Friday, June 4, 2010

Ticket to ride

The key to getting out of here, is the arrival of your replacement.  There is always some planned overlap for you to show that person where the bathroom is, how to say "peace be onto you" in Arabic, and how to get the Indian kitchen staff to deliver you extra curry chicken.  By design, this overlap is not long, however, as every day 2 people are here in one spot, the government pays double.  Though the government is paying double to have 2 people doing one job here, the 3-4 day planned overlap sometimes becomes 2-3 weeks, just because the document that defines the logistics of the handoff slid off someone's desk or is buried under some folders.

In the medical group, as in many, there is one extremely powerful person, a tech sergeant, named Sergeant Lola Jones (not her real name), whose sole job is to manage those logistics.  As there is no train station or commerical aircraft, the monopoly by which you are extracted from Iraq is the USAF - and when it comes to getting out of here, Lola is the USAF.  She decides who is on which plane, which poor souls have to travel back through Qatar on the way to the states, and which are flown directly to Germany or England prior to heading home.  She controls the issue of the tickets, and, as it is rumored, has a secret rolodex of the logistic and aircraft contacts who actually move military members around the world.  Colonels can be jackasses, and Lola still gives them the expedient travel, as the fallout from angry colonels is not worth the hassle otherwise.  The rest of us, however, better be nice to Lola.  Be nice, or spend 2 extra weeks in a tent in 130F in Qatar; and we (below colonel) just cannot make significant enough waves in the tub to save Lola's revenge.

In the military you never want to be the ranter-and-raver as this will assure you get precisely the opposite of what you seek, if, for no other reason, than spite; and because you have pissed off a person who has the power to screw you.  Though passively allowing life to happen can lead to extraordinary opportunity in the military, I don't recommend this approach, either, as no one is really vested in your interests, and you may get looked over. 

Instead, the tried and true approach is to subtlely remind Lola that, 1) you exist, 2) she likes you.  I have learned this lesson the hard way, and have been smiling at Lola every day since I got here.  I even brought her some ice cream when the doctors did our part on "staff appreciation day" (otherwise, of course, this would have been saccharin and over-the-top).  It is my hope that this capital is gaining interest, and my flight out is easy and smooth.  In the meantime, it is damn entertaining to watch officer after officer stomp down the hall and raise hell after Lola gives them little daggers.

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