Sunday, October 9, 2005

Caring and sharing

An inquisitive reader sent me a few questions and comments about my last post, so I thought I'd answer here on the blog in case anyone else cared.

"With all the veterans moving out and new recruits coming in, it sounds a little like Vietnam."
You're probably right. During orientation training here in Baton Rouge, they spent quite a bit of time talking to us about poisonous insects and snakes, alligators, and the importance of drinking water. The perky gal who did the training was a former junior high teacher; similar to a drill seargent, but cuter.
"It could be like Ground Hog Day on the cell phone desk."
You'd think the cell phone desk would get repetitive, but just as every unhappy family is unhappy in its own special way, every cell phone problem is unique. Today, one woman who deals with higher-ups in the government told me her old phone had been stolen and someone was hacking her phonebook. Could I please get the number de-activated? This struck me as something I really ought to put at the top of my list, before someone called Dick Cheney and asked him if he had Prince Albert in a can. Someone else dropped their phone into the shelter toilet and we carefully bagged it as bio hazardous waste. And then there was the imperious woman (a fellow volunteer, mind you) who didn't have all her paperwork together to get a phone and demanded that I wait for her to go back to her desk and "don't start on anyone else while I'm gone so that I have to wait in line again; I know how you people are!" The line she waited in was exactly two people long and lasted 3 minutes. So I issued her the phone that had been targeted by a collection agency to receive hourly computer-generated calls about some overdue bill. Okay, not really. I mean, we really did have a phone like that, but I didn't give it to her. I thought really hard about it, though.
"Are the field returnees debriefed?"
We actually do have mental health professionals who meet with the shelter volunteers before they are sent home. In order to have some modicum of privacy, these interviews are done in makeshift offices. They look like a cross between a confessional and a decontamination shower: plywood walls and red velvet curtain doors. I guess someone donated several bolts of crimson cloth. Then the worn-out volunteer gets on a plane for home sweet home. I overheard one guy talking long distance to a travel agent today, trying to fix his flight back to San Jose. "There seems to be some problem with my ticket. (pause) San Jose. (pause) That's in California. (Pause) Yes, I'm sure I don't want to go to Costa Rica!" I felt his pain.
"Are you eating in the mess hall?"

There is no mess. There is a snack bar on site called the Oasis, which has donated chips, crackers, candy, fruit cups, soda, and everyone's favorite, Beer Water. Anheuser Busch donated about 8000 cases of much-needed water in cans with their logo. It tastes just like Bud only not as flavorful and robust and of course, without the alcohol. There's a pretty good reason why "It's the Water!" isn't the Budweiser slogan...

The whole operation is literally across the street from a going-concern shopping mall complete with food court, so no mess is really required. Since we are parked between the mall and HQ, we just walk home for lunch and eat healthy stuff and walk the dog.
"Are you dry camping? How will you dump your tanks?"
Yes, we are dry camping. The weather so far has been cool enough that we really haven't needed our air conditioners, so leaving the pets in the bus hasn't been a worry. There is a Flying J truck stop along the interstate where we can dump our tanks on our day off. We work 7 days on, one day off, so we'll be free on Saturday.

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