I gave up a long time ago pretending that I had any sense of direction. Without 11,000 foot mountains to orient me in my home town, I'm totally lost.
Last night I ventured into the compound to do a little Christmas shopping. Otherwise known as Hill Air Force Base. I get nervous going through the check point. I don't know why. It's not like I have anything to hide. I have the proper military stickers on my car. I have my current military ID, except for the last time that Matt and I went up to the base. I had forgotten my wallet and they wouldn't let me on the base. I had to sit in one of the checkpoint buildings while he went in. I was deemed unworthy to set foot on the hallowed ground.
I'm on the base. Driving around in the dark. I have a vague memory of where the BX is (base exchange for you lay folk). I drive up to it and it's no longer there. It's some building that I don't even recognize. I drive past it 4, maybe 5 times to really make sure it's not the BX. I need help. I drive back to the checkpoint to ask for directions. The heavily armed guard gives me an address followed by a ma'am. I tell him that I have no idea where that would be in the daylight, let alone in the dark. He then precedes to tell me directions. This is an approximation of what he told me.
"Ma'am. First-you-take-Hill-Field-Road-directly-north. You'll-see-an-intersection. Don't-turn-there. Turn-left-at-the-IPC-building. Take-your-second-right-at-the-CPC-unit-and-then-turn-left-on-F-street. Go-over-the-river-and-through-the-woods. Past-the-big-airplane. Not-the-really-big-airplane-but-just-the-big-airplane. There-will-be-a-formation-of-tanks. Turn-at-the-tanks. You'll-see-the-FMYSE-square. You-have-to-turn-left-before-you-get-there. Drive-through-the-Med-Tac-tunnel. If-you-find-yourself-at-the-commissary-you've-gone-too-far. Turn-around-and-just-follow-the-directions-in-reverse. Ma'am"
There very big on the ma'am in the military. And acronyms.
I have no idea what he is talking about so of course I pretend to totally understand everything he has said and I take off on the only direction I remember. Head north on Hill Field Road. Why you ask? Because being on the Air Force base I always feel a little intimidated. We aren't Air Force. We are only Army. We're like the Air Force's backwoods cousin they are afraid is going to embarrass them at a family get together.
I drive around for another 10 minutes. Past the old BX to make sure it's still not there and then I find myself at the Shoppette. What's a Shoppette? It's the equivalent of a gas station/convenience store on a base. I ask a very nice airman (they aren't soldiers, they are airman in the Air Force) if he can tell me where the BX is. He tells me that it's across the street from the old BX.
Why couldn't the guard have told me that? I guess he figured if I wanted to go to the BX I had to work for it. I head back over to the old BX and sure enough, across the street, hidden by some trailers, is the new BX. I found it. It only took being told three times! Not bad.
The thing about bases, at least to me, is there is no rhyme or reason to them. The street names, if there are even names, are totally confusing. Sometimes the streets are named after the buildings on them. Or the units that are headquartered on that street. All the buildings look the same. Brick, tan, square. Maybe this is to confuse the enemy if they ever make it on base. I can tell you it does a good job of confusing me.
I shop. I stand in long lines. I save. Mostly stand in long lines though. It was a very exciting trip. What should have taken me 45 minutes takes me almost two hours. I hope on Christmas morning my kids appreciate what Santa went through for them.