Is it human nature? Why do we barely survive a terrible experience and then spend the rest of our lives laughing about it? For me, it was military basic training. Despite the years, I remember most of it but I've noticed that as I age, I tend to suddenly recall experiences that have been safely locked away in my subconscious mind for decades. Probably for reasons of self-preservation.
The military was the first time I actually ran into the race issue and each branch of the service had its own speech. Ours was something like this:
"We do not see black, white, brown or yellow! We only see blue! This will be your color! You will strive to achieve pride in this color or I will strangle you to death with my own calloused little hands! However, until you earn the right to wear my blue, you are all worthless and worthless has no color!"
It was our umpteenth barracks inspection. The T.I. reached into my foot locker and pulled out a pair of boxer shorts. Something was not to his liking so the next thing I knew, my teeth, hair and eyeballs were dribbling across the floor. I was a squad leader at the time so he hit me twice so as to send the proper message to the rest of the troops. Then, he picked up my locker, shook it, threw it on the floor and screamed, "You get that squared away by the time I get back!"
As it turned out, I would have plenty of time. I was working as fast as I could and muttering to myself. "I want to live, I really, really want to live."
I guess somebody thought it was funny because Skeletor saw one of his walking slime bags smiling. So, he called up the poor, bedraggled barracks chief.
"Barracks Chief! Why is this man smiling at me?! Does he think I'm funny?! I will tear off his ears and make a coin purse out of them! I will rip out his worthless lungs and do it through his rectum! You will have this man run around the barracks screaming, 'Ho-ho-ho!' until I tell you to stop! You will ensure that he's not smiling when he returns to me!"
I didn't think it could get any worse but I found in basic training that anything can get worse. I heard him mention something about rectal hair and a toupee but I really wasn't listening at that point. The commotion was due to the fact that bride-of-satan had found a condom in a trainee's belongings. In case you didn't know, that's wrong...wrong...wrong!
"What the hell is this?!" he said as he drove his nose into the poor guy's ear canal. "What were you planning on doing with this thing nimrod? You see any women around here? Boy, you get funny with me and they'll be calling you Stumpy after I kick your ass up around your shoulders. I will make finger sandwiches out of your freaking fingers! You will now run behind Coonrod the Comic while screaming, 'I am a demented piece of civilian crap!' until I tell you to stop! Move!"
And the parade continued. One guy at the end of the building must have been expecting the worst and was on the verge of tears. Not good. If anyone even hinted that a tear was about to slide down his dainty cheek, Murderous Marvin was on him like a Congressman on a debit card. I think all branches of the military used the same line.
"Do you miss your mommy? Would you feel more loved if I have her come down here and tuck you in at night? Well, that's not gonna happen Snot-rag! I am your mommy! I am you daddy! You will do your job and carry on or I'll send you back to your mama in disgrace! Everyone will know you couldn't hack my basic training program! Sally won't want to date you! Employers won't want to hire you! You will end up a slovenly, welfare sucking leech!"
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow basic trainees. Venomous Vern was so busy with them that he forgot all about me. He didn't even come back and re-inspect my foot locker. I guess he'd had enough excitement.
We were threatened like that every day in the beginning but the threats were so over the top, we knew they weren't going to actually follow through. Nobody was going to tear off our limbs or kill us dead but there were always push-ups, running and seemingly endless marching. And screaming. Lots of screaming.
A couple of times, I wondered if maybe mom wouldn't mind having me back. I even thought I might like a job involving, "want fries and an apple pie with that?" for all eternity. But, that was about the time mom sent me the "do not trespass" sign. It seems my room was turned into a tattoo parlor and mini-mart the day after I left.
I went back to visit after basic training and mom was happy to see me. But she still charged me $5.50 for a hot dog and a Slurpee.