Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In Which There Are Neither Sparks Nor Fireworks

A few days passed. Understand that an air force base, and in particular this air force base, is a huge place. Almost its own city. In fact, you could enter this particular base from two different cities, if you can believe that.

Within the base are internal hitchhiking posts where soldiers can stand and wait for rides to the far reaches of the base. (As an aside, back in my day, soldiers hitchhiked all over the country. Now the risk of kidnapping is too high, so it's illegal for soldiers to hitchhike outside a base, but this was in the olden days.) My volunteers were spread out all over the base. We arranged rides for them to work in the morning, then rides to and from lunch, and rides back to our meeting point in the afternoon. During the day, when I wasn't busy hanging out in the PR office, I would hitchhike through the base to check on my volunteers and make sure they were all being treated properly.

On one such day, I had to get clear across the base, and a car stopped for me after just a moment. Over the course of the 10-minute ride, he driver, Y., and I chatted. He was very sweet and told me that he’d be happy to chauffeur me around any time. I thanked him. When I got where I was going, he even offered to wait for me and take me back to the center of the base, which made life much simpler. Nice guy.

Later that same day, Ms. Sweetheart and I were trekking across the base trying to track down one or two of my volunteers who had somehow been relocated. As we crossed through a few different squadrons, the loudspeaker blared. “G, call operations.”

“Oh, hey,” said Ms. Sweetheart. “Do you want to meet G? He’s the one you spoke with on the phone the other day.”

“Um, sure, OK,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “Got nothing better to do.”

She led me into an office. There was an outer room where a secretary normally sat, and then an inner office for the officer. The secretary’s office was empty, but noise and laughter beckoned from the inner sanctum. We made our way forward and stopped. And stared.

In the office were about half a dozen soldiers, all laughing. And standing on the desk was an officer with Coke-bottle glasses. In his hand was a small wooden gun – a gun that shot rubber bands, it turned out. And he was aiming at a small wooden target. On the target was printed, in English, things like “Mother-in-law,” “Boss,” and so forth. But there were small sheets of paper taped over those with some scrawled Hebrew on it.

“What’s this?” Ms. Sweetheart asked.

One of the soldiers managed to stop laughing long enough to explain that someone had brought this target in as a gift for the officer, and he had taped up names of girls in the squadron he didn’t like. Now he was shooting at them.

“It’s good that our officers have such important jobs,” I said, and suddenly everyone in the room turned to look at me.

“Who are you?” G – who we can go ahead and call Mr. WG, I suppose – said, still up on top of his desk.

“I’m WG. I’m the one in charge of the French women.”

Mr. WG leapt off his desk. “Nice to meet you.”

“Yeah. Why don’t you go back to your important work?”

We spoke for a moment. I was really good at acting superior and making obnoxious comments. The soldiers all stood watching.

“They’re paging you,” said Ms. Sweetheart after a few minutes.

“Yeah,” he said. “Well, come back and visit us again.”

We left. “See? He’s a nice guy,” said Ms. Sweetheart.

“And clearly tasked with very important work,” I said.

What I didn’t know was that Mr. WG went home that afternoon and said to his roommate, “I met the coolest girl today.” To which his roommate responded, “Oh, WG? Yeah, she’s awesome.” And Mr. WG stared in shocked silence, contemplating the thought that OTHER BOYS IN THE BASE had met me and spoken with me.

Just remember that, as you keep reading.


Anonymous said...

If he said you are the coolest, that's SORT of a spark, isn't it? Sort of? Or are you setting us up for a big bait-and-switch? I like this suspense!

WriterGrrl said...

Have you really never heard this story before? Or are you just playing cool. And yes, I guess you're right and there was a sort of spark. But I only discovered it later. When the sparks were in full, uh, sparkage.

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard the long version, the sparkless version. I just know that the sparks do fly and that it doesn't take TOO long. But there, I've said too much.