Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Army Stories: An adventure in baby sitting

This is a story that happened while I was at my first permanent duty station at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne Division. At the time, I was assigned to a the headquarters company of a transportation battalion as the personal driver for the executive officer. As far as army jobs go, this was about as close to a 9-to-5 as you're liable to find, with a minimum of weekends and late nights.
One Saturday, my roommate, a guy from Chicago named Tobias, and I were hanging around our barracks room when there was a knock on the door. It was a woman we worked with and she was kind of frantic. "Hey you guys. I have some stuff to do. Can you watch my son for a few hours? Thanks!". The whole exchange lasted less than a minute and when it was over, she was gone and we were in charge of a baby. You're probably wondering why she would just show up at our door and leave her child. I was wondering that too. It turns out she had previously asked Tobias and he had said yes and forgotten about it. I told him, "I haven't known you that long but I'm pretty sure that's the dumbest thing you've ever done." He didn't argue.
We put the baby on a bed (after arguing over whose...his, since it was fault...and then only after putting down a heavy layer of additional blankets) and tried to figure out what to do.
"Now what?"
"I don't know. What do you think?"
"We could put on a movie and give it something to eat."
"It's a baby, not a first date."
"Well, it's gonna get hungry and thirsty and start crying. We gotta give it something."
"Then we're in deep shit because we have no food and no beverages without alcohol."
"Well, ideally we just want it to go to sleep for a while..."
"Don't. Just...don't"
"It's not crying yet. Maybe it won't."
"Yes it will."
"What if it poops?"
"She said she'd only be a few hours. It should be able to hold it that long."
"Look at the way it's eyes follow you when you walk around the room. That's so creepy."
"We need milk. I'll go get some"
"No, you can't go."
"Why not?"
"Because I know you won't come back."
"Look, neither of us is equipped to feed this baby if it gets hungry. You know what I mean?"
"Yeah, I know what you mean. I'm not equipped for this situation at all. I'm a 19-year-old single guy living in Clarksville, Tennessee. This should be the greatest time of my life. I didn't have to join the army to get stuck wasting my weekend babysitting."
"Let's just calm down. This is a volatile situation. If it sees us arguing, it's liable to to start crying."
"You're right. We shouldn't fight. For the baby's sake."
Realizing that we were completely in over our heads, we went door to door in our barracks seeking help. the only people who answered their door did so to laugh at us. They were unmoved by the plight of this poor child in peril. Eventually, one person, a woman, agreed to at least consider helping us. "Just because I'm a woman doesn't automatically mean I'm equipped to be a mother", she said. I told her I knew that. We weren't asking for her help because she was a woman, but because nobody else would. I don't think that made her feel good about it but she accepted it. "I'll go get some baby food and some disposable diapers. I won't do the feeding and I won't change any diapers but I will help you do it. This also the only time I will ever enter your room. Fair enough?" We both eagerly agreed and she made us give her money for the supplies. "This will be good training for you guys", she said as she left for the PX.
In the end, with her help and calming influence, we were able to survive the four hour ordeal with a minimum of crying and expulsion of fluids, most of which came from me and Tobias.

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