Update: Andy went too.
The missus and I were having a nice breakfast at the market when I received The Call. To complete my morning, some asshat stole our Sunday papers from the chair, when I was buying her food and she wasn't looking. What kind of loser steals the Sunday Times? (Maybe he wanted to read the Sumiko blog piece.)
Anyway, we finished up, and I went home to change into my Number 4 and grab my full pack. The smses started to fly between Eric, Calvin, Andrew and me, my reservist posse.
The wife watched me get into my Number 4 pants and remarked, "You can still fit into that pants meh?"
"Ya lah," I grunted, buttoning the final button with slight difficulty, "it's a new pair".
I hunted around for my Gore-tex boots (best buy from the E-store, I feel) and found my boot blousing garters inside them.
It was a long drive to the reporting centre, a good 40 clicks for me, to a part of Singapore I have only seen less than five times. They moved the car park to some muddy and rocky sand pit, instead of the usual side road, probably because it was easier for the tonners to pick us up. The old lane was so narrow that tonners had to do a tricky three-point turn to get out. But the new place was not so kind to non-military vehicles like ours. The mud and sand are going to be a bitch to wash off later.
The tonner we got on seemed higher than usual. I thought it was because we were out of shape which is why we found it harder to climb up. But later I found out it was a five-tonner they used, not the old three-tonner. The NSF driver told us to put on our seat belts before he drove off, and we all looked surprised, glancing left and right and discovering that there were indeed seat belts on this ride. Wah, so safety culture, army is nowadays. So what do the men who have to sit on the floorboard use for safety, I wondered, or do they not pack the tonners to the brim anymore?
Terz smsed me to say that Ondine's hubby Dan was also kena mob. Veteran soldier-boy and poster-boy for Mindef smsed "Go go brown power ranger!" (the bugger, heheh). Daryl, who got mobbed during the Blogger Con, sent his sympathies.
Met Nick there, who was with HQ, and told him about the New Man magazine mention of his blog and mine. We Maintenance Coy guys were all happy to see each other again, some we recognised by name, some we recognised by face. A few of them said with groans that they were heading for Thailand for their next call-up. Eric and Calvin made it early (because they live in the West nearer the camp), so they left soon after I arrived.
All the men had their white reporting stickers on, to show what time they arrived from M hour. Mine said M+3, three hours after the mobilisation started. I arrived just five minutes after M+2, so I had to hang around for a while.
We chatted about our kids and work, laughed over previous exercises and ICTs. Many of us were not young punks anymore, most were in our thirties, with a wife and kid (or kids). Andrew came late because he had to send his wife to the airport for a business trip, so he was with the M+4 lot. He had to take over the reporting table from a fellow reservist Sergeant leaving with the M+3 lot. Reservist also have to self-service.
When Andrew saw me, the father of a 21-month-old son laughed and said, "You famous now ah? I see you all over the news! Haha!" I brushed it off with a wave and he said, "Ya lor, you have been doing this online thing for what, seven years now?"
"Eight," I said, with a laugh.
"You not hot with that T-shirt inside, ah, Lee?" said one of the blokes.
"No lah, don't wear the T-shirt will feel more uncomfortable, nothing to soak up the sweat, haha!" I replied.
"Once in a while we must sweat a bit and smell this countryside air, ha? So come here this ulu camp is good for us! Hahaha!" he retorted. We all laughed.
I climbed up the departing tonner and sat next to the tail board, fiddling with the seat belt and taking some photos. Our tonner drove past another tonner going the other way, towards the camp, kicking up a mini yellow sand storm. Countryside air, my ass. One of guys sitting near the tail board in the other tonner smiled and gestured "What's up?" at me, and I grinned, my face with a "go home liao lor" look, waving a sardonic goodbye to him.
I bumped into Dan at the "car park", who said, "I'm Ondine's husband" (even in reservist we are known by our blogs, or our wives' blogs) and he told me he got the Thailand golden arrow.
Dan drove off in his Ford Focus, and my car rattled over the stones and mud to join the other cars moving off. The tonner that brought us here stood at the training shed, waiting to take the next batch of men climbing out of their cars in their Number 4s.
Men like us, citizen soldiers for a few hours on a hot and lazy Sunday afternoon.
My little Flickr set here.