Did you ever have the fantasy that you were King? I know as a kid I remember thinking it would be totally cool to be supreme ruler. I also remember fantasizing about being the king that would occasionally dress up in rags in order to walk among the masses. What better way to feel the pulse of your domain?
Well, I'll never be King. Being a Lieutenant Colonel is as close as I'll get, but it's a fairly good substitute. Let me explain.
It's been cold here during the winter months in Iraq. As such, I don my black fleece jacket and watch cap whenever I walk to chow. Because of this uniform, no one can see my rank. I think I have a young face and I'm certainly not an imposing figure. When soldiers see me like this, they aren't really seeing me, if you know what I mean. Walking along narrow corridors, if I come up against soldiers coming in the opposite direction, there is a very definite pecking order for who has the right of way – namely whoever is biggest. It's pretty funny actually. It sometimes even comes with the "inadvertent" shoulder bump, just to make sure I get the message. I would argue that this is a good thing. These are combat soldiers after all. If they aren't at least a little aggressive they wouldn't be good soldiers, would they?
Contrast this with the warmer weather when I just wear my regular uniform. You can see my rank on my hat and on my shirt. If I walk down a narrow corridor, soldiers not only stand aside, but actually grab other soldiers and pull them out of my way. If there is a larger group someone will yell, "Make a hole!" It's like parting the Red Sea.
I'm not sure which I enjoy more - being the king or being the serf. I guess I'd better get used to serf-dom because in just 4 months, I take off my uniform for good.