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Part 7

January 23, 2004
The Iranian

My uncle Mehran graduated from high school and it was time for him to make a decision as to what path to take. Freedom was my uncle's deepest passion. Freedom to pretty much leave the country, but he realized that without going through military service he would not be able to achieve his goals. So he was stuck with two choices: mandatory military service or university first and then military service.

During the revolution, you had just one choice: MANDATORY MILITARY SERVICE. So my uncle lucked out and didn't have to struggle with the decision. If you were one of those lucky rich kids who could "buy" your way out of military time then you'd be free to do whatever you wanted. Unfortunately my uncle wasn't one so he had to do military service. And to make matters worse it was at the height of war with Iraq.

Let me tell you a little about my uncle. To this day I still think the guy could have been a stand up
comedian. His comedic timing and ability to make people laugh is second to none. Unfortunately for me I didn't inherit a single one of his funny genes -- ask anyone who has come across one of my jokes.

While it takes blood, sweat and tears to even get a sympathy smile for my bad jokes, Mehran can have you rolling on the ground with anything that comes out of his mouth. He could desperately try to have a serious conversation about, for example, war or world hunger or any other serious topic and inadvertently have all listeners tearing at the eyes from laughter -- I really don't know what it is about him but, my god, why couldn't I have it too?

My uncle was enlisted and thus began his military service, which was a constant source of amusement due to the following reasons:

1. My uncle has always had long hair. The idea that he would have to shave his head horrified him.

2. My uncle loves to sleep in. Being in the army meant that he would have to get up early. Really

Mehran arrived home from his first day of his service and said he was assigned to a barrack in Tehran. We were amazed to hear that. Most of the new recruits were sent to the front lines; we were eager to find out how he managed to score such a plush position.

He said soldiers were in a room one day and the sergeant asked about their skills. Mehran apparently told him that he could fix cars, electrical equipment, stoves -- practically anything. For that reason, he was asked to stay in Tehran as a maintenance man. The funny thing was that my uncle has never had any experience in fixing things. And the few things he helped me with for school were utter disasters.

My uncle's first test of his skills came at around 2 am one winter night. He was called into action when the heater at a bunker for the Hezbollah needed to be repaired. He arrived half asleep and started to tweak with the heater.

Suddenly the heater burst into a ball of fire and was put out by the men in the bunk. Now fully awake he tried to think quickly for a viable explanation for the burst of flame. He explained that he had noticed the electrical wires were screwed up and although he tried to fix the problem. they were beyond repair.

He explained that they needed to request a new heater in the morning. He then left the men on that freezing night and went back to his bunk and slept the rest of the evening. The next morning his sergeant summoned him. The exchange went something like this:

Sergeant (To his aide): "Book him for 11 days in the infirmary."

Mehran (Shocked): "Why? What did I do?"

Sergeant: "First you will have to serve your 11 days, then I will explain."

Mehran (Nervous now): "Sergeant, please tell me what is going on. At least that way I can defend myself."

Sergeant (Still upset): "This is for letting those Hezbollah members freeze over night."

Mehran (Now under control): "Sergeant the heater was faulty, and the supply store was closed. There was nothing I could have done last night. I was on my way to the store to pick one up for them."

Sergeant (A bit calm now): "Fine, you go and install the new heater. But this is a warning. Don't let this happen again."

Mehran: "Yes sir."

What was amazing was that my uncle was actually just leaving for the day, but quickly went to the store and picked up a heater and dropped it off.

My uncle was always home with us. He served his two-year military service like it was a 8-to-5 job. After a month, my dad couldn't hold his curiosity any longer and asked him his secret. Mehran only said he had a good sergeant who gave him passes to go home at the end of each day.

One day my brother and I snuck into my uncle's room and found him sitting and practicing a signature. Realizing we had witnessed something, Mehran just told us that he was practicing a new signature. We believed the story for a long time. It wasn't until years later that we realized Mehran had forged his sergeant's signature during the entire period of his military service and gotten daily passes.

Apparently even the sergeant was aware of it and had requested that my uncle stay a few nights during the week at the barracks so that he wouldn't raise suspicion among the other soldiers. But my uncle didn't like that idea too much and was insulted by even the suggestion.

To this day I am still amazed at all the stuff my uncle pulled and got away with >>>Part 8 >>>Index

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