A post for Military Day

As a veteran, and certainly not a hero of any kind, I am increasingly frustrated by the complete lack of understanding of military life by people who never served but who profess to honor it.  Apart from the obvious (if you think so highly of it, why don’t you join?), there is the near deification of soldiers, regardless of what they have or haven’t done.  Heroism is, by definition, a rare thing; to me, calling everyone a hero erodes the accomplishments of the true heroes, of which there are but few.  “Beyond the call of duty” means just that.  You don’t get to be a hero by doing your duty, however dangerous and however rare such a thing has become these days, when few even acknowledge that it exists. Never mind that the military has the same percentage of scoundrels and backstabbers as the rest of the population.

But enough preaching.  Here’s a little story about the military which I think hints at the real nature of soldiers everywhere.

Years ago, when Fort Benjamin Harrison was still a functioning military post, I happened to be passing through Indianapolis and stayed at a motel on the Eastern outskirts of the town.  It was one of those places that offered a free “continental” breakfast: cheap, sugary puffers the like of which the continent has never seen.  But there was a small group of National Guard soldiers staying there, on their way to weekend training, and soldiers never pass up free food.  They filled the breakfast area while I was swilling down bad coffee the next morning.

At one point, a young woman stood up and introduced herself as Sergeant Johnson, their guide to Fort Harrison, since apparently most of them had never been there.  In a typical crisp military vernacular, she proceeded to delineate a long and complex series of instructions on how to get there, complete with road intersections, traffic lights, and, in one case, UTM coordinates.  As she finished and sat down, a young lieutenant near me turned to his companion, an old, grizzled sergeant.

“You get that?” he asked, in his best command voice.

Yes sir,” the sergeant replied, “Follow Sergeant Johnson.”



Peanut butter manifesto

The coffee shop I frequent was out of peanut butter cookies today, again.  This may seem a minor issue to you, but there’s a backstory.

When I was very young, I put my trust in all the usual stalwarts of society – the used car salesman, the insurance company, the heroin pusher, even (against all my instincts) the priest – only to see my hopes crushed one by one, until all that remained was a bitter shell of a man.  I became a cynic, and believed that not only was everyone just out for personal gain, and to hell with everyone else, but they actively sought and enjoyed the experience of disappointing others.  Worse, I thought they had tumbled to my instability, and banded together to make my personal life miserable.  I would hear of a terrific sale, only to find that the price had doubled once I made an irrevocable order.  Or I would attend a formal affair, and find that, not only was my fly open, but the zipper was irreparably broken (I still don’t know how they did that).  Worst of all, whenever I would start buying something regularly, it would disappear from the shelves.

I know what you’re thinking.  That’s just crazy paranoia, and I should get over it, trust the used car salesmen again, get on with life.

Well, that’s exactly what I did. It was a tough, grueling road, fraught with traps and pitfalls, but with perseverance and, yes, positive thinking, I began to see these coincidences for what they were.

Then I started going to a small local coffee shop, just a hole in the wall, really, but with a friendly, quirky vibe.  They had a display case with a variety of munchies, including which were, regularly, peanut butter cookies.

Now, a peanut butter cookie is the perfect snack.  Fist of all is the delicious flavor, along with that unique and inexpressible texture, which together make for un unsurpassed snacking experience.  As if that weren’t enough, the thing is made of peanuts, a small amount of sugar, and eggs.  Nutritionally speaking, you couldn’t find a combination that could provide a better fuel for a human.  So I started buying one regularly with my breve.

It started slowly.  I would go in one day, and they would be out of peanut butter cookies.  No big deal; it happens, and the next day all would be well.  But it started happening once a week, then twice a week, until, now, I rarely find the cookies available, ever.  When I ask, I’m told the last one was sold just moments ago; once recently, they even went to the lengths of pretending their oven was broken, and they sold only funky looking things that looked like gravel encased in polyurethane.

Yeah, right.  If the oven was broken, how did they make the gravel cakes, hmm?

But this time, I’m not giving in.  I’ll never go back to the life of paranoia that I so narrowly escaped.  I know exactly what to do.

As God is my witness, I will never eat another peanut butter cookie as long as I live.!

That should get them back on the shelves in no time.

Tough love economics

I was in the grocery store, jam-packed on this gorgeous day, when I saw a lane with nobody in it. Unbelievable, I thought, and went for it. As I was unloading my cart, I joked with the check out person.

“Jeez, was it some thing you said?”

“No, I don’t think so.”  Then she pointed to the bagger: “It must have been him!”

“Sure,” I said, “blame it on the lowest wage person here!”

We all shared a laugh, and then the check out person got this pensive look on her face, like an infant child about to fill its diapers.

“It is funny, though,” she said.  “He works much harder than I do, and gets paid less.”

Well, this got me to thinking.  What if the hardest working people got paid the most?  Would that be fairer?  Would it solve any of our social problems?


If that happened, then everyone would want the hardest jobs.  Before you know it, everything would be done.

There we’d be, nothing to do but sit around and talk revolution.