The sensory overload was making my head spin, but I had to get control of the situation, so I stepped back for a second and just kinda laughed to myself. This is typical, I thought to myself. A typical meeting with a typical Iraqi self-appointed bigshot.
A few posts ago I wrote about the green sewer trench that has taken on a life of its own. Well, this trench is about to overflow and fill our little camp with its green goodness. Despite numerous phone calls to the local contractor responsible for emptying this trench, the level of green has continued to rise. Tired of calling and begging this company to do the work they are being paid for, I decided to pay them a visit in person. So, an Iraqi Major, Aussie major, translator and I hopped in our vehicles and made the 10 minute drive to the company. The scene that greeted us was expected - a fleet of "sucker" trucks sitting there unused, and a gaggle of people just milling around talking and smoking.
We walked inside the building into a large office that was bare except for a huge desk at the far end of the room, two couches on either side of the room near the door, a few plastic chairs on the opposite end of the room as the desk, and next to the chairs, a 20" TV. It was the TV that threatened to drive my sanity completely from my body.
We were ushered into this office, exchanged our standard greetings, and offered a seat at the far end of the room. I got the seat right next to the TV. So there we are, sitting, waiting for this guy to finish shuffling the papers on his desk and punching his calculator like it just insulted his mother. All the while, people are coming into the office to exchange shouts with this guy, then running back out. Add to all this the TV, which was at max volume. No kidding, the TV was so loud that when anyone on the show talked, the speakers buzzed. There were several other people waiting, although for what I don't know, because after about 5 minutes of this the head honcho looks at my Iraqi Major and says something. So them the two of them begin shouting in Arabic across the room. Neither made an attempt to get up - they were perfectly comfortable shouting at each other at the furthest possible distance they could get while in the same room. So now we have those two shouting, the guy on the TV bellowing in Arabic and buzzing like crazy, random people still running into the room to exchange yells, and my translator - who must have decided that whispering was the best way to convey to me what was going on, because I saw his lips moving, but I definitely didn't hear what the hell he was saying.
So I chuckled to myself, since this type of mass confusion isn't really that uncommon when conducting a meeting, at least from my experience here. At that point I got up, turned the TV down, motioned for my translator to follow, and stood by the guys desk. I'm thinking something about turning the TV down pissed this guy off, because all conversation ceased and he was just staring at the TV with his mouth slightly open. At this point my Iraqi Major also got up and came over to the guys desk, who decided that he'd better stand, too. We finally got control of the situation and convinced Mr. Bigshot that he needed to send more trucks. He barked some loud orders to no one in particular, and all of the sudden there were about 6 trucks lined up ready to come over to our site. As we were finishing up the conversation, another guy came in, went to the TV and jacked the volume back to its max, buzzing capacity. I couldn't have gotten out of there sooner. But, we got our trucks, which as my Aussie Major said, is the Duck's Guts*!
* I think that's Australian for good. If any of my Aussie readers wanna correct me, please do!