We spent the last three weeks at Bislamach training for a Tarpal Achzariot– a platoon-wide drill featuring armored personnel carriers. Achzariot transfer soldiers into territories to engage enemy forces. They’re also wonderful for simulating what life was like in the womb. Except for the driver, machine gunner, and the commander who pokes his head out the top and directs the driver using phrases like ‘left,’ ‘right,’ ‘sharp left,’ ‘sharper left’ and ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?,’ no one has any idea where we are, how far we’ve gone, how much longer, if we just ran over something, or if we just ran over someone.
Here, check one out:
Since I’m already a Negevist (more on that during another post) while my friends get assigned to cool courses like GPS, mortar, joystick-controlled machine gun, radio, and driving, I’m designated a “mishmish” for the week- an acronym for Mitbach and Shmira- which is great if you enjoy such activities as not being mentally stimulated and/or losing your mind.
So between shifts of staring at sand and scrubbing down industrial pans, I imagine myself busting through the dunes, storming out and taking down one of Israel’s arch-nemeses. My irrational thought process was kinda like this: Achzari= “cruel” in hebrew. Cruel in the army= badass. Badass = awesome. Thus, Achzariot are going to be awesome. After some practice drills in one however, I was starting to take that back.
Here are some memorable lines to give you a better taste:
“WHY ARE YOU DRIVING LIKE IT’S AN F-16!!!!!” – Me to my driver, Farchi.
“Oh uhhh yea sorry I can’t really see outside so well…” – My driver, Farchi
“Meir, give me your night vision goggles I can’t see where we’re going”- My Commander, Tzion
“@#$%*!!!!” – Everyone, after the fourth skull-thumping bump experienced in 3 minutes.
“AD MATAIIIIIII!!!!!” Everyone, always.
Since I’m a Negevist, I sit in the back and jump out first to provide cover fire for the other guys. But since there’s also an instructor along, I now have no seat. So there we go and there I am, tachat wedged between a jagged wall and the grated floor, desert heat frying my nostrils, my legs ready for childbirth, head see-sawing, eyes sanding up, life umbilically reliant on an 18 year old who can’t see the road and doesn’t have a license.
And then it happens.
Earlier, after riding Kingda Ka for the 6th time in practice, I was feeling pretty squeamish. 3 liters of water later I’m good to go. Until we start the Tarpal.
Approximately 19 minutes in I start to feel it. It’s bad. The bouncing, shifting, and uncertainty are only making it worse.
Meir: “Hey Liron,” I call to my friend relaying radio messages, “could you ask Tzion how much longer until we jump out? I really have to pee.”
Liron, over the reserved-for-combat-related-things radio: “Tzion, how much longer till ‘action’………. he says about half an hour.”
Meir: “Half and hour!? I’m not going to be able to make it.”
Liron: “Try to hold it in.”
Meir: “Dude I can’t, I have to go. REALLY BADLY.”
Every guy traveling anywhere has been here. As it stands, peeing in a bottle is the most humane and suggestible solution to this predicament. Well, at least for Americans.
Liron, over the reserved-for-combat-related-things radio: “Tzion, Meir has peepee dachuf, and he wants to know if he can pee in a bottle.”
Tzion, over the reserved-for-combat-related-things radio: HE SHOULD PEE ON ALL OF YOU, STOP WASTING MY TIME WITH THESE RETARDED QUESTIONS!!!
Ten minutes later…
Meir: OK that’s it I’m doing it.
Everyone: NO! DON’T!
Meir: GUYS I CANT!!! ANI LO YACHOL L’HITAPEK!!!
Shifron: But what are you gonna do with it afterwards?
Meir: Save it for now and throw it out when I get a chance- why is this so complicated?
Dudi: YOU’RE GONNA SAVE IT!?
Amit: WHAT IF IT GETS ALL OVER US!?
Meir: Oh my G-d relax it won’t this is so not a big deal just-
Liron: PREPARE FOR ACTION!!! PREPARE FOR ACTION!!!
The back ramp opens and I squeeze my way towards the exit, readying myself for the outburst.
I surge outside, bullets flying to my left, my new-born udder bobbing in concert with my Negev. I dive down into position and start letting it fly. But while my gun’s cruising on automatic, my bladder’s still overdriving on manual.
“ADVANCING FORWARD!!!” I hear Tzion yell.
That’s it. It’s too much. I can’t. Just- damn it. Damn it! Fine! I’ll keep going I’ll keep-
Emitting a primal scream that Marv would shep nachas from I sprint-waddle up a hill towards the next position.
“Way to give rabak Meir! Kol Ha Kavod, says Bibi, on the right.
“PUT ME BACK ON KITCHEN DUTY!!!!” I wail.
But after three advancements I actually can’t hold it in anymore. So with a quick glance around, still in shooting position, I swing behind a bolder and as fast as humanly possible let it all out.
While I’m busy calling a 20 second timeout, the rest of the guys are advancing or waiting on me to.
Tzion: MEIR!! WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU??!!
Meir: “On the way!!!”
I beast up the next hill and plop myself down next to Shifron, my sharpshooter.
“What’s with you? Why are you smiling?” he asks, apparently taken aback by a facial expression usually reserved for situations that are not highly-tiring, nausea-inducing combat drills.
The last three weeks flash back before my eyes: 9 hours straight at the dishwasher, sleeping like sardines with all our gear on, going days without showering or seeing my phone, flying through the midbar in cramped steel boxes, and now this- sneaking a number one during our most important exercise to date using them. “If only you knew,” I grin back, reflecting still.
“Oh if only you knew.”