In 2003, I was stationed in Kuwait as part of the massive buildup of troops who were about to go “liberate” Iraq. Kuwait is a desert. We stayed in tents. Tents don’t have toilets, so usually people ended up doing something like this:
Now, as any good soldier knows, you NEVER PEE BESIDE THE TENT. It attracts… things. Now, imagine a massive City, all built out of tents. All without a built-in toilet. Each tent has about 12 men in it, all well-equipped to pee anywhere they want on God’s soon-to-be-green Earth. Imagine what happens if this entire city of soldiers decided to pee by their tents, and not in the toilet-hole they’d dug outside the tent city.
(If you’re wondering why I went with green for the pee, partly for fun, partly because guys in the desert take a lot of muscle-builder supplements and lift a lot of weights, so their pee is usually any color it wants to be.)
Well, see, here’s the thing. You’re fairly busy in this desert, and you don’t exactly “hang out” in your tent. You pretty much only sleep there. Which means that the only time you’re in Tent City is when you’re Asleep, or wanting to be. Which also means that the only time you need to pee in Tent City is when you’re Asleep. Who wants to walk a mile in a desert to go pee in the middle of the night? No one. I get mad when I need to walk across the house to pee at night. I usually just hold it and sleep like crap for hours because I need to pee, and I end up having weird dreams that try to trick me into peeing on myself in various dream-scenarios—all involving me getting splashed when I pee.
“But, it’s all cool!” My Brain always says.
And I’m always like, “No, Brain, this just feels wrong!”
“Ignore the splatter, dude. That’s what happens when you’re an astronaut peeing in a space hose,” My Brain always tells me.
Usually, about that time, I’m like, “Wait just a dang second—when did I go to astronaut school?”
Then I wake up, and I’m like, “Ok, screw this, I’m walking to the bathroom.”
But, let’s face it. When the bathroom is across the desert, and not across the living room… Well, I drew a chart. I think it speaks for itself.
So, if you care enough to not attract… things… that are attracted by pee… you pee in an empty water bottle, and not on the ground. But, then you have to do something with the bottle, and usually Someone out of the other 11 guys in your tent is going to hear you peeing in a bottle and whack you with something, so you might as well have gone outside to begin with, because peeing into a water bottle is pretty technical, and getting hit with a boot while doing it is a sure way to pee on yourself, and maybe spill half a bottle of pee on your Sleeping Bag.
At this point, you might be wondering, “Why not just put the toilets closer to everyone, and not just the lucky, Higher-ranking Guys on the NE Corner of Tent City?” Something, a little like this, you say:
Because, the military likes to do everything the hard way. And because if you ever mention making anything into a circle, instead of a square, they call you a hippie and start singing/yelling “kumbayah” at you, and usually try to punch you in the arm or slap you on the butt. Just because.
This is a symptom of a much larger problem. I have a theory, which I’m patenting eventually. This isn’t just for the military. This also happens in any authoritarian-style regime…like… I don’t know… church?
See, smart people really hate working for dumb people. They can tolerate it, if they see a light at the end of the tunnel, or if they think they’ll ever be in a position to change anything. But, basically, once this process starts, it grows exponentially, and it never turns itself around. Never. In any organization. You just have to scrap the whole thing, and start over. Like church, or government. Because you have a dummy infestation.
Even if one smart person made it to the top, he’s got to contend with nothing but dummies in leadership. Dummies hate change. And, let’s face it, Mr. Smart also doesn’t have a lot to work with, because all the smart workers are leaving like rats on a sinking ship.
So, eventually, when Dummy Generation One gets ready to retire, they look for new people to promote, and the only people left are the ones dumb enough to be able to put up with working for a flock of Dummies for most of their career.
It gets worse. See, eventually, even the Mildly Dumb people get fed up and leave. So then, you have an even dumber pool to draw from when you look for new leaders. So, not only does the leadership get Dumb. It gets Dumber. Continually, exponentially, again.
So, thanks to No One Smart running the planning process in Tent City. I spent about 5 months of my life sleeping in a huge pee puddle at the opposite end of Tent City from the “real” bathrooms. Because, for some reason, everyone would walk to the edge of the city to pee, just not the correct edge. I think it had something to do with the aforementioned theory, and the resultant average IQ of Tent City inhabitants.
Which, somehow, brings us to the end of this chapter in our story.
I open my sleepy eyes one morning, and can’t seem to focus. Like a camera, when something is too close to your face. Finally, my eyes zoom out to Hubble Distance, and I’m able to focus on this:
A tiny mouse, eating my thumbnail.
Why does this stuff always happen to me?