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Speaking of water, indoor plumbing was one of those things that was always iffy when living on a deployed military base. Water for bathing could be hard to come by on some of the smaller or remote bases. “Baby wipes baths” were pretty standard and were lovingly dubbed other, less PG-rated names (think of synonyms that might rhyme with bore or booker—sorry, Grandma).

At big bases, though, they had shower and toilet trailers, with separate ones for males and females. They were often giant, metal boxes, so in the summer when it was ten gajillion degrees outside, the worry was not getting enough hot water, but making sure you didn’t bake inside. They ran on generators which went down from time to time, but were usually fixed in a couple hours.

On one bright, sunny, exceptionally hot day while at FOB Warhorse in Iraq, I ran to grab a quick shower after a mission. The generators seemed to know I had a meeting to get to and so nicely shut off. I danced around in my shower shoes for a moment, and then decided to go over to the living area next to mine and use the female shower there. I had never done so, but I knew they had one and could see their power was up.

I went over–the trailer there was working and empty, which is always nice. I took my shower, dried off, and had managed to climb into my underwear when the door opened.

A soldier walked in. Of the male variety. He glanced at me, and then a cartoonish slow-motion scene ensued, where he processed what he’d just seen, stopped mid-step, turned scarlet, whirled around, and fled, eyes glued to the floor and obviously terrified.

With good reason. Deployed women tend to be viewed as sexual harassment cases waiting to happen, and some can be pretty sensitive about inappropriate comments or actions. If I was the hyper-sensitive type or quick to take offense and then report it, that guy could have been in some serious trouble. But I found it kind of funny since it clearly wasn’t intentional, no harm was done, and he’d looked so scared.

Though I suppose the shock of seeing a female in nothing but her underwear for the first time in nine months may have explained some of his reaction too. I almost felt bad for him.

When I walked out of the trailer, there were a couple of soldiers lounging nearby, waiting to see what had caused their buddy to panic and trying not to laugh. When I asked mildly if they’d seen a guy just take off out of the shower, they started to snicker. One nodded and explained between giggles that no females lived over here, so when the men’s shower was full, they just used the women’s. I grinned, then told them that when they saw the guy who’d gone running, to let him know that I was sorry, and I wasn’t mad.

“Besides, he looked more embarrassed than I was.”

The two were rolling now. “Yeah he was. He’s never gonna live this down.”