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Entry date: 5-21-2022 - The Perks of Being a (insert your favorite thought) - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

Back to my glorious army career…

Maybe the best perk of working in the office at Headquarters and Service Company was the private bathroom. I’ve never been comfortable with public pooping and the lack of even stalls in the old barracks bathrooms was almost more than I could deal with on a regular basis. I don’t use the term “regular” loosely, either.

The next perk, which I alluded to a few days ago, was the ability to store my black-market smokes there. This, again, was taking a huge risk, but I figured out quickly that it was my job to fetch supplies and no one in the office had any idea what was housed there. I found all kinds of crazy stuff in the various closets, storage rooms, and small kitchen. Most of it was useless, of course, but it allowed me to stash a few cartons without much chance of anyone noticing.

Other perks included the fact that the office was not locked at night, so I could use the bathroom whenever I wanted. I also gave the phone number to Suzi, so she could call me there at night, too. When the coast was clear, I would just make a collect call to her, and she would refuse it and then call me right back. Everyone was scared to death of the 1stSGT, so nobody dared go in there at all unless they had to and I certainly wasn’t going to tell anyone that when he was gone, he was gone for the day.

I did almost lose my job that first week.

As I mentioned, I was instructed to let no phone calls go through to the 1stSGT. On my second or third day, his wife called. I debated in my head for a split second if she was included in my gatekeeping and chose wrong. She was so nice to me that I felt like she had to be the exception. This was a bad call on my part.

Now, in the army, they often call a first sergeant, who is an E-8, “Top” because they are the top-ranking non-commissioned officers who deal directly with small units of troops or the more hands-on stuff. E-9s are Command Sergeant Majors and they are over battalions and such, so they are a bit removed from a lowly private like I was. To say “Top” blew his top is an understatement. I was torn several new assholes in a short amount of time and told to never, under any circumstances, even if she said it was an emergency, to patch her or anyone through.

To this day, I have no idea what that man did all day in his office. It was a huge office, too. Very well decorated and lots of cool military memorabilia. It was not as crazy as the office that James Gandolfini had in that movie about the military prison, The Last Castle, but it was close and still very cool. Guns in glass cases cool and pictures from all over the world. The 1stSGT had been in Viet Nam, for example, and had the pictures to prove it.

I liked working in there because the days went by fast. I still had no idea how long I would be there, so I figured it was a pretty easy way to do my time and not have to be out raking rocks or cleaning buildings like a lot of the guys were doing.

Speaking of which, I had a new crop of people who didn’t like me because they gave me that “easy” job. Part of me just laughed it off because you had to have a bit of brain to do the job and most could not even speak in a complete sentence, let alone answer the phone. They didn’t realize that they would get torn several new assholes on the regular if they were in charge of that particular duty.

In the evenings, when I wasn’t taking a nice long private dump in the office or talking on the phone to people back home, I was hanging out playing ping pong or shooting the shit with Lionel. The grub was good, too, at our little mess hall. The ladies that worked there were super cool and would hook us up with nice helpings of food. Even though we didn’t have to eat our meals in a matter of minutes, most of us still ate pretty fast. We also had access to soft drinks which they didn’t have in the reception battalion.

One day I asked one of the nice ladies for a Sprite and she looked at me and laughed. “You mean, a clear coke?” she asked. I was then told that I was in Coca Cola country, and everything was a Coke. On a few visits to Atlanta later in life, I would always delight in ordering a Pepsi in places there and seeing the angry looks, but that’s another short and boring story.

At bedtime, I would grab my Walkman and listen to music while the Tylenol threes kicked in. I slept like a baby and reveled in the fact that I did not draw fire watch at any point that first week on the secretary job. Answering the phones all day on no sleep would have sucked.

When Saturday, October 17 rolled around, good ol’ Sergeant “Fuckin’” Kitchen asked for volunteers for a special evening detail, Lionel and I stepped up and volunteered along with a few other soldiers. The task for the evening was to clean one of the bigwig general’s home. We would have four hours to do some basic cleaning to get it ready for his return.

When we got there, we realized we had gotten lucky again. The place was basically spotless and outside of a little dusting and vacuuming, there wasn’t much to do except turn on the big screen TV and watch game one of the world series. The Twins and the Cardinals were playing that year and the Twins kicked the snot out of the Cardinals in that first game.

We watched the whole thing sitting on the General’s big comfy couch in a killer room with lots of dark wood and a bar that looked so inviting. The next was my 18th birthday … what was a guy to do?

See you tomorrow.

How natural? What natural do you speak of? I'm not sure.

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