HELP OR DIE : THE NEPAL EARTHQUAKE RELIEF JOURNAL
DAY TWENTY SEVEN : JUST CALL ME TL
‘Dick you’re team leader today.’ Said Tom over breakfast.
‘What? Why? How?’
‘Well I’m leaving in a few days and you will be here another two months, so it makes sense to have you be team leader.’
‘That doesn’t make much sense to me.’
‘It’s not that hard, trust me just give it a shot.’
I had never aspired to be an authority figure, perhaps out of the fear that I would enjoy it too much and become the kind of psychopathic tyrant that would make my parents proud. I was reminded of an old Arabic curse that I had heard one time:
May you become everything that you hate.
‘Is there someone else?’ I asked.
‘Maran is keen to do it but she leaves in two weeks.’
Nothing against Maran but in the short time we had spent together, I realized that there were seven billion people in the world, some you would get along with, others you wanted to bury under a mound of rock and mud to quell the sound of their screeching voice.
‘So Dick. Team Leader yeah?’ Said Tom.
‘Yeah. Fuck it.’
I had to give it a shot, otherwise Maran would be team leader and I didn’t trust her. She’d mentioned several times how badly she wanted to be team leader, how she loved bossing people around and that wasn’t someone I wanted in a position of power over me. It was time to be a man, step up to the plate and be blackmailed into accepting the awesome responsibility that came with being the team leader of rubble. I would be a reluctant leader, the kind of leader who didn’t want to be a leader but was forced into it because there wasn’t anyone else around who wanted to do it, much like Bruce Willis in Die Hard 4.
‘Alright. What do I have to pretend to do?’
‘First things first, you gotta organize all the tools in the morning. And get people moving on time- oops the shitters free… Excuse me one moment.’ Tom said, getting up to go to the toilet while he had the chance. I looked over at Shooked, who was dawdling on his smart phone while slowly spooning oatmeal into his mouth at a relaxed pace.
‘Right… Shooked, hurry up with breakfast, we’re supposed to be leaving in ten minutes.’ I said sharply. Shooked languidly smiled at me, the pace of his morning rituals remaining unchanged.
‘Ah… You fell for the first lie of management.’
‘What’s the first lie of management?’
‘You took the position seriously. Like any of it matters.’
‘Shit man. You’re totally right. I just took my role seriously then. I mean I really did just believe that I was team leader for a split second then. Hey thanks for that, I owe you one.’ The old Arabic curse floated up in my head again.
‘No problem… But come on man — Team leader? What is that? Just a fancy name for a middle management job no one else wants to do. You’re no better than me. We both get paid the same. Nothing. The only perk you get is you can sit in the front seat of the jeep if you’re that desperate to feel like you’re more special than the rest of us.’
‘You’re right. You’re so right… It’s all a lie. Thanks for that Shooked.’
‘No problem.’ Said Shooked coolly, sipping on his coffee.
‘Okay well, I guess I will just uhh… Sit back down then.’ I sat back down and let time pass.
Tom returned from the toilet.
‘How come nothing has been loaded? We’re supposed to be on the road by now.’
‘Oh uh… The first lie of management… And I don’t want to like infringe on anyone’s individual free will or nothing…’
‘Well that’s all good and well, but it costs the organization $25 bucks a day to take care of each of you lot so you should probably get your act together and do the work you signed up to do.’
‘Uhh yeah I guess you’re right…Wait a minute- I’m team leader, aren’t I in charge here?’
Tom shoved the tool list in my hand.
‘Get these in the car.’ He said.
I looked over the tool list and grabbed everything that we needed and loaded it into the jeep then returned to my crew. I was their leader. It was my role to tell them what to do, even if telling people what to do clashed with my personal beliefs.
‘Okay guys haha… Can we like umm hurry it along a bit? I mean only if you want…’ I said to everyone at the breakfast table. No one looked up.
‘Someone else can sit in the front seat if they want, I’m not special, just like you guys.’
Nothing. It was as if they did not acknowledge my authority in the slightest.
‘Fine then, if we’re late, then we won’t be able to work for as long in the hot draining sun at the insect infested worksite.’
Hmmm maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. I thought.
‘Actually guys, I guess I should… Just sit back down again. Take your time. I’m in charge now so let’s run things at my pace. This is afterall a democracy.’
No one said anything. I wasn’t even sure if anyone was listening to me. I sat back down. Tom returned to the table looking annoyed. ‘Get in the fucking car now you fucking assholes.’ Everyone dutifully obeyed.
We headed up to a new site, a primary school belonging to a lower caste fishing community. To get there, we had to walk uphill for about half an hour through farmlands, dense jungle and the remains of many collapsed houses, loaded up with four wheelbarrows, 5 square shovels, 4 sharp nosed shovels, 3 picks, 2 mallets, 2 rock bars, a medkit, a toolbox, and 40 litres of water.
It sucked ass.
Eventually we got to the site. It was six ex-classrooms that were now six huge mounds of compacted dirt and rocks of various sizes piled high within the structures as well as all around them.
‘Damn… That’s a lot of rubble…’ Said Shooked.
‘It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I’m team leader and we can uh get this done.’
‘Well then how should we start Mr Team Leader?’
I thought to myself the best way to go about the job.
‘Umm Bull, what do you reckon we should do?’
