When Time Disappears

Shmulik is undergoing the hardest part of army service – the basic training. There is no leeway given to soldiers, no extras. Though the army watches them carefully…and watches out for them, they give the soldier the impression that they do not care, that the soldier is merely a part of a great machine.

This time around…I expected more from the army…and in return, the experience is worse. For a variety of reasons, this is coming harder for Shmulik than it was for Elie. This is actually funny because Shmulik went into the army in better physical condition. Years ago, when he was around 14, he was a bit pudgy (is that a word?). I wasn’t concerned because I was sure he would grow out of it as Elie had…as my husband had when he was the same age.

Not only did Shmulik grow very quickly, but he got in shape. He started exercising and strengthening his muscles. But more, he went on a diet and lost weight. So much so, that I was afraid he was too thin and took him to the doctor.

“How do you feel?” the doctor asked my son.

“Fine,” Shmulik answered. The doctor turned to me and asked what the problem was. I explained that he’d gone on a diet and lost weight…but I thought it was too much. He throws up sometimes, I explained, and I was getting nervous.

The doctor weighed him and measured him…and asked him if he was forcing himself to throw up. Shmulik looked a bit surprised at the idea and answered that he wasn’t…it just happened sometimes.

The doctor asked him what his favorite foods were. “I don’t know,” Shmulik said with some hesitation, “Pizza? Ice cream?”

“He’s normal,” said the doctor. “Leave him alone.”

That was years ago. Since then, Shmulik has been into exercise and food. He eats well, sometimes snacks too much, balances it out. I thought he’d sail through the army as Elie did. It isn’t happening.

So that’s the update on Shmulik, who is still complaining of headaches but is hopefully settling in and, in any event, coming home on Friday morning.

As for Elie, the explanations, the decompression continues. Yesterday came yet another really funny story. He was explaining how the army takes new soldiers out into the field. It simulates battle conditions – less food, less sleep. And, as part of this, it collects all of their watches. From the first, they are taught the importance of time…to the minute they are given tasks to do…and then suddenly, the minutes still count, but the time of day is gone. After a little while, they return the watches set to 12:00. They’ve already been out in the field for hours. They can’t tell any more what time it is. Time of day has no meaning…the hours blend together, the days. It is meant to confuse you, disorient you…and it probably worked…

well…sort of…once upon a time…

This is where modern technology defeats the old army way. The concept of taking the watches and resetting them was created at a time…when there were likely no cellular phones. Or, if there were…they made phone calls.

Apparently, the army overlooked this flaw in their logic when Elie’s group was taken out to the field and so they held onto this anchor. The goal of the army is to make you improvise, make you follow orders, but thinking is valued too.

I’d say that one went to the soldiers!

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