Monthly Archives: November 2014

WTF is going on with law enforcement

When I was about 15 the cops gave me a “ride” home after I confessed to having a joint.

My friend and I were in the bushes along a canal in Phoenix when a patrol car rolled by and my friend started to run away. I continued to sit there as if sitting in the bushes on the banks of a canal was a completely normal thing to do. (Technically, it was normal for us. We did it a lot. There we’d sit every day hunched in the bushes smoking a joint.)

When the cop came by, we had vastly different reactions. My friend’s reaction was to run, where he hoped to run to I have no idea, but my reaction was to basically wave hello.

“Great, the police are keeping our canals safe from canal pirates,” I thought. Or something. Who knows what I thought, I was a stupid teenager.

Now, I don’t remember what I was wearing because, and I’d swear to this, it was non-descript. I was likely in jeans and a polo. My friends, on the other hand, had some rougher edges from a fucked up family life and that fact was advertised by a mohawk, leather jacket and a straight up fear of the police.

My friends sudden interest in improving his cardiovascular fitness alerted law enforcement to our marihuana-flavored activities. Moments later they were out of the car questioning and searching us.

For reasons I don’t understand or have forgotten, the police felt a cigarette pack through my friend’s leather jacket and, without pulling out the cigarette pack,  asked him what was in there. He confessed there was a joint in the packet.

Submitted as evidence, a joint.

Submitted into evidence, a joint.

When the cigarette pack was searched and no joint was found all eyes turned to me.

I cheerfully volunteered that I had the joint. I think my logic went along this line: They will search you, they will find it and they will be angry. Offer up the fucking joint and that defuses the situation a bit.

The point of this is that I’m white, I’m male and I guess I’m sort of privileged. I came from a middle-class family and was raised to trust the police. In the house I grew up in, in a suburban middle-class neighborhood, I was taught to trust the police.

The police caught me doing something wrong. That meant it was now cooperation time, not make the policeman madder time.

Friendly police officer. Only with 100% less tactical vest.

Friendly police officer. Only with 100 percent less tactical vest.

This mindset didn’t change going forward. I moved to Europe in 2003. So between that little joint incident and my coming here something like 20 years have gone by. My police interactions after that have been confined to a few traffic stops where I was likely in the wrong and once when my stepdaughter complained about the treatment of a neighbor’s dog. Her assessment of that dog’s treatment was completely correct and I was happy to help the officer take a statement.

As I said a moment ago, I live in Europe. I’ve lived here far too long, I freely admit. But in this day and age it’s not hard to immerse yourself in U.S. news via the internet even if you live abroad. Following the U.S. news it just seems like the police there will just ruin, if not end, your life without asking any questions. The police in America have tanks now, they storm your bathroom while your pooping and do other crazy thing.  From here, across the pond, it looks like they’ve been going and are continuing to go, fucking crazy.

What I’m getting at is, I get the rage in Ferguson, even if I’m a stupid privileged white guy whose only serious interaction with the police was as a dumb teenager with a joint.

Since moving to Europe, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of U.S. law enforcement officers while traveling to the U.S. Mostly the big wigs I traveled with would head into some meeting and I’d be stuck outside with the people who were charged with protecting them, ordinary cops who drew the protection detail that day. We always hung out and just shot the shit. They were salt of the earth people it seemed. Everyone of them. OK, the LA cops were a bit fucking insane, but the guys working in New York City and Chicago were reasonable enough. Sure, they’d spout off about some kid walking by with sagging pants and a backward baseball cap, but it was more of a, “How’s that kid going to get a job looking like that?” I’d comment that said kid would hopefully change before participating in any serious interviews and they’d bust my balls, not literally of course because my balls remain unbusted.

They weren’t scary, they had some hilarious stories and where the kind of police I remembered as a kid. I’d happily walk my, white and privileged, 3-year-old nephew up to any one of them to have a quick discussion about how police catch bad guys and about how you can always ask a policeman for help.

But again, living over here and relying only on news coverage, that seems less and less like a sane idea. I know there are more than 780,000 police officers in the U.S. (I thought that would be a higher number actually) and that if you count it as number of police officers per citizen we rank way down on the list with one cop per 248 civilians and I learned that if you keep screwing around with that spreadsheet you’ll learn just how little you know about the different countries of the world. Where the hell is Saint Kitts and Nevis anyway? What the fuck country is that?

