Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fright Night

At the end of the day today, I was thinking very hard about how much we are the sum of our habits. How what we do again and again becomes what we are, because what we do by habit eats into the 168 hours we have every week to sleep seven nights, eat 21 meals, brush our teeth at least 14 times, take seven showers, dress and undress at least 28 times, maybe triple that if you ride a bike in the middle of the day.

I used to smoke. Most of my life from 13 to 33 I smoked. I estimated something on the order of 100,000 cigarettes. I am well past any current desire to smoke, but I still consider myself a smoker--at least in the sense that a long stretch of my life was limited by that bad habit.

And now I carry a gun. I have been carrying a gun for a year. I ride my bike with a gun. I wonder about using the gun. As my last day on the range showed, I am only accurate with the gun if it is supported by something. Without resting the gun on a sandbag or a wall, I can't fire very well. So I left work tonight in a light rain thinking about the gun on my back. I was distracted. I rode south into the darkest part of the base where the road is smooth as glass, but there are no buildings and no lights. Almost as soon as I turned on this usually lonely road I was between two walls of trucks. Just off both sides of the road were 50 huge flatbed trucks parked end to end with armored vehicles on nearly every one of them. Some of the flatbeds were the huge 4-axle armored tractors towing 5-axle trailers designed to carry armored vehicles. These long trailers have 40 tires.

With MRAPS and ASV Armored Gun Platforms, the twin lines of tall trucks strapped to flatbeds made the ride seem to be in a tunnel. The sky was black with clouds and made a roof. The ride pulled me back to the scariest ride I ever had in Hong Kong. I was flying down the mountain above this unbelievably crowded city and entered the middle lane of a three-lane wide one-way street. I was passing a double decker bus to my right. It was a flat steel wall on the left, they drive on the right. So I was riding next to a 15-foot high steel wall when the double-decker bus in the left lane started to move right. I jumped on the pedals and hoped I could pass the right bus before I became a smear between them.

I made it.

So I snapped myself out of that memory when I passed the long line of trucks. Then I was alone in the desert. Usually a bus or a maintenance truck will go past. Nothing. No one. I rode all the way to the east end of the base and north to main post before I saw another human being or vehicle. That started to get spooky after two miles and it was four miles that I was alone.

I am going to my book group now to talk about book 11 of Aeneid when Camilla gets killed.

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