Is Iraq the right destination for a 48-year-old with eight grandchildren? Cynthia Johnson, the grandmother in question, laughed at the query as she tried on an airtight yellow jumpsuit that might protect her from a chemical weapons attack.
Ms. Johnson and hundreds of others hired by the Halliburton Company packed into what used to be a J. C. Penney store at the Greenspoint Mall here this week to prepare to go to Iraq. She said her job there, serving food to American troops, was more promising than her previous occupation, cooking on an offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
'The money's better and there's the feeling I'm doing something useful,' said Ms. Johnson, a native of Deridder, La. 'My daughters and grandchildren worry for me, but a job like this doesn't come up every day'...
... until passing background checks and absorbing the description of the risks associated with working in Iraq, which include graphic photos of wounded employees returning home.
Everyday life continues to turn into science fiction. It's a cliche of a zillion space operas that barren and lethal "postings" run by brutal corporations are staffed by hardy desperados with few prospects. The cliche, of course, is rooted in myth and history -- the move to the frontier in the hope of a better life.
I hope they know what they're getting into. I suspect many of them actually do understand the risks; it sounds like Halliburton wants them to be well informed.