There are a hell of a lot of cops and the ones who make national headlines aren’t making them for helping little old ladies cross the street or rescuing kittens from terrorists. I understand that, that isn’t the stuff of news. But take it from a law-abiding (generally), white dude with a pretty positive view of American law enforcement, you mother fuckers need a public image makeover.

To close out the story I started this blog with, the police took us both home and handed us over to our parents. No police report, no judge, no nothing other than the ire of an Irish Catholic mother with rage in her eyes. That was the extent. I think my mom and I had to meet with my friend and his dad at a coffee shop some days later to discuss the severity of the situation and I was grounded as fuck, but that was it. No legal trail, no criminal background and no “The Cure” concert that I really, really fucking wanted to go to and already had tickets to.

If I’d have been an inner city black kid back then caught doing the same shit, who knows what the outcome would have been. Night in jail, the start of a criminal background I couldn’t have escaped and I sure as fuck wouldn’t have gone to a “The Cure” concert, but that was unlikely even without the joint incident.

Not a The Cure concert.  (image credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

Not a The Cure concert. (image credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters)

I asked my high school friend to read the part about the joint incident to see if I was basically on track. Between the two of us I figured we could reasonably piece that story back together. He approved my retelling and reminded me of another gem from my past.

This was an incident involving the Phoenix Police Department, that, thankfully, didn’t involve drugs.

My friend had gone with his dad to Mexico on a fishing trip and brought back some M-80 firecrackers, which were rumored to actually be a quarter stick of dynamite and would explode underwater. So, because we had the mental capacity of 15-year-olds, we immediately headed to the canal to test this theory. They didn’t explode underwater, but they made great explosion, after explosion, after explosion. We’d never had such fun. We were having so much fun that we didn’t notice the cops had arrived until it was far, far too late. As this story could be a blog about police conduct when you’re a stupid white kid in a middle-class neighborhood, I’ll save it for later maybe. The consequences of our lighting off the firecrackers? They were confiscated and we were told us to stop fucking off at the canal. I think the phrase was, “We’re going to let you criminals off with a warning.”

This is a shitty story

A few years ago I was traveling a lot for work. It was always hectic and I was constantly running here and there, staying overnight in a new hotel in a new city three weeks out of the month.

This proves to be a slight problem for a homebody like me, most especially when it comes to pooping. Yes, you read that correctly. Don’t act like your shit don’t stink. We all poop. It’s a life necessity. You know the old saying, “You only have to do three things in life, pay taxes, shit and die.” (OK, so I made up that last part. Whatever.)

Anyhow, I am very particular when it comes to pooping. I choose to only drop a deuce in the sanctity of my own home, or in the glistening private toilet of my hotel room when traveling.

Another monkey wrench when it comes to traveling is that my normally Dagmar-dictated healthy diet is interrupted by my inability to turn down garbage food.

Hot dog ...

So, so delicious. I’m salivating right now.

When traveling I tend to eat the most unhealthy food you can imagine. I don’t want to join my coworkers at some vegan, breast milk-sauteed, kind-harvested, free-range lettuce bar.

I’m more of an overcooked convenience store hot dog kind of dude on the road. My diet sinks to the lowest of the low and then sinks even lower.

Pork rinds and beer for dinner? Sure. Spaghettios eaten cold from the can and washed down with beer? Why not.

When I’m away it’s just “garbage in.”

So let’s review

I’m a very-private pooper and when I’m home my wife does her best to make sure I’m eating healthy, but when traveling I shovel processed bullshit down my pie hole.

On a business trip a few years ago these two quirks collided.

After a full day of traveling, I’d arrived at the hotel before my room was ready. Normally that would be a bitch, but on this trip it was no big deal because there was no time to dawdle before getting down to business. My only option was to leave my luggage at the front desk and collect it after work.

Moments later, my traveling partner and I headed to the office where our duties would commence. Because we were in Europe and dealing with people on the East Coast of the U.S., we worked through the night to compensate for the time difference. We didn’t wrap up until about 2 a.m. the following day.

In the midst of working I just ate whatever was at hand.

