The two soldierettes are staring at the computer with an intensity which suggests they are on the verge of cracking the Iranian nuclear codes. They’ve been like this for the last twenty minutes, while I just sit and watch. This is the third time that we’ve gone through this ritual, and I hope finally a solution might be found. After all, I remind them, I haven’t asked for the world…
The problem dates back to May 8th, that blurry alcohol-hazed day when I officially joined the world’s most moral army. That day, I was given my uniform. Now, in the IDF, there are two types of uniform – Aleph and Bet. Bet is for use out in the shetach, the territory. Aleph is for travelling to and from base and other formal occasions. As a jobnik, 90% of my time is spent in Aleph.
On that day, I was given but one pair of Aleph trousers. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was meant to get two. Woe is me. One measly pair – all day, every day, with one wash at the end of the week. I resolved to obtain an extra pair of trousers as soon as possible.
If you’re a devout reader of these missives, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that this task was anything but simple. There was no Aleph at Michvei Alon, where I did basic training, nor at Kishrei Hutz, where I spent that dangling month of reading.
In the meantime, the problem became decidedly more urgent. In one of its weekly outings to the washing machine merry-go-round, my beloved trousers began coming apart at the seams. The top section of material, where the belt goes (is there a technical term for this?), began splitting from the rest, like an iceberg in the Antarctic. Now, I have been told of a possibly apocryphal story which involved me managing to go home from school one day without my trousers. Here, I was faced with the reverse, and then some – turning up for my duties without uniform.
I had three options. 1) Sew them, 2) Go to Bakum and get some new ones, or 3) Grin and bear it until my new base in Ramle became equipped. Those who know me won’t be surprised that 1) was never an option. Neither was 2) – going on a day trip to pick up a rag cobbled together by some slave-labour in China seemed a bit excessive. So I plumped for 3) – doing a delicate makeshift job with my trousers each morning, one which ensured my modesty would not be compromised.
For weeks, I managed to cope. And then there was hope. I was told that Aleph would soon be delivered to my base. Oh happy days! On the day of delivery, my joy barely concealed, I headed over to the equipment store. There, after the interminable waiting, I was told that they had been delayed. Woe was me. Deflated, I staggered through the heat to my office, and slumped myself into the chair.
The following week I returned. The tiny soldierette took out a heavy file, which detailed every bit of equipment I had ever borrowed, and begun once again that demented twenty minutes on the computer. Then, the go ahead. She beckoned me to accompany her to the warehouse, where I could finally be kitted out. She took her time looking at various files before telling me sadly that she did not have the keys to the appropriate wardrobe. The person with the keys will be returning in a week. I protested this neglect, to no avail. As I trudged back again, I reassured myself with the hope against hope that next week I would finally have a fresh pair of trousers.
Today, my dreams were realised. The girls really did crack the Iranian nuclear code. In between, they expressed that now predictable astonishment at my age, with the one who looked about twelve even joking that I should marry her. After the torment of keeping my trousers from me, what Chutzpah! She got out my file, which rather alarmingly said I was being freed from service in 2010, and opened the cupboard with the trousers.
There they were in all their glorious banality, that wonderful khaki-green, those old-school seams. I can be funky-fresh-dressed-to-impress once more. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I shall wear them with pride. And I shall be more careful when I put them in the washing machine.
If this is what happens when a private asks for a pair of trousers, is it any wonder that there are national enquiries into the army’s failures in more serious matters?2 comments