*Retold with permission
I kicked off this tour with a big dose of stupidity, but unlike a lot of other calamities, this one was entirely my own fault. It was one of those situations that you never really live down, ever. It’s been a good seven months since it happened, but people are still lining up to hear the story. It’s humiliating, but I guess it’s funny.
When we were in Kuwait waiting to fly north, all the water to the base was trucked in, so our water usage was strictly rationed. Each person was authorized fifteen gallons a day. Any more than that, and you were taking from somebody else. And if you didn’t get to the showers early in the morning, the tanks would be bone dry.
When we first got there, I put it off all day because I was busy, and I really didn’t believe all the stories about the tanks running empty. It was probably just a scare tactic intended to make us to cut back on water usage. Well, I got ready for my shower that evening, walked in there, and nothing. The tanks were sucking air. All ticked off, I stormed back to the tent and went to sleep smelling my own B.O. I vowed to get up early the next morning and get my shower.
I got up about 0500, grabbed my towel, and headed over to the trailer. This time, the tanks were full, and since I hadn’t used my water ration from the day before, I was going to take a long, 30 gallon shower. I figured I’d earned it.
I climbed in, got the temperature adjusted, and just stood under the water. I had a thick layer of desert dust all over me, so it was nice to just relax and soak. Eventually I got cleaned up and rinsed, but as I was starting to shut off the water, it occurred to me that I was still standing in ankle deep, filthy water, full of everybody’s foot funk, hair, soap scum, and whatever else was in the shower. It was absolutely disgusting.
I stepped out of the stall carefully and carried the shower head with me so I could rinse the grime off my feet. The place was mostly empty, so I didn’t care I was standing out there naked. I held the curtain rod with one hand, sprayed off my foot, then switched hands and did the other. Excellent; I was finally clean. As I held the rod again and leaned in to hang up the shower head, I fell. Right into the pool on the floor.
It was more than just a simple fall, though. It was like a swan dive into a pool of sewage. Naked, cussing, and floundering on the floor of the stall in a panic, I struggled to stand up, a complete mess again. The two guys brushing their teeth at the sinks had turned their backs to me, but I could see the buttheads were laughing hysterically. Still cussing, I jumped back in and started to wash off again.
I didn’t care that I was over my water limit now. I had to get that stuff off of me. I washed down again, carefully cleaned off my feet, and got out. And of course, my towel was soaked with scum water. I looked over at the two guys at the sinks – they were still looking away, and still laughing.
I wrung out my towel, used my dirty shirt to dry off a little, and started to dress. But I noticed there was blood on my shorts now. Somehow, I’d cut my finger on the soap dish as I fell. I hadn’t noticed it before, but now I was bleeding everywhere from a tiny cut on my hand. I never knew such a small wound could leak so much. I stuck my finger in my mouth, finished dressing, and stumped back to my tent. It’d taken me an hour to get clean, and instead of being covered in sweat, now I was covered in blood. And I was furious.
I knew those two guys in the bathroom would tell everybody what they say, so I figured it’d better tell the story first, before it got blown out of proportion. So I when I got back to the tent, I told everybody about it – me flailing naked on the floor trying to get out of a cesspool of a hundred soldiers’ foot grime and God knows what else.
But I guess I shouldn’t have told them. I don’t think I’m ever going to live it down. Now everybody wants to hear the story about how I “purple hearted” myself in Kuwait. See, there’s even a crowd listening right now. You do a hundred good things, and nobody remembers. But you do one stupid thing, and they never let it go. They’ll probably write this one up in the yearbook – minus the bad language. What did I do in Iraq? I fell down naked in the shower and got covered in foot water. Quit laughing.
Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw, All Rights Reserved