After another good meal the at the Taji DFAC, I walked outside with my friends Alex and Dave to discover that my bike was stolen from the bike rack I left it in. I didn’t lock it up before going into the mess hall because I had left it out there every night for the last few weeks and no one messed with it. That night was the first night I went to dinner a little late, when it was already dark, and the thief took advantage of the darkness. The bike only cost me $20 second hand from another soldier, so it certainly wasn’t a financial disaster. But I was angry both with the thief and with myself because my mother had just sent me a bike lock to use. Shrugging it off, I walked back to work and was then made the butt of several jokes amongst my fellow officers.
The same night, my spirits were lifted by the delivery of two care packages—one from my father and another from my Uncle’s friend at Unilever. Since I didn’t want to carry them the half mile back to my barracks, I decided to drop them off using our beat-up old John Deere Gator utility vehicle. I brought the two boxes out to the Gator, absentmindedly dropped them in the open bed in the back, and began fumbling in the dark with the lock on the steering wheel. I drove back to the barracks, got out of the vehicle to get my two boxes, but realized that there was only one box in the back! One must have fallen out. Oh, no. I immediately retraced my path, keeping an eye out for a cardboard box lying around in the dirt, but found none. How could this have happened? It must have fallen out on one of the many sand bag speed bumps or on a sharp turn I made. Having confidence that someone must have seen the box in the 2 minutes I was gone and picked it up in a good natured gesture to later return to me, I wrote the box off as lost only for the night.
One week later, I still have not seen my Dad’s care-package. The pretzels and cookies in it are probably long gone, having found their way through some other soldier’s digestive track. If all of this dishonesty in one night seems improbable, I’ll give the soldiers on Taji the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Explosive Ordnance Disposal found the box, considered it a suspicious package, and blew the thing to bits? But having not seen any singed wet wipes, cookie crumbs, or pieces of the Bergen Record newspaper laying anywhere along route I took that night, I have to admit that the suspicious package explosion thing probably didn’t happen. In the meantime, I hope that the unhealthy cookies cause a serious bout of digestive complications for the person(s) who took my box, and perhaps contribute in a small way to the growth of a second chin.
After having spent a day checking out every bike that I saw (Taji isn’t that big, after all) and eyeing all bike riders as possible suspects, I went to dinner with my friends. On my way in to the mess hall, I took a quick look at the bikes in the rack. One on the right side was the same shape and style as mine; only it was spray-painted completely white. Upon closer inspection, I blurted out to my friends, “This is my bike.” I spent the next few minutes noticing all the identical features, including the Krypton headlight I recently installed, the identical brand name, blue color (underneath the shoddy spray paint job), helmet, gear shifter stuck in one gear, seat tilted too high upward in the front, etc. I could also see spray paint marks on the tires, indicating that the spray job was very recent. It was my bike. I couldn’t believe it. I waited outside at a distance for a while to confront the person who might lay claim to the bike but no one walked over to it. I was hungry so I brought the bike to the mess hall’s guard shack to have the guards look after it while I ate, so the thief may have walked out and saw the bike missing and took off. The sheer stupidity of placing the bike in the same rack with such a shoddy paint job leads me to believe that the person either 1) slept on it and reconsidered what a dumb idea it was to steal a bike on an Army base, 2) found out it was a bad bike (the brakes stink and the gears don’t shift), or 3) felt bad about it and left it in the same rack for me to find on my way to dinner. Either way, I sleep here at Camp Taji with the knowledge that a share with this base with at least one moron.
Here is what my bike looks like now. I acutally kinda like the new color scheme. Thanks man!