Because my body was accustomed to eating well, I could feel the familiar bad travel food bubbling in my stomach. Since I was nowhere near either aforementioned proper pooping place, I decided to suffer through the pain and hold it.

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Need I say more?

A normal person would listen to their body, ignore their idiosyncrasies and head to the nearest bathroom. A normal person would be like, “It’s just shit. Get rid of it, brutha.”

But not my stupid brain. Nope.

My idiot brain says, “You can hold that until later. We’ll go back to our hotel room and do it there.”

Because my brain hates me.

When my coworker and I arrived back at the hotel lobby he decided we should chat about what the following day’s schedule would be.

At this point, literally, all I can think about is going to my room to use the bathroom.

As he drones on and on, I start daydreaming about using the hotel lobby restroom. But I’ve held off shitting for so long now that, even though I’m fantasizing about breaking my stupid rule, I continue to hold it because I’m a complete moron.

Seriously think about that fact for a moment.  In the hotel lobby at two in the morning when my coworker and I are the only ones there I refused to go use that bathroom.

I have no idea what my coworker was saying. My head was swimming. When he finally says goodnight, I’m panting and sweating. I rush past a bathroom and make a beeline for the elevator.

Here’s where it all goes to shit.

In the elevator it’s private, quiet and two in the morning.

My body, wracked with pain from holding back what I can only imagine is a monumental turd of epic proportions, tells my brain, “Hey, this place is perfect. Take a load off,”

My brain tells my body to shut the fuck up because we’re in a goddamned elevator.

My body is tired of being told to shut up.

I don’t know exactly what happened and I can’t recall any specific trigger point, but it began with a shudder and then a roar. There was no way to stop it. My body was in full revolt and, obviously, full of shit.

There’s just no delicate way to say this: If my bowels could talk they would have bellowed, “Freedom!” like Mel Gibson in Braveheart.

I just simply began to shit my pants. I don’t mean I farted and a little bit of poop came out. I mean, I started to shit my pants. I was like some weird overfilled Playdoh spaghetti maker. I had to literally – in the proper use of the word – hold my ass cheeks together with my hands in an effort to maintain some kind of control. But the reality was, there was no way to control this torrent.  My colon, or whatever I have down there, had enough and the shitgates opened. This wasn’t a solid shit either. Solid never follows belly bubbles. This was liquid and it was not going to be easily contained. As an uncontrollable waterfall of scat spilled down the back of my legs, the elevator doors opened and I waddled in some spastic duck walk to my room. After fumbling with the key card to get in, I did a combination duck-walk bunny hop into the bathroom.

If the bathroom could talk it would recount the moment by quoting Revelations 6:8 “and hell followed with him.” (Shit, is that blasphemous?)

Dirty bathroom

This bathroom is relatively clean in comparison.

Before I could lift the lid to the toilet my body just said, “Fuck you, we’re alone now in the bathroom, I’m letting loose.”

And let loose it did.

As I desperately tried to pull off my pants, my ass was just spraying shit. First it was spaying shit in my pants. Then, as I lowered my pants and aimed my ass at the toilet, it sprayed shit on the wall. As I tried to raise the toilet seat, it sprayed shit on the toilet seat.

By the time I managed to actually sit on the pot, the fire hose was a trickle.

I took inventory of the situation before me.

There was shit in my pants and on my pants. It was in my shoes and on my shoes. It was on the walls. It covered the toilet. It was all over the floor. I sat in dismay and disgust just surveying the damage and thinking about what the fuck happened.

I mean, there was shit on the toilet paper roll mounted next to the toilet for fuck’s sake and I hadn’t even wiped yet.

At some point you just have to start “recovery operations” in a story like this.

Every great “there was shit everywhere” story has a moment where you start to clean up. I stripped off my pants, shorts, socks and shoes and dumped them into the bathtub and began running hot water. Next up, I grabbed all the washcloths and hand towels and began to wipe up my filth, little swath by little filthy swath. Each wipe was followed by hot water and soap. Wipe, wipe, rinse, rinse. Before long the bathroom was reasonably clean looking (the smell was disgusting sure) and every towel in the joint was stained.

I looked at the muddied bathwater and realized the pants and socks were a total loss, but I was still wearing my shirt, and tie …

Holy fuck, I realized, the pants were not only a total loss, but they were now soaking wet. Soaking wet shit-covered dress slacks.

