Happy Sunday, everyone.
A weekend day on the base at Fort Benning had initially meant PT (or physical training) for me, but with my new classification of being a medical reject, I was not allowed to do PT. What I was allowed to do on my second weekend in the Army was buff the floors.
Since I had worked my way out of a job in records, I became the new buffer of floors in the reception battalion. Apparently “light duty” meant I could push a huge buffer around the “barracks” and hallways and bathroom floors all day. The only day I didn’t have to do this was on Sundays and to be honest, it was pretty darn boring without anything to do on those days.
After that first full week of being there, I was still in a bit of limbo. My orders had not come through yet for going home, so I had no idea when that might be, and I was stuck at the reception battalion until I got my next set of orders. In a sense, I was buffer bitch. Each morning I would report to the sergeant’s office, and they would tell me to start buffing.
For whatever reason, I was not the lowest on the reject totem pole, though, because those guys had to either work in the kitchen or clean the latrines. I never had to do either of those jobs. I buffed. I rebuffed. I re-rebuffed. I began to find ways to make it a game, as I always do with tedious jobs, and I would buff patterns into the floors only to go back over the patterns to make it look like the sergeants wanted it to look.
It was lonely as hell. Until I got paid, I had to be very sparing in how much I called Phoenix. I did call my mom and let her know what was going on, of course, and a few friends. I gave Suzi the number for one of the payphones that I had access to and when I might be near it, so a couple of times I actually got a call from her. It made time go by a bit faster, I suppose.
When I did get my first paycheck, I was allowed to go to the PX/commissary and cash it. I knew this was basically a dare from the sergeants, too, to see what I would buy that they could just take from me, so I bought nothing I couldn’t eat or hide really well, which as basically nothing. I did, though, just because I had to do so, by another book of puzzles that I put in the waistband of my pants and covered with my uniform shirt and jacket. I didn’t figure they would frisk me, and I was right.
When my new orders finally came through, I had been there for three weeks, so it was the first week of October. I was being transferred to Headquarters and Service Company. This was the last stop, usually, for soldiers like me who were being transitioned out, so I was somewhat relieved. I still had no idea when I was going to get home and no one, obviously, was telling me anything, but I was stoked to get away from the very sterile and bleak life at the reception battalion.
For one thing, Headquarters and Service Company had a rec room. There was a TV and some ping pong tables and even a place to play cards. There was also about a hundred soldiers who were in the same boat I was in or rehabbing an injury from basic training and were waiting to join a new unit. A few of the soldiers I had met told me that it was a much better place to be than the reception battalion and that the non-commissioned officers and brass were less uptight.
They were right. I could tell right away this was going to be easier. I moved into an old school barracks and had the last cot in the corner, on the second floor. I lucked out, too, because this cot didn’t have a top bunk and many of the others did. The downfall, though, was that the bathroom was also old. There was zero privacy in that bathroom and the floor of the shower room, which also had zero privacy to it, was covered in a grey sludge that looked like it probably snacked on flesh for fun.
Either way, though, I knew I was closer to going home.
Everything about Headquarters and Service Company was more like what I expected from the Army. It felt like I was on the set of Stripes, for example, and it was busy all the time. Platoons in the middle of basic would come through each day for lunch and so there were lots of people to talk to and glean all kinds of interesting information.
For the first couple of days, I was assigned to groundskeeping, so I was out and about, picking up trash and raking leaves and such. I met a dude named Lionel (I’ll protect his anonymity) and he became my first actual friend in the Army. I forget what his injury was, but he was going home, too, and we just sort of clicked. He looked a bit like Jon Voight and was from Mississippi or Louisiana. I can’t exactly remember, for sure, but we are connected on Facebook.
Lionel hipped me to the fact that if you complained of a headache or any kind of pain, you got a prescription either Tylenol 3’s, which had codeine in them, or some other brown pill that would put you to sleep. Pills were flowing pretty freely around Headquarters and Service Company. I had found a place with a black market.
Suddenly, I started getting headaches.
The days flowed a little easier with a codeine buzz. You could also smoke at Headquarters and Service Company. I was never a big smoker, but it also was a way to pass the time. I met another guy from Ohio, and I don’t remember his name, but he was a big fan of the Butthole Surfers, and he had a Walkman.
Things were looking up.
See you tomorrow.
Learning to buff is fun.