A Car Sick & Melancholy Resident of the Twilight Zone

September 20, 2007
Today was the kind of day I will look back on with some fondness, but it was not a good day.  I can liken this experience to going to the amusement park and getting to ride the roller coaster – ALL DAY.  I am in W. Virginia for evasive driving training.  It was good at first.  We did some driving on slick surfaces.  It was fun to skid around and not too hard for me.  Next was also fun, driving around the racetrack dodging orange plastic cones.  I did that well too.  But then one of my car mates got sick and threw up out the window.  I figured that if he was sick, there might be a reason. After that I felt sick myself for the rest of the day.

Of the 28 people in my class, about half of us got sick.  It was very jarring.  We had to avoid objects and break rapidly.  It did not like the smell of exhaust and burning rubber.  Hardest for me was driving backwards.  I have never been good at backing up and doing it at high speeds is scary for me.  Suffice to say, I drove over a few cones.  We also had to crash into other cars and ram them out of the way.   This was interesting.  It is not something you get to do very often w/o pushing up your insurance rates.  Tomorrow the bad guys will attack us and we will have to respond by evading driving out of danger.  Like so many things relating to Iraq, it will be good to HAVE done, but not good to be gonna do.  I think this will become my catch phrase.

September 21/22
It was more fun today.  I did not get sick.  We had to evade and escape. I did that okay.   I enjoy it a lot more when I am not sick, but I am really glad it is over. 

At the end of the day, the instructor blew some things up, including an old car, to show us how the different explosions look, sound and smell.  That was cool.  It is interesting how you can feel the shock waves.  Once again my joy in seeing such strange things was mitigated by the knowledge that such things may no longer be so strange in my future life.

Going to these courses makes you a little paranoid.  Security guys take some pride in their ability to stimulate unease. They kind of look down on us ordinary guys who do not find the world so immediately threatening.  I understand that the situation in Iraq is dangerous and I admit that there are times for vigilance even in America.   But I am glad that most Americans can live most of their lives in a state of general unpreparedness.  Isn’t this what we want from security?  It is a great advantage to be able to walk down the streets of home lost in our own mundane thoughts.  I hope that we can help the Iraqis get that back soon and we have to make sure Americans do not lose it – the right to be distracted, the right not to pay attention, or maybe just freedom from fear. I also called to confirm my milair flight from Amman to Baghdad.  They are efficient there.  I am on.  They said they will inform me of the “show time” when the time gets closer.

I am in that funny twilight zone right now between my former and future lives.  I still have to do a few things for IIP/S and I still am the director.  People are asking me for decisions and I still have authority.  But there is not much left .  I will be in Iraq by the end of next weekend. 
Now I am going through all the “lasts” at least for a long time.  Mariza came down for her last visit before I leave.  I went to Arthur Treacher with CJ for the last time this morning.  Tomorrow I plan to run for the last time along the upper bike trail.  On Monday, I will ride for the last time to work on my bike.  Unfortunately, I will not have the time to go down to my forest.  I think it will be a lot bigger when I get back.  Those tree grow really fast.  It is a melancholy time.  The feeling has nothing to do with Iraq.  This is always the case before a PCS move.   I think of all the things I have become accustomed to doing that I will not do for a long time to come, maybe for years, maybe forever.  Iraq will be quite an experience no matter what.  It will be good to have done it.