Our St George hotel was seven or eight stories tall (depending if you are using the European or American system to count) and shaped like a squared U so there were maybe 30 rooms per floor.  That meant we had around 200 rooms housing up to three people each.  Those approximately 600 people ran a lot of water and drew a lot of power.  Saigon didn’t have much of either to offer.  Despite reserve water tanks on the roof and a huge generator on the ground, sometimes it got dry or dark when we wanted it wet and light.

Some of the rooms must have been on separate systems.  The building was probably created that way for special guests or management when it was designed and built as a commercial hotel before the war expanded.  Perhaps it was remodeled for the same reason when the Army put the place on contract to serve as a bachelor enlisted quarters (BEQ).  Regardless of when, how or why, a handful of rooms in the whole building always seemed to have hot water for showers.  If they didn’t have it, at least they were the last rooms in the building to lose it.

I think Bill and David lived in one of these rooms and it was on the second or third floor.  If it weren’t them or there, it was a couple of other guys in our class of teachers and it was not too inconvenient to get there.  The good news was also the bad news:  they had it and everyone wanted it.  They were smart to shower early because they must have tired of the tap, tap, tapping on their door as individuals and classmates throughout the building would migrate to their room when hope dissipated for water elsewhere in the facility.

One of the worst water room invasions occurred on a night in which many of us had played basketball.  Saigon nights were usually warm (!) and wet in and of themselves.  Add to that setting six or eight young men, then get those guys to play roundball for a couple of hours.  Yup, you got yerself some funky dudes.  It’s close to midnight, the game’s over, it’s time to shower, ‘n’ there ain’ no water in our rooms.

Yup, tap, tap, tap.  “Hey, you guys got water tonight?”  They could have just tried to ignore us, but we wouldn’t have gone away.  We knew they were in there.  Besides, they were always generous.  However, that night we must have pretty much drained the generosity gauge to zero when the whole basketball cadre showed up with towels, soap and sweat.  Ah, the trials and tribulations of the war zone.

It could have happened any day.  Those friends who lived in there must have felt like it happened every day.  Generous friends:  I hope we thanked them.  If not, then thank you now.

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