And I had no luggage.

In my hurry say goodnight to my coworker and rush to my bathroom, I hadn’t picked up my luggage. I had no clothes in the room.

I was trapped.

While I won’t name the hotel I will say this about it: It is a hotel that caters to military people. It isn’t a major chain and I knew the staff on hand numbered no more than five at this hour and wasn’t going to be very responsive.

But, I was naked from the waist down and everything I could wear to cover my naughty bits was covered in shit and soaking wet.  I pondered putting on my dress shirt, wrapping a towel around my waist and going to lobby to get my luggage.

That particular course of action seemed to fall into the “last resort” category for reasons that are obvious.

It was hopeless. I was going to have to call the front desk for help.

As the phone rang, I converted to Christianity.

“Please Jesus,” I prayed, “make sure a dude picks up.”

You see, I was going to have to ask someone to bring up my bags, and when they balk, and they will balk at the idea, I’m basically forced to be honest about why I can’t go down to the lobby to pick up my bags.

Ring ….

“Please Jesus, let it be a dude. I’ll sacrifice a goat or something.” I don’t know a lot about religion, but whatever Jesus likes I’m willing to do at this point.

Ring …

“Jesus, please, cut me some slack. I know my pooping proclivity is ridiculous. I’ve seen the error of my ways. Please, Jesus, let a man answer the phone.”

Ring …

A man’s voice said hello.

I tried to play it coy and asked if my bags can be delivered, but he said no can do, I’d have to come down.

I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I full-up told the guy at the front desk what happened.

“Dude, I can’t.  To say I just pooped my pants would be a gross understatement.  It was basically a shit apocalypse.  I can never wear those pants again,  I’m trapped,” I explained. I decided the best way to play it was to be funny while also conveying my desperation. I laid it all on the line. When I finished telling the story there was silence for a split second before he just busted up laughing.

Ten minutes later he delivered the bags. I tipped that fucker $100 dollars and assured him the money was reasonably clean.

The next morning he saw me in the lobby. We made eye contact, shook our heads and enjoyed another private laugh.  I then discretely slipped out the door to deliver my bag of crap-encrusted pants and socks to a dumpster behind the hotel.

I can’t fix shit and your indifference isn’t helping

I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I have the mechanical aptitude of an eraser, which means I also suck at analogies.

Maybe I have the mechanical aptitude of a stick. Not a stick that someone chooses from the forest floor and then lovingly sharpens into an effective tool, but the type of stick you’d normally walk over. The second type of stick is the kind you pick up out of necessity. It might be good for smacking rabid cave bats, or — more likely — it  will disintegrate upon impact revealing a totally rotten core.

Probably rotten

Probably rotten

What I mean is, I’m kind of,  sort of, mechanically disinclined. I can fix basic shit. And by basic shit I mean anything that takes less than 15 minutes and/or has a well done “wikiHow” dedicated to it.

Putting together a piece of furniture? On a scale of 1-10 I’m a nine.

Unstopping a drain? I’m a five.

Fixing something electrical? You’ll find me in the corner of the room sucking my thumb and sobbing softly.

But, this lack of knowledge about household repairs or the fact that I don’t even possess a basic set of tools does little to dissuade me from trying.

For example, several months ago I ran over, with the lawn mower, an electrical box that once powered a pump that fed a koi pod in my backyard. (Some of you remember my koi pond tribulations from Facebook. Those of you who do will receive a HadaFewBeers gold star in the mail in the coming weeks.)

Not mentioned, don't let drunk guys mow over power cables

Not mentioned, don’t let drunk guys mow over power cables

After the lawnmower incident, not only did our koi die of suffocation (or whatever is the opposite of suffocation if you’re a fucking fish), but our house kept losing power when it rained. Five drops of rain would fall and BAM, I’d have to reset the breaker. It was maddening, but I was too mechanically daft to put two -and- two together.  It took an electrician exactly five minutes, having never been to my house before, to diagnose the problem.

I live here and was just utterly baffled by what was causing the blackouts.

I bring all of this up because a while ago when I returned from three weeks on a business trip, I discovered the American Forces Network signal coming into our loving abode was fucked up. The video was choppy and the sound cut out every few seconds.

It was clear to me that the dish had become misaligned during a storm.