‘Well let’s get rid of the rocks first.’
‘I think we should get rid of the rocks and rubble at the same time.’ Argued Shooked. Bull and Shooked were the best of mates but their form of common communication was arguing, mostly over every conceivable thing.
‘If we get the rocks out first, the rubble will be left and we can just get it out all at the same time innit?’ Argued Bull.
‘If we don’t start getting the rubble out, it will be hard to get to the rocks underneath.’ Countered Shooked.
‘The rubble will be hard to remove because there will still be some rocks in them.’ Counter countered Bull.
‘Well if we don’t start removing the rubble, we might use all the space up for the rockpile.’
‘Guys, guys, let’s not argue here… I never realized picking up rocks could be so complicated. You’ve both raised important points, but I think as Team Leader, I might have the best way to work this out.’ I turned to Raul, a middle-aged, no bullshit American who had over 20 years experience as project manager for a construction company in Oregon, a man who just maybe perhaps slightly might have been a better choice for Team Leader.
‘Raul. What do you think we should do?’
‘I don’t know, you tell me, you’re the team leader.’ He said sharply.
‘You’re right, I am the team leader Raul, but as team leader I like to consult my subjects on what they think instead of just carrying on like a fascist…’
‘Well in that case I think you should just let Bull and Shooked do whatever the hell they want to do in the way they want to do it, as long as they get results.’ Raul said, turning to address Bull and Shooked.
‘Hey, hey, hey Raul, I’m team leader here, I think I’m the one who gives the darned orders around here…’
I turned back to Bull and Shooked.
‘Bull, Shooked, you guys just do whatever the hell you want to do in the way you want to do it… Uhhh… As long as you get results… That was the last part of what you said right Raul?’
Raul looked away.
Everyone got to work but soon the skies began to fill with dark clouds and the wind began to gust.
‘Hey Raul, what do you think we should do about the weather?’
‘I don’t know, you tell me, you’re supposed to be the damn team leader.’ Raul said gruffly.
‘Okay okay, sheesh I just wanted to know your opinion, there’s no need to snap at me.’
‘You want to know my opinion?’ Raul asked. Everyone stopped working to listen.
‘I think Shooked should be Team Leader, not you.’
Things were tense. Could there already be a mutiny afoot on my first day as Team Leader? Were these peasants already doubting my authority barely two hours into my first Reich? I looked around at the expectant faces of my charges who were waiting for my rebuttal. I had to say something, something strong, something powerful that the kind of leader I wasn’t would say in order to quell the doubts rising in his proletariat slave’s hearts.
‘Shooked, would you like to be team leader then?’ I asked him hopefully.
‘Are you kidding me? I don’t do team leader.’ Shooked answered.
‘Shit.’ I said, my heart sinking.
‘… I mean hahaha well there you go Raul, you got no choice. You think I want to team lead a bunch of argumentative assholes like yourselves? Hell I would love to have Shooked be team leader, but unfortunately he doesn’t want to be so it ain’t gonna happen. All you got is me so I’m sorry if you can’t deal with that, but like that’s like life I guess man. Sorry.’
I looked around at everyone’s face trying to gauge if I had said that thing they had wanted me to say. I couldn’t tell.
‘Now… Does anyone else want to be the Team Leader?’
‘I do.’ Piped Maran.
‘You don’t count Maran… Does anyone else other than Maran want to be Team Leader?’
No one spoke up.
‘Well then that’s settled. I’m team leader and what the more experienced people here tell me what I should say needs to be done is what’s going to be done… I hope… Capeche?’
Thunder boomed in the distance.
‘So all I got is one question… Raul, what do you think we should do about the goddamn weather?’
‘Well I think it’s going to rain like hell and we should probably get ready to get the fuck out of here.’
‘Raul, as Team leader, I think you should let me handle this. Guys, I think it’s going to rain like hell and we need to get the fuck out of here.’
‘Well I think we should at least work until it begins to rain.’ Said Shooked.
‘Shooked who’s Team Leader here? I mean clearly, as a guy who held an administrative position in the Israeli army for several years, you probably should be, but let me handle this. Okay everyone, stop packing up, we will work until the rain comes and then we will go back to base.’
‘Well I think the trail back down will be pretty slippery by the time we get packed up and head back down.’ Said Raul.
‘Raul, that’s a very good point and I’m glad you made that but umm okay… Shit what should we do… How about this? Guys have your shit ready to get the hell out and then as soon as it rains, we get the hell out, but for now…’
Drops of rain began to fall on us.
‘…But for now, Guys, I think it’s going to rain like hell and we need to get the fuck out of here..’
‘I think we should stay. The rain will pass, it never lasts long’ Said Bull.
‘Hmmm… Fuck… Shit…’ I brainstormed aloud.
‘How about this… Who here wants to go home now cause of the rain? Raise your hands’ I counted 5 pairs of hands.
‘And who here wants to stay?’ A different set of 5 pairs of hands went up.
Perhaps this was why democracy didn’t work and why fascism kind of did, of course as long as everyone liked the dictator, even if he did have to kill all the people who didn’t like him.
‘Hmmm… Mass executions of all non-believers… The only option… Hmmm…’ I thought aloud.
‘Hey come on.’ Shooked called. I turned around. Everyone had already packed up and were now disappearing down the trail back to the jeep.