As much as I hate to admit it, I am superstitious about some things. I know you are probably thinking something along the lines of, “But Ben, you are so well read and educated, not to mention cute as a button. How could you succumb to such archaic senseless rituals?” Okay, you may not have been thinking any of those things, but I was.
I know better than to think that one event causes another without any physical process linking the two. The idea that knocking on wood will produce anything other than an annoying sound is ludicrous. But, instead of being the rational thinking person I was brought up to be, you will not catch me passing salt from hand to hand and you can be damn sure if it spills, some of it is going over my left shoulder, “into the face of the devil” as one of my relatives told me. I guess Satan has high blood pressure.
I think American author Judith Viorst said it best. “Superstition is foolish, childish, primitive and irrational - but how much does it cost you to knock on wood?” It is a security blanket that most people I know seem to yield to in some form or another. And why not? Security blankets have been used by generations of children to combat monsters. It must be working because in my extensive research, which lasts on average about 33 seconds per fact or until someone holds up something shiny, there have been no reported cases of monsters coming out from under beds or out of closets.
I like to rationalize my crazy by telling myself, “Well, at least I’m not superstitious about everything.” I will gladly walk under a ladder and the only reason I don’t break mirrors is because I am so taken aback by how good looking I am and feel it would be a shame to harm my reflection. I don’t mess with black cats though. That’s only because I hate cats in general, black, grey, calico, green, whatever. I am of the opinion that your average housecat, no matter how loyal you think he is, would eat you if he ever thought he could get away with it. (Cue the catlover hate mail… oh wait, I guess people would have to read this for that to happen.)
Now that I have made myself feel better, I will admit to you another superstition I have acquired since coming to Iraq. Brunettes are good luck.
Confused? Welcome to my world. Let me explain.
My Mississippi National Guard unit took over our current work space from an Ohio unit. We came here to shoot down rockets and mortars with big loud guns. Daunting task I know. Lucky for us, Ohio already had all the necessary equipment to do such things. They had the guns and the radars and the computers and phones all set up and it was great. Another tool they used that we have found quite helpful is called a calendar. Have you heard of them? It’s a system for organizing days for social, religious, commercial, or administrative purposes… what? You know?… oh. Well bully, we will proceed.
So anyway these Ohioans had two calendars in the engagement operations center where I work. One was a monthly tracker published by a delightful English periodical called For Him Magazine. The other was a daily calendar put out by Maxim Magazine. The defining characteristics of these time keepers are the fact that each month and day respectively is graced by a very attractive female who’s wardrobe often times pushes and far exceeds the limits of puritanical decency.
“What?! Soldiers looking at pictures of super models? That’s degrading!” Yes yes, I acknowledge that to the outsider these calendars do not help us come off as the staunch feminists we are, but one must understand that we adamantly support these women and their…umm talents? Yeah, talents. Not only the talents they exude photographically but the ones I’m sure they possess and hopefully exhibit in the real world. Anyway, you are causing me to get off topic, which is dangerous because I tend to get lost and forget where I waaa……. Oooh a lizard! Huh? Damn!
So the calendars feature girls of many different hair colors but mainly consist of the brunette or blonde variety.
When we arrived in August the monthly calendar featured a brunette. Coinciding with Ms. August, the daily calendar featured a string of brunettes. These days were relatively quiet. No one was shooting at us. We became spoiled, wondering what everyone was fussing about with claims of getting mortared all the time.
Let me clarify something. For me, my aversion to getting mortared is not a fear of getting hurt. No it’s more of a distaste for the hassle of being mortared. Getting mortared or rocketed means I have a bunch of paperwork that is contingent on the information I am fed. For it to go smoothly a number of things has to happen in a certain order. Thanks to Murphy’s Law this rarely if ever happens. Damn! I hate that guy!
So anyway, September rolls around. There is a beautiful blonde lady in all her glory on the monthly calendar and lo and behold there comes a string of blondes.
What happens? Our radars start picking up all kinds of stuff. When radars pick up stuff, alarms go off. (The reporter in me wants to go into more detail here, but I can’t….someone might shoot me. I don’t want that to happen…ßHyperbole? Probably. )
Alarms go off and paperwork has to happen in certain amount of time. The paperwork depends on a bunch of equipment functioning. Said equipment normally picks these times to say to me, “Hey chubby! I hate you. Now I am going to glitch.”
This is the point where I normally start swearing. During one incident I think I dropped enough “fucks” and “god dammits” to make cast of the The Big Lebowski blush.
(After I get back, I plan to go into more detail of these episodes, but for now in the interest of operational security, I will hold off. Trust me though, the glitches and conversations during said glitches are quite humorous. It’ll be in the book.)
Anyway, stuff breaks, things go wrong, reports don’t get turned in on time or to standard because of glitches. People reading said reports get fussy normally with me. Another set of people get fussy with me not because of the reports but because equipment is broken. Yadda yadda. Circle of life, when in Rome, other cliches’
Anyway, to make my point, the above tends to happen when there is a blonde featured on the calendars. Lucky for us we figured this out early on the deployment and have taken steps to improve our situation. For instance, Ms. September had to go. I am sure she is a lovely young lady, but she is very bad juju. The monthly seems to be able trump any blonde the daily calendar throws at us. So as a crew, we have settled on Ms. December. A lovely vixen from South Africa named Tanya van Graan. For those unfamiliar with Ms. van Graan, she is a double threat. Not only is she a model but she is also an accomplished thespian. She has several titles to her name, most notably, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, which was shamefully overlooked by the academy.
Despite her Oscar lackings, she is very good luck. The only time my crew has had to deal with incoming is when some jackwagon decided to switch the monthly calendar to the correct month. You think I’m exaggerating but I’m not. Someone quietly switched months without us noticing and as a result, the enemy decides to send us presents in the form of 80mm mortars. Not to worry, we took care of it.
This really happens. Come on over and check it out if you don’t believe me. Since the latest incident I have assigned a soldier to guard the calendar with his life and deter all attempts at malfeasance. Since then we have had a very quiet few weeks.
If the enemy only knew…. Wait damn. You’re cool right? Just do me a favor. If you see a terrorist, don’t tell them about any of this.
I know this is all silly and at this point you are kind of wishing your government was not trusting me with millions of dollars worth of equipment, not to mention hundreds of lives, but it’s like Kevin Costner said in one of the greatest movies ever, Bull Durham. In the scene Costner is explaining to Susan Sarandon why she can’t sleep with Tim Robbins anymore.
Crash Davis: I never told him to stay out of your bed.
Annie Savoy: Yes you did.
Crash Davis: I told him that a player on a streak has to respect the streak.
Annie Savoy: Oh fine.
Crash Davis: You know why? Because they don’t - -they don’t happen very often.
Annie Savoy: Right.
Crash Davis: If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you *are*! And you should know that!
If you think about it, Costner is right. Everything is a game inside your own head. We are all just trying to find ways to win it. For now, ensuring brunettes are featured on calendars is our way of winning the game in our heads. Plus it gives us something to break the tension and laugh about. Everyone needs that, whether you are in a combat zone or not.
Well, we covered a lot ground today. I think we both grew as individuals and built a good reader/writer dynamic. It was special. I feel good about this. Now, if you are still reading this, go do something productive. Get those IQ points back that you lost while studying this diatribe. Goodnight, good morning whatever. Go away.
Oh, and please be kind to each other.