Just A Map

I don’t want to get saddled with what I’m sure is annoying extra work.  But I’m inclined to volunteer as the point-guy for other incoming clinic staff.  Really, helping newbies does not require an advanced degree; just some advance thought.

Within the first two minutes of stepping on the ground in Baumholder, any new professional should be given 3 simple things: A local cell phone, already charged with minutes and a battery, a list of 5 important phone numbers (boss, clinic, sponsor, hotel manager, inprocessing office)…and a map.

Actually, forget the rest.  Just a map.

Army bases – for the uninitiated – tend to dominate the neighborhood.  It isn’t as if the place just mixes into the typical downtown city neighborhood, “Hmmm, an Indian spice store…Iranian kebabs….electronics store…BAUMHOLDER ARMY GARRISON….a falafel stand.”

No.  The place is HUGE.  You can’t walk across it in less that a few hours.  And my base is considered small.  Really, most active Army bases span square miles.

Buried somewhere in all those acres are things like a bank, a grocery store (that takes good-‘ol US money), a thrift store where we can get cheap books for my 9 year old reading addict, restaurants, libraries (also for the addict), a post office, and about a thousand other things we REALLY need.

But all of it is spread out over 39 square miles and NOBODY knows how to tell you where to go to get what you need.  They just know.  Like monarchs and grey whales and sea turtles and cats who got lost in a cross-country move…they just know.

Thus, one great triumph the other day was finding the “housing office”:

“HI!  Wow!  I’m so proud of myself.  I found your office.”

“We’re all cheering for you.  Ecstasy.”

“I’m looking for a house in the area.”

“Gimme your orders.”

“Ummm…I’m a civilian.”

“Civilian?  We don’t service them.”

*Sigh*  “Seriously?  Everyone told me you were the ones to help me with this little housing-for-6 problem I have.”

“We don’t service civilians.”

“Right.  Heard that.  Thanks for elaborating.  Well, so as to prevent this from becoming a TOTAL loss since I rented a car to get here, maybe you can help me find a map of the base.  It took me 3 days just to find you.”

“A map?”

“Right.  You know, a miniaturized cartographic scale drawing of the place where we currently work?”

“We don’t service civilians.”

“But.  A map.  Just a map.”

“Oooohhhh.  A map.  Hmmmmm.  Let’s see.  Well, you need to go to the LRP office.”

“Never mind what the acronym is.  Where is that?”  (Since we don’t have a map, which could effectively end this conversation)

“You have to cross the river, well actually first go out of the security gate 4, show your ID and travel certificate, then cross the river, but actually that’s after you pass the golf course, then get your – do you have a clearance 9 tool? – well, anyway, then you take the hovercraft to docking station 33, point your serial wand to frequency mmXB22IB, then EJECT! EJECT! EJECT!, traverse the powerlines, and avoid the ordinance field…then you should see the office in the distance if the smog index is below 44.  Once you get to the office, you’ll need to – since you’re a civilian – petition the colonel to write you an exception letter and they should be able to provide you with a microfiche of a Baumholder map…although it will be from 1944 when it was used by the German SS.”

“Thanks so much!  That will be VERY helpful!”

“No problem we don’t service civilians.”

Later, I told someone at the clinic that I got zero help at the housing office.

“They didn’t give you a nice book filled with color pictures of available houses, their locations and the prices?”

“They didn’t seem too happy to ‘service’ civilians, which, frankly, wasn’t exactly my desire either.”

“Ooohhhh, you went to the on-base housing office.”

“Yep.  Said ‘Housing Office’ on the door.  Everybody said, “Go to the ‘housing office’ and all of your wildest dreams will come true.  So, I was just taking a leap of faith on the exactness of the words between what I was told – ‘housing office’ – and what was on the door, which read – if I remember correctly – ‘housing office’.”

“Oh.  You needed to go to the OFF BASE Housing office.”

“Good to know.  Next time I rent a car so I can get around on the base, I’ll try to find that office instead.  Or, in 10 words or less, can you tell me where that office is?”

“Sure.  It’s directly upstairs from the on-base housing office.”


You can laugh about this stuff, or let it drive you crazy.

So far, we’re laughin’.

One thought on “Just A Map

  1. No, no, really — I’m laughing *with* you!

    This brings back memories of life as a military brat. Being attacked by an MP’s guard dog, aptly named Tarzan. (That’s what I got for being out of the house after curfew, in a country under martial law.) Getting pulled over for going 17 mph in a 15 zone, and having the ticket delivered, not to my Dad, but to his commanding officer. (The shame, the shame…)

    Off-base housing, on-base housing, housing allowances, map, whatsamap, sir, yessir, no sir… it’s not exactly a fun life. Hang in there.


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