I HAVE RINGING, buzzing and clicking sounds in my head that won't go away with some dreams. The dreams come back every year during the last week in August.
Back in the late 80s, when I worked more than 100 feet underground, the stairs, tunnel and hardened concrete walls created an echo chamber. You could hear unique ring tones reverberating hundreds of feet down corridors when doors were left open.
During the last three days of August 1988, there was a lot of incessant ringing of hotlines at my desk because we were frantically scrambling as many air evacuation flights as we could from Germany to the States. We had to move burn victims after Flugtag 88 to specialised care units because all the German intensive care facilities were saturated. We needed C-141s like the one in the photo.
There are times I wish I had recorded the ambient noise of the airlift control center where I spent two years of my life. Doors didn't simply close, they locked in place because they were a foot thick and filled with concrete. Disc drives whirred along with tape back-up units that spun night and day. A telex unit banged away behind my head and 42 different phone lines were directly in front of my seat. Five of them had unique ring tones that would raise the dead. And over in the corner sat a grey plastic Deutsche Telekom phone that we used to call embassy officials. It also rang when called by Secret Service and Agency staff. Those guys had mobile phones that weighed more than my laptop and our German landline was programmed into the handsets.
Because I wasn't allowed to wear earbuds while on the job, I heard the audio footprint of our control center for 12 hours at a time, four days a week. I don't think I'll ever forget the unique cacophony of sounds.
Bernie Goldbach is saving memories for a journal. There's a novel in work.