Reveille

One of the hardest things about the work down here is the regimented schedule. In my normal life, I hit the sack somewhere between midnight and one AM. I often read in bed a little, either at night or sometimes in the morning when I wake up. I usually get up around 9 a.m., take my shower, turn on NPR, have some breakfast and spend about half an hour reading the paper. I usually start working around 10. Pretty relaxed way to start the day, and it’s one of the main reasons I’m a freelancer.

The situation here is totally different. The lights come on in our “barracks” at 6 a.m., which is pretty damn early. Some people talk about how wonderful it is to start the day fresh and early; me, I find it depressing to wake up when it’s still pitch dark outside. Anyway, we’re supposed to show up at the kitchen around 8, so depending on whether or not I took my shower the night before, that leaves me very little time to hit the Port-a-Potty, struggle awake, dress, and eat breakfast, before hustling out the door for the shuttle. No personal time, no reading the paper; it’s a Red Cross world and I’m just living in it.

My ERV is on one of the longer routes, as we leave the kitchen at about 10 in the morning and don’t come back to base until 7:30 or so. And we’re working pretty much all that time, humping Cambros and snacks on and off the truck, driving around, serving food, re-supplying, and doing the whole process over again for supper. Once we’re back at the kitchen at the end of the day, it’s about an hour of cleaning the ERV and preparing it for the next day’s run (as well as helping other ERVs get squared away). Invariably, I catch the last shuttle back to SeaBee base, and often don’t get here until 8:30 or 9. Barely enough time to talk with folks at dinner, read a book, or check my email (when the Internet is working, which is rarely), before lights-out at 10 PM sharp.

So that’s a 12-hour day — every day — with one, maybe two days off in three weeks. Sometimes I think my value to the Red Cross is simply that I am a human machine, able to carry out orders every day. I often question at the beginning of a day whether I’ll be able to make it through, and yet I always do. I’m tired. I’m tired of being tired. But it means something to know there’s a bunch of other folks in the same boat, and that the people we’re helping truly do appreciate it.

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About joshcomix
Brooklyn-based cartoonist specializing in nonfiction comics about topics like Hurricane Katrina, the media, travel, and finance.

8 Responses to Reveille

  1. man_size says:

    This is the hardest part. Towing the line sans infraction. I do not envy you. Chin up, unselfish one.

    • 4_eyez says:

      yeah, you’d have a tough time down here. no drinking, no drugs, no nudity, no sexual activity: those are the official rules.
      thanks for your call earlier. sorry i couldn’t talk, but i had just done a TV interview with fox news from kentucky/southern indiana, and was rattling down highway 90 still getting the ERV ready for our dinner feeding run

      • man_size says:

        Having just experienced a LOST weekend [literally — SBX and I watched season one in 2-days] and catching up with season 2 via downloads off the internet, I can’t help but wonder if I would be Sawyer, Hurly, or Lock [gosh – I wish Lock] in a sit-com version of The Red Cross.
        TV interview? Boy howdy.

      • 4_eyez says:

        dude, you’d NEVER be Locke. you’re too uptight. you’re definitely more the Sawyer type. chip on your shoulder and sexy with the ladies.
        me, i’m Jack, the reluctant leader!
        i miss my show! i’ve taped all three episodes i’ve missed, so don’t give anything away!!!

      • man_size says:

        You’re right. Mike Hueston would be Locke. You’re totally Jack and I’m Sawyer. LOST is so FRESH!

      • 4_eyez says:

        i’m glad you finally came around to the experience. warren cohen has been gobbling up my copy of the DVD of last season as well, and he is now lost to the real world too.

  2. alibi_shop says:

    Something I’ve been wondering: how the hell do you find time to write all this? Is an amanuensis following you around taking dictation?

    • 4_eyez says:

      i wish i had one of them amanu, er, ammanu, er — what you said!
      no, actually, i carry my laptop around in a little backpack like a total dork, and whenever i have five free minutes (like after lights-out, like right now; or riding in the back of the ERV on the way to our lunch feeding “staging” area), i try to take notes or craft an entry. then, if i’m lucky, i get internet access and i can post something.

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