Apologies to Ted Geisel, but that is what I’m noticing about Iraq today. This is one really loud place. Sure, my bed is hard and a bit too short and every meal is in one of three mess halls nearby, and work is 12 hours a day, every day. All of that adds to the grind, but noise never cuts a break.
We get a few low flying helicopters over our house back home. The hospital is very close and sometimes the pilots take a bit of a shortcut overhead. Those are little toys compared to the Blackhawk helicopters that are flying here day and night. Those suckers fly low and loud and in noisy pairs. When they come in over the trailer where I work, everything on the walls either rattles or flaps. I feel it very clearly in my chest. Is it bothersome? Yes, but I still want to run outside and watch them fly by every time.
All of our power comes from generators on base. Each one looks just like the kind shipping containers that you see unloading from cargo ships. In fact, guess they are shipping containers. They had to get here somehow. Those monsters run on diesel and make a humming sound when you are indoors. When outdoors, it sounds like you are riding on the front bumper of a tractor trailer truck. Of course, they point the fumes sideways instead of straight up so we can enjoy the smell as well as the full effects of the sound. The one that I hear the most is running the electricity in my workspace. I know this because several times an hour, I’ll hear the generator engine slow down. Two seconds later every computers battery backup will give off a single “BEEP”. It’s like they are talking to each other.
Then there is the mess hall, or DFAC (Dee-Fak). I know they had a competition in Spivey’s Corner, NC (home of the hollern’ world championships) to design a chair/floor combination that would maximize noise and irritation. I hope no animals were harmed in the testing because if so, there are so mighty irritated swine in Eastern NC these days. Those heavy metal chairs have a seat that percusses like rock drummer’s tom-tom. Soldiers must be drilled in the methods of moving chairs without the chair ever leaving the floor. I can see Lou Gossett yelling at Richard Gere now, “HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SIT IN THAT CHAIR WITH IT IN THE AIR BOY? YOU GET THAT CHAIR OUT AND GIVE ME 20, MAY-O-NAISE, AND i DON’T WANT TO BE ABLE TO HEAR NOTHIN WHEN YOU ARE DONE!” I promise you, Lou would be deaf as a stump after 20 reps.
Finally, the heat in this oasis has a noisy side-effect that is oh so American – the air conditioner. They are everywhere and they are loud. That make’s a lot of sense as they don’t get much of a break. The heat here is just incredible. First thing in the morning is just a little hot. I’ll break a little sweat walking the 50 yards from the showers to my trailer. When the sun finally comes up, then it’s really on. A temperature of 110 (which happens often) means over 140 in the sunshine and boy houdy does the sun shine. It’s a hot that you don’t get used to. It just keeps coming and coming. All you can do is get out of the way. When you feel it, you really understand that this is dangerous heat. Not taking it seriously means trouble, big trouble. So the air conditioners are always under a heavy load. I don’t even think a few of them have thermostats. No need since they never catch up.
To top it all off, I got a real audio treat last night. It was just short of midnight and I had a dream about riding in a car that had slammed on the breaks but wasn’t stopping and then I imagined that I was in my bed and a car was coming through the wall. About then I woke up enough to realize that my AC unit had decided to throw a bearing and start the most awful metal-on-metal screeching sound I’ve heard in many years. I little testing showed that the unit was on it’s last legs. I turned it off and by 3 am the heat was too much. I turned it back on and it did fine for about 10 degrees and 15 minutes and then Screeeeeeeech! I made it through till morning with that. If it’s not fixed tonight, I may be wishing for a bit more noise while I try to sweat and sleep.