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Chanute Field VS Nirvana
By Henry L. Lefevre
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Rated "G" by the Author.
Once in a while, the world seems to be a bowl full of cherries.
Chanute Field seemed like Nirvana. Had I earned a trip from the Outback to the land of milk and honey? In the end, I concluded that heaven had answered my prayers by sending me to Chanute's Weather Observers School.
Why? Well, Chanute was so close to the twin cities of Campaign and Urbana that we could almost see their water towers if we shinnied up to the top of our flagpole.
Statistically speaking, Champaign-Urbana had a combined population of over ten thousand people -- and more than half of the young folk were dating-aged women. I drooled.
Having gone through over a month of basic training with the combat engineers, I considered myself to be an expert strategist. I immediately started working on my tactics . After all, I was an ex-combat engineer in desperate need of inexpensive entertainment. Moonlight walks? An ice cream soda? A free meal now and then?
What was the best way to make contact with one of those wonderful ladies? Or get a free meal? The first thing that popped into my mind, was "Start going to church." Since I had a church background, the theological approach appeared to be definitely safer than scouting the bars. In addition, it cost less, promised bigger rewards, and pampered my soul.
I spent my first Saturday evening applying spit and polish to my shoes and my brass. By midnight, my shoes had a mirror-like finish and my brass shined like gold.
My preparations had been instinctive. All I did was to pretend that I was getting ready for a Saturday morning inspection. That approach worked for the sergeants. It ought to work for the coeds as well. As the old saying goes, "I'd have but one chance to make a good first impression."
I was naive. There weren't many coeds in church. Most of the students were either recuperating from making whoopee the previous night, or cramming for upcoming exams.
On the other hand, I found that there were enough great cooks in the local churches that I should be willing to forgo my amorous inclinations -- for a while at least. One fact of life that I've learned through the ages is, "Most church women are excellent cooks."
I decided to study the church crowd until I could develop a more amorous agenda. Here are some approaches I used:
1. I visited my own denomination whenever possible.
2. I disregarded the size of the church.
3. I went to church early.
4. I sat in or near the second row near the pulpit.
5. When I couldn't sing, I faked it.
6. I lingered around the coffee table after the services were finished.
7. I tried to ask questions.
In the process of visiting various churches I have had some quite interesting experiences. For instance, I visited one church where speaking in tongues was the norm. Now I don't have any hang-ups about the evangelical approaches to worship, but this one scared me so bad that I had nightmares for weeks. Members of the congregation rolled in the isles and talked in tongues until I was about to bolt for the exit. My hair rose on the back of my neck and I felt damp with sweat. I became even more scared when the preacher started talking about the devil's followers invading their church. I was lucky, though. They weren't specific. They didn't pick me out as their prime target.
My offhand conclusion was that whenever I planned to visit a church with which I was unfamiliar, I ought to take some precautions. For example, inquire about a church's "unconventional" practices before barging in through the front door. That precaution might have helped me avoid at least one embarrassing moment.
I also found that it didn't pay to draw conclusions based on the size of the church. Normally, it seems, size doesn't matter. The small churches I visited tended to be friendlier. Large churches tended to have more potential families that might invite me to dinner. Medium sized churches often had the best of both options.
As they said in My Fair Lady, "Get me to the church on time." Right! I liked to get there early. In the first place, it kept me from disrupting the service. In the second place, it provided me with the best exposure. In other words, it gave me a better chance to meet someone who was willing to invite me to sit with them during the service.
I usually sat in the second or third row. Should the front rows be sparsely populated, I found it judicious to sit a few rows back. That way, I was able to tell when to stand and when to sit -- or kneel should that be the custom. Different churches had different routines.
When I sat in the back of the church, no one could see me. I needed good exposure if I hoped to give a patriotic parishioner a chance to invite a drafted soldier to dinner. I found it to be a lonely world out there whenever I hid my uniform under a basket.
I used to belong to my High School's glee club so I didn't have to fake it while singing the hymns. Had it been otherwise, I probably would have moved my lips without uttering a sound. I wouldn't have wanted to make a bad impression by sounding as though I was haunting their house.
Lingering around the coffee table earned me a few points. I didn't want to make a b-line for the door and make the congregation worry about their not appearing to be friendly. I figured that good guests do their best to put their hosts at ease.
I also tried to be gregarious. I asked lots of questions. I found that it paid me to be friendly before concluding that others were not. Whenever I wanted to know more about people or things, I'd ask appropriate questions. The word appropriate is critical. If my question was followed by a deathly silence, I retreated and regrouped. I found out the hard way that few plump ladies appreciate being asked when their baby is due.
author of "a spoonful of humor"
sold on amazon.com
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