Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Shit detail

Many moons ago, when deployed to Kuwait as a young shavetail butterbar, we didn't have the obscene amenities that are de rigueur on even the most spartan FOB today. it took about a month before we had a shower--which was little more than a shower head beneath a tank of water, the purpose of which was not to get you clean, but to get the funk off of your body.

We lived in tents, we peed in tubes made from lengths of water bottles taped together and buried in the sand, and we built a three-hole crapper that used 50-gallon steel drums, cut in half, to collect solid waste.

Daily, these three cans were pulled from the crappers, carried to the edge of the perimeter, and then we added three gallons of diesel and two gallons of gasoline, and ignited the mixture. It was stirred with a long metal picket, to ensure the fire kept burning and the waste was thoroughly turned to ash. When the fuel had burned away, the remnants were buried.

A company of 100 men can fill those three cans every day. Especially when eating MREs twice a day. The smell of those fires is quite unforgettable.

The shit detail--a name which applies to every job in the Army that is mindless, or unsavory, or otherwise necessary but has little redeeming value. I was reminded of the term tonight while I watched the daily lotto drawing right before the news. I only played the lotto once in my life, when the Georgia powerball was something like $400 million. Even then, I only bought one ticket. I won't break down the numbers, but lotteries are really just a tax on people who are bad at math. Everyone has the same chance of winning, and those chances are so small as to be nearly non-existent. Buying more tickets doesn't increase your chance of winning either, because each ticket has the same chance, and they are based on a single opportunity.

It isn't the lotto that is the shit detail. The guy who does the drawing is the guy with the shit detail. Every night, he goes to work, since the drawing is at 11 PM. He puts on his tuxedo--because it's a snazzy affair. He introduces the drawing, and the randomly selected geezer who is there to verify everything is on the "up and up." Then, he drops the numbered balls into their vacuum tank things and they bounce around until one pops up, and he reads the sequence of numbers.

That's his whole job, ten minutes, tops. That includes the amount of time he spends getting into the tuxedo. Every weeknight, working at 11 PM, calling out numbers. I'm sure he's vastly qualified for this job, he probably has advanced degrees in theoretical mathematics and many years of practical experience as the bingo caller at the local firehall.

Either way, it's a shit detail.


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