It was Halloween evening. The slowly setting sun resisted being tucked away for the night. Awash with warm autumn hues against the darkening evening sky, the horizon radiated with these fitting colors, welcoming the approaching magical night.
I thought of the kids and their excitement of dressing up in their favorite scary costumes to roam the neighborhood for treats. I wasn’t prepared for expected onslaught of kids with their door-to-door hunt. I knew I had to get some candy, so I hopped in my car and drove to the ATM on post to get some funds.
After parking, I approached the ATM and noticed a young man of about 20 standing at the machine frantically punching buttons as if he were under the gun to finish typing a column for a newspaper deadline. With his buzz haircut and deeply tanned skin, I pegged him as a soldier who had probably just returned from a Middle East deployment. Shifting his weight from one leg to the other, he quickly unleashed his agitation on the ATM for its inability to work faster. He pounded one of his fists on the side of the machine as it hummed and beeped to complete his transaction. Taking a break from his ATM drama, he turned to look at me and smiled, “So how’s your Halloween been so far?” My first inclination was to glance behind me to see to whom he was talking, but I realized that I was a line of one. Confused and amused, I politely returned his greeting, “Oh, quiet, so far.” Grinning, he turned around to continue his bout with the machine. Poking more buttons, he hovered over the ATM, waiting for it to spit out a receipt from the tiny slot, which it did. Quickly, he grabbed the receipt, scanned it and whooped, “Yes, I got paid!” Tapping more buttons, he turned towards me again, “I gotta catch a train in about 20 minutes. My taxi’s waiting for me over there to take me to my girl’s place so we can go party.” I nodded, pleasantly baffled and amused at his uninhibited ease in sharing his plight with me. Pointing to his waist, he playfully chided himself, “And look at this! No belt! I left it back at the barracks. I don’t usually dress like this, but I was in such a hurry. Don’t think I’ll have time to go back to get it, though.” I was thoroughly tickled. Turning his attention back to the ATM, he waited impatiently as it hummed and prepared to shoot his money out through the slot. When his cash appeared, he snatched it away as if the ATM would take it back. Recounting his money, he stuffed it in his wallet, which he hastily jammed in his back pocket. Pausing before leaving, he said, “I just got back from Iraq, but everything here is so haywire. Have a good evening, ma’am.” Haywire here? I shook my head and wondered how was that possible! I bid him adieu with, “You have a good evening too, soldier.”