSIDE. How hot do you think it is INSIDE? You realize, as your intestines are tying themselves in knots, that you still have your DAPS (your upper arm armor) on, and there's no way you're getting out of it in this tiny space. So you lurch BACK outside, peel off your armor and drop it on top of your helmet. Then BACK into the porta-shitter.

You are SOL if the shitter takes a mortar round, but Hadji is a terrible shot, and if he managed to pull that one off, well, you reason, everybody's gotta go sometime and at least it would make a funny story for your buddies.

Now you shimmy your trousers down (challenging - remember, they're sweaty and stuck to you, your hands are sweaty, there's a thigh holster in your way and every time you look down to try to figure out what's up with your belt, MORE sweat falls from your forehead onto your fingers).

Ahhhh...sweet relief.

You glance up in horror to located the TP. There's always some in here, but the Sri Lankans clean the things with a pressure washer and occasionally reduce it to a pile of whiteish pulp.

Fortunately, this is not the case today. They cleaned a few hours ago, in the morning cool, and so although the porta-shitter is steamy, the TP is at least dry enough to use.

Of course, it's lowest-bidder USGI TP, and so it's like scratchy tissue paper. No - actually, it's thinner than that. You use HANDFULS of the stuff. The sweat on your hands takes it halfway to "pulp" status the instant you touch it. It's okay, though, you just grab more.

Gasping for air in the steamy lockbox, you struggle your trousers back UP over your sweaty thighs, hitching your holster into place. It's at least 750,000 degrees farenheit in here, and your vision is blurring. You button your pants and lurch OUT, the desert afternoon feeling, for a second, deliciously cool.

You buckle your belt outside, among all the similar closets occupied by your male comrades and the less-speedy (or less-desperate) females. You shrug back into your armor and set your helmet on your head, and wander back to your tent.

Later, after ingesting something local and foul, you will have a night that lasts 300 years and will re-name the porta-shitter the "Blue Closet of Sadness."

And that, my friends, is why TP is a difficult thing to get back on board with. Great handfuls of Charmin are excessive and can, in fact, cause issues with real toilets. Also useful to remember when rejoining humanity - it is necessary to FLUSH a toilet.