“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”
This is a story about the unexpected. It is set in a military context because that is how it actually happened. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, or perhaps in this case, to hide their embarrassment. But the story is true.
It happened many years ago in a land far, far away.
To set the scene, six men had managed to infiltrate into enemy territory and so were operating behind enemy lines. It was a dangerous place to be, of that there was no doubt. Any trace of them being uncovered would have meant capture by the opposing forces and at the very least a spell in prison – and probably a lot worse.
So the underlying tension was real and obvious. Everyone was on edge, always ready for the unexpected.
Of course, when I say, ‘always ready for the unexpected’, as well as being a bit of cliché, it is also a silly expression.
What you are really ready for when you think you are ready for the ‘unexpected’, are things that you ‘expect’ may happen. In this case that might have meant a civilian passing by ‘unexpectedly’, or an unscheduled enemy military patrol suddenly surfacing in the vicinity.
All of these things were the ‘unexpected’ that they were expecting might possibly happen and were ready for in so far as they had contingency plans made.
Back to the story.
The six men were split into three groups of two. They were dressed in civilian clothes, as workmen, so as not to look out of place should anyone see them when they were traveling to and from their destination.
Their task was to rendezvous at a certain predetermined point, groups two and three liaising with two sets of local people who they would lead to the meeting point. The task of the first group was to check out and secure the meeting place, and to open an entry point for the others.
The area that had been chosen was in a large fenced and gated complex that had been more or less abandoned. The lead group, who had acquired a non descript car, went directly there to check out the area and then to open a way in for the others who needed to be able to drive straight in and out of sight of the road when they arrived at the appointed hour.
The two men in the lead group arrived in good time and without challenge or incident. They made sure there was nothing out of the ordinary in the general area and then proceeded to the entry point.
As a cover for what they were really doing, one of the men started to prepare a lunch – just coffee and sandwiches – that he had brought with him. Carefully, and where anyone could see them, he laid out the lunch boxes on the roof of the car, along with a flask and two plastic cups. They were simple workers who had stopped for a bite to eat and anyone passing by would be able to see clearly what they were doing. Nothing out of the ordinary or suspicious about that.
The other guy in the team, using the cover of the parked car, was busy removing the lock and chains from the gate, which he managed to do quickly and without any difficulty.
Although the whole thing had an air of calm and normality, the two men knew where they were and the risks involved and were therefore suitably tense as a result.
The guy drinking the coffee and eating the sandwich was doing so whilst keeping a careful watch on everything happening around him, including how his colleague was fairing with the gate.
Then the unexpected, unexpected unexpectedly happened.
As his colleague opened the gate it made a few creaking noises, but it opened okay and he began to push it back to leave the way open for the others who would soon be arriving in their vans.
Just as the gate reached 90 degrees from its closed position, suddenly, without any warning whatever, there was a loud rustling noise in the long grass behind it.
The guy standing beside it froze.
The unexpected he had been trained to expect was an enemy soldier secreted in the long grass waiting to ambush him and his colleague. But this was something else.
Again before he had time to react, whatever it was bounded out of the grass, first directly towards him and then making an almost instant left turn and disappearing. The suddenness of the movement towards him made him start. He lost his balance and fell backwards on to the ground, his unusual movement startling his colleague at the car.
There was coffee everywhere but in the cups, and sandwiches everywhere but in the lunchbox, as guy number two instinctively abandoned his meal and took cover behind the car, reaching for his weapon at the same time.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” the man at the gate told him urgently, but in a loud whisper, scared that he would open fire and alert anyone within hearing distance.
“WTF is it?” the man at the car asked back, equally urgently, in an equally loud whisper.
“I don’t know, an animal, just an animal,” came the reply. “I think it was a hare or something like that.”
“FFS you idiot, you scared the shit out of me, and I damn nearly shot at whatever it was. How could you fall on your ass because of a hare?”
There was no reply. None was needed. Time was pressing and they soon gathered their wits again – and what was left of the sandwiches.
Soon the others arrived. The rest of the mission, whatever it was, went without further incident and when it was done they all left as if they had never been there.
Even the best trained men and the best laid plans can never cater for the truly unexpected, unexpected.
And in case you are wondering, the answer is ‘Yes’, from that day on the poor bloke was subjected to ‘hare on his ass’ jokes – which I suppose was to be expected!