On a recent Thursday morning, Pvt. Darrell Seavers arrived at Fort Carson just in time for physical training (0600 hours). I'd driven Pvt. Seavers from his girlfriend's north end home directly to the post, and the fare came to just under $40. We enjoyed a pleasant conversation en route.
As we entered Gate Three and through the security checkpoint, he told me he was unable to pay the fare.
For drivers this is doubly harmful, because to accept one fare you must reject another. In this situation, there is no formula or fail-safe method of recovery. You are left to your own devices as to how to proceed.
(At this point I must advise taxi customers not to get adventuresome when it comes to finding out what these devices might be. A determined cab driver facing possible nonpayment is not cuddly or predictable.)
In this case, I suggested that Pvt. Seavers call his girlfriend back, and she could meet me and make the payment for him. All parties agreed, I set off, and Pvt. Seavers disappeared to make roll call. I arrived at precisely 6:30, on time at our rendezvous point, but the girlfriend never showed up. I'd been hustled.
At 9 a.m. the following Monday, I entered the Fort Carson Visitors Center for directions to the appropriate department for resolving such matters. Respondents on duty at the VC were cheerful and efficient. I stated my purpose, and the young ambassador in uniform tore a printed map from a pad and traced the route to the Provost Marshal's Office. It was there I must take my grievance, he said.
Every visitor to Fort Carson is handed one of these maps. It's colorful and printed on good-quality paper, but in many ways useless. Streets and major "points of interest" are well-marked, but barracks are identified by only the tiniest visual suggestion. This helps protect soldiers from attack. Also, certain buildings are set way back from the treeless streets.
Finally at the marshal's office 20 minutes later, I was greeted with the same impressive courtesy, and directed to Garrison Headquarters. Pvt. Seavers' unit number was also given to me, and GH would be my final destination if I saw this through. There, my $40 and displeasure would be satisfied.
But not just yet.
After a long absence by the receptionist to announce and negotiate my presence with his superiors, I was led to an office and greeted like a VIP by its occupant. She was the first of two proud and vigorous ladies who, I was to learn, really get the job done on Fort Carson.
She referred me to another map, and another post location, and called ahead to report that I was on my way.
This second lady (respectfully referred to here as Grandma No. 2) resided in a much smaller office, and from the look of things had been there for quite some time. She knew all the details of my case from Grandma No. 1, and asked me for Pvt. Seavers' unit number. She picked up her phone and dialed for the unit commander.
Now things were really heating up. Pvt. Seavers' action, by No. 2's reckoning, was "a biiiiiiiiiggg no-no," and an Article 139 must be filed against him. "This soldier needs to be counseled," she fiercely ordered the unit commander, then handed the phone across the desk to me.
"Sir, Private Seavers' conduct is completely unacceptable and unbecoming of a U.S. serviceperson, especially from this base. I will personally locate Private Seavers and he will be standing before me in less than one hour. Your payment should be received shortly thereafter. Are you available by phone?"
Needless to add, payment was made, and a flood of apologies and calls came in from high-ranking service members to me for the next 24 hours. I assured them all that I was satisfied, and quite moved by Pvt. Seavers' own apologetic stance. In one of those calls, I and a master sergeant agreed that I would change the private's real name for this column.
Let it stand as a tribute to the determined ladies who get things done on Fort Carson. Among all that soldierly readiness and fortitude, who can you finally rely on?
Grandma, of course. Who else?