Had it been up to me, I would have wished the American Forces Network a fond farewell and tossed the whole thing– satellite dish, receiver, remote control and associated wiring — into the trash. I’d have been happy to never subject myself to another AFN commercial. But my wife, she still found the weekly line up of, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, So You Think You Can Dance and, I cringe, Desperate Housewives interesting.

Reminding you not to commit suicide, drink to much, commit sexual harassment, suffer from PTSD and other stuff for years.

Reminding you not to commit suicide, drink to much, commit sexual harassment, suffer from PTSD and other stuff for years.

Maybe AFN provides invaluable information and quality programming to service members and civilians stationed overseas, or maybe it’s the number one cause of boner cancer, I don’t know. I’d happily dump it all for one good dose of late night European television boob-o-rama marathon.

But the wife likes AFN. Using my craptastic mechanical diagnosis abilities (I pressed the signal info button on the remote) I discovered the signal strength was only one (on a scale of 1-10). It had been seven the last time I checked (which was when it was installed so god knows what it was when I left) and one was just not cutting it.

Despite having worked directly for and with AFN for years I had never actually touched an AFN dish. Well that’s not true, I’d touched them, but I’d never actually done anything more than load and unload them into my car. I might have once, in Italy, helped a friend install one.

The extent of my assistance consisted of drinking her beer, handing her a wrench and saying “Yep” a lot while channeling Hank from King of the Hill.

So clearly, I was overqualified to absolutely make a bad situation worse.

That following Saturday, with a beer in one hand, a wrench in the other and a recently downloaded iPhone app that allegedly helps align a satellite signal, my overinflated ego and I went out on to the balcony where the dish was mounted.

I could totally do this.

And actually I could. The app kind of worked, the iPhone compass worked, the internet gave pretty good instructions, all I needed was a tiny bit of help in the form of a “watcher.”

I don’t know how satellite dish alignment normally goes, but in my house it went like this: Dagmar sat in front of the television while the satellite signal and strength menu was on display; I moved the dish back and forth; she hollered the results.  As soon as I loosened the bolts securing the dish to the patio railing the dish became completely misaligned and both the signal and signal strength values became zero.

Warning, viewing this image may cause drowsiness.

Warning, viewing this image may cause drowsiness.

Apparenlty, the dish was barely aimed at the satellite when I started, so when I loosened the bolts holding it in place, it was no longer pointed at the satellite at all. What I needed Dagmar to do was for about 30 minutes intensely watch a screen that would likely not at all change and report back to me that nothing had changed all the way up until something did. I move the dish and she has to yell at me, almost every minute or so, “nothing yet” unless the signal did change and then she needed to yell that at me.

My wife has a higher tolerance for shitty TV signals (and shitty TV shows) than I do. She couldn’t quite grasp the logic of what we were doing. Sure, the signal sucked but it worked right? Also, she knows me and likely figured that barring a professional satellite installer showing up, a shitty TV signal was better than my attempting to do anything about it.

For a solid five minutes she dutifully stuck to it. But, having been married many, many years, I could tell that after about five minutes she wasn’t really paying attention anymore. As the minutes passed, her replies to my, “Any signal yet” query were met with decreasing enthusiasm .

Well, fine I figured, it’s not exciting watching an unchanging menu on a TV screen while someone asks you over and over again if anything’s changed. Finally, though, she just stopped answering all together. This I understood to mean success!

I tightened the bolts on the dish and walked back into the house to revel in my accomplishment when I find my wife’s phone abandoned near the TV. She’s in the laundry room separating the dark clothes from the whites (she’s totally racist). Her response was that aligning the dish was\10oring.

As for the TV, there was no picture at all. This really pissed me off since I felt as though I was on the precipice of a successful repair. This could have been my saving grace. I could have been a hero. But alas, Dagmar (and I say her name with a growl here) was too darn busy and too darn bored to give a shit.

Fine. My response was to leave the dish unaligned for a week. No Dancing With the Stars, no The Voice, no TV at all. Hell, I’ve said it before, I don’t watch the damned thing. I get my news from my computer/iPhone. And if I did watch TV programs I’d watch online.

If she didn’t care I didn’t care. I put the wrench away and deleted the satellite finding app.

It was kind of a tough week for her. Every day I heard about it. I pointed to the vast ocean of DVDs we own, or the library of books downstairs. I handed her the iPad she had to have a few years back and showed her how to navigate to this or that site. But nothing would satiate her.

This is only the Girls Gone Wild collection ... there were many others.

This is only the Girls Gone Wild collection … there were many others.

The week passed, slowly. Well, slowly for her.

The following Saturday I decided to tackle the dish issue again. This time her responses to the question “anything now”  were fast and loud. Every single time I called out, she cheerfully reported back. Half an hour later, the signal was on money.

For once I was right.  Suck it married life, I was right.  It felt good and it will be trotted up during every argument we have in the future.  “Oh yeah, well maybe I was wrong about that thing I did that day, but remember that day in 2014 when I was right?  Well in your face!”

Leaving the Military? Four things you can’t leave behind.

I’ve touched on this topic before, but it’s a deep well and I’m diving back in. Also, don’t dive into wells. They’re dark, cold, generally small and not meant for diving into. That’s a pro tip.

The urge to salute never goes away.

Muscle memory is a bitch. Once during a briefing before “leaving the wire” (fancy words for driving to Kabul from Bagram Airbase, a very, very safe trip) an infantryman in charge of our convoy’s security asked everyone in the convoy how long it takes a repeatable physical action to become muscle memory. In other words, how long do you have to do something before it becomes something you do just automatically?

I’m stupid and I thought it was like seven times or something. But turns out, it’s thousands of times. You have to repeat that same action, like exiting a HMMWV in a hurry, thousands of times before you can just do it automatically. To a seasoned infantryman, aiming a rifle, firing rounds and reloading are muscle memory movements.

Coffee and Puppy salutes are never wrong.

Coffee and puppy salutes are never wrong.

For me, opening a beer, touching my penis and writing stupid shit on the internet are muscle memory and not much else, except saluting.

Saluting for anyone in the military has likely become a muscle memory kind of movement. If you spend enough time in the military, retire and then go to work with military people you will feel, at the very least, a physical twitch in your arm when salutes are rendered while walking past a group of people of different ranks.

Sir and Ma’am.

Let’s be honest, and if you’ve ever been around military groups you already know this: there’s a shit ton of ego in the military. Pilots, commanders, Navy captains, infantrymen, all of them exhibit a shit ton of ego. Hell, the fucker slinging my eggs last Tuesday in the military dining facility had a chip on his shoulder.

Ego is important. You want a military that’s sure of itself. You want a military that has its chest puffed out.

I’m not sure where I was going with the whole ego thing except to say that by referring to someone as sir or ma’am is a great counterpoint to ego. It immediately defuses any situation. Everyone talking knows the pecking order and there’s no getting around it. In fact, in my opinion, it’s so much easier than actually remembering a person’s name, it becomes a crutch. It makes you lazy.

After I retired, I knew that I had to change my vernacular, but that shit’s hard. It’s tough when you’re hired on not to revert to the comfortable and easy back and forth of calling people sir or ma’am.

I was even yelled at about an email I sent to a U.S. Army major where I was basically telling him what was going to happen. Trouble is, I started the email with, “Sir.” My boss ripped me a new one.

“Hey fucktard,” he said with the affection only a pissed off boss could muster, “we’re the fucking higher headquarters here. We tell Major Limp Dick the next few days are going to go as follows. He can call his mom and cry if his feelings are hurt. Calling him sir starts that conversation in the wrong direction you idiot.”

Actually, it was a very professional conversation with my boss where he kindly took the time to break it down for me. I don’t think he even once used the term “limp dick,” “fucktard” or even “idiot”. I just like to remember the conversation that way because it’s way funnier if it happened like that.

That said, there may be a few people I work with laughing right now. Fuck you both. They know when I’m flustered, I still quickly slip back, into the sir or ma’am speak. It’s not funny you assholes, shut up.

Walking on the grass:

Grass — the kind that grows in the yard and not the kind George Carlin talked about in the ’70s and was just legalized in Alaska — remains a difficult thing to walk on. Any bit of grass that’s on a military installation can’t be walked on. On the occasions that I do walk across grass on a military installation I can hear the voices in my head, yelling.

“GET THE FUCK OFF THE GRASS!”

Oddly, the voice is yelling just like that too, in all caps. Then, at the end of the sentence, they beat me with the exclamation point. Seriously, the voices throw the dot on the bottom of the exclamation point at my groin and then use the top part like a baseball bat and just wail on me.

The voices in my head are weird, I admit.

Please come walk on us, for ever and ever and ever.

Please come walk on us, forever and ever and ever.

Once in the mid ’90s in Korea, as the editor of a weekly newspaper, I ran a photo of a military bomb-sniffing dog that was about to retire and was looking for a home. The wife of some colonel adopted the dog. Later, she told me that for weeks the dog refused to walk on the fucking grass.

Not walking on the grass can be so fucking ingrained in our military heads that even the fucking military working dogs fucking get sucked in.

Another story, this one told to me by a major I worked for in Iraq, is about the movie Blackhawk Down. This major was hard. He had badges for everything. If the Army had a badge for the most badges he would have had that badge. He had so many badges that at the top of his uniform where the badges were displayed it said, “See other side.” He had a lot of badges.

While he was assigned to a ranger regiment that worked with the crew on the movie Blackhawk Down several of the actors enrolled in a ranger familiarization course. Spend a day firing weapons, spend a day rappelling, spend a day doing PT. I’m sure it was just a, “Get these actors familiar with the basics of life as a U.S. Army Ranger” kind of thing. Not too tough, just a taste of what it’s like.

On the first day, the new “rangers” had ranger haircuts, were wearing Army-issued physical fitness uniforms and were standing on the grass outside of the headquarters for the “training” to start.

There the gaggle of actors stood, chilling out, drinking sodas and smoking cigarettes as hundreds of blades of grass were unmercifully crushed to death under their tender feet. They were horsing around. And they were a sergeant major magnet. The ranger unit’s tops NCO, unaware they were actors and not new ranger candidates, lost his mind.

The sergeant major started to lose his shit as he walked up from the parking lot and could only be talked down once the my boss was able to explain the situation to him.

Don’t fucking walk on the grass.

To this day, I feel weird walking on the grass on a military installation. I mean I shortcut the shit out of any walk I’m doing because it’s a stupid fucking rule, but yeah, I still think to myself, “Holy crap, I’m walking on the grass!”

On the spot corrections:

If you’ve never been in the military or around the military let me explain what an “on-the-spot correction” is. You’ll wish the civilian world had it, honestly.

It’s the ability, duty even, for someone to stop someone else and say, “What you’re doing right now is wrong, fix it.”

My best example is seeing a kid, clearly younger than I was (and thus likely lower ranking), at a military shopping facility wearing a shirt that read, “If this shirt is on your floor in the morning, you’ve just been fucked.” Funny shirt, I admit, but not the kind of shirt that should be worn at a military shopping facility. An on-the-spot correction is the ability to pull that individual aside and fix the situation. In this case, it was the ability to make the person in question literally go change their shirt, come back and prove they’ve changed their shirt.

I think he's saying, "pardon me friend, but you might have some toilet paper on your shoe."

I think he’s saying, “Pardon me friend, but you might have some toilet paper on your shoe.”

Many times its something much less extreme. Someone walking on the grass is a great example. Even a person junior in rank can correct a person senior in rank if they’re in the wrong. It happens occasionally. It’s the civilian equivalent to telling someone that they have toilet paper stuck to their shoe I think. It’s more a, “Hey, before you embarrass yourself” kind of thing than a, “GET THE FUCK OFF THE GRASS!” kind of thing.

I always tried to be super cool about those minor corrections, ’cause I’m not a dick generally. Even with Mr. “You’ve just been fucked” shirt, I just pulled him aside and didn’t make a big deal.

“Psst,” I said sidling up to the dumb little bastard, “that shirt is wholly inappropriate, so run home and change it and I’ll wait here for your return. ” in my recollection a dark stain appeared in his crotch area as he scurried away. I likely didn’t scare the piss out of him but he came back in a Nautica Tshirt. The shirt was shit but at least it didn’t say fuck.

That shit is hard to stop doing. Dagmar and I constantly correct each other on the spot. OK, that’s a lie. She constantly calls me out and I just mostly ignore stuff ’cause I’ve managed to let it go, but she, and many more I know, can’t seem to do it.