Friday, May 29, 2009

Don's Latrine Trip

When I was in the US Air Force in the early 1960s, I was stationed at a US Army Post. We slept in “open bays,” large rooms in which as many as 30 or 40 men slept.

The Army bay and the Air Force bay were separated by a wall with a door. The Army bay was a long room in the middle of which a rubber mat as walkway lead from the door of the Air Force bay to the entrance to the Army bay, another door, after which came a hallway with doors to the latrine and showers. On each side of, and perpendicular to, the rubber mat were several rows of wall lockers, dividing the bay into sections. Each section had four or five bunks in it. The Army adhered strictly to lights out after 10 P.M. so that if any of us had to go to the latrine during the night we had to do it in the dark through the Army bay. Especially when coming back from the bright lights of the latrine, it was like going through the bay blindfolded. So, we learned to count the rows of wall lockers. As long as we felt the rubber mat under our bare feet and touched the wall lockers with one hand, we could accurately tell when to put out our hands to open the door to the Air Force bay.

One of my Air Force bay mates was named Don. Don's bunk was just inside the Air Force bay on the right, up against the wall as one came in the door. One night Don had to go to the latrine and on the way back apparently miscounted and sleepy as he was, turned too soon and got into the bunk he came to. There was a tremendous ruckus, shouting and swearing, bare feet slapping the floor, the door to the Air Force bay slamming and the creaking of a bunk as someone hurriedly jumped into it. The noise in the Army bay soon subsided; no lights were ever turned on because the light switch for the Army bay was down at the other end. What had happened, as we found out from Don, was that he miscounted the wall lockers, turned to the right too soon and jumped into bed with one of the Army guys. The rightful occupant of the bunk was understandably outraged at the intrusion in addition to being awakened out of a sound sleep. This alone would be reason enough to make a ruckus, but as we had noted repeatedly, Don always slept naked and had gone to the latrine that way!

Sundays Are Not What They Used To Be

When I was young, Sunday was a special day. It would be quiet. The Sunday paper would be spread out in the living room. The whole family would get dressed up to go to church (or not). Afterward we would go to some small restaurant to have lunch, or the whole family would gather for lunch or a picnic at somebody's house. In the evening we would have ice cream and watch the Ed Sullivan Show. Watching the Ed Sullivan Show is not a prerequisite, but it gives you an idea of the era I'm talking about.

So maybe that's not everyone's idea of a nice Sunday, but the relative peace and quiet and leisureliness is what I miss. Nowadays people seem to save their lawn-mowing for Sundays. And even the church-going people no longer seem to be dressed up in their "Sunday-best." Recently I observed that even on what we once regarded as one of the most "sacred" of holidays, Memorial Day, people went about their everyday tasks like mowing the lawn and going to the dump with the household garbage instead of savoring the day.

I know that times have changed and that life has changed. But especially in a world with computers and cell phones where everyone can be in touch with everyone all the time and can be working wherever he or she goes, a little time-out once in a while would do a world of good.

My First Blog Entry

I do a lot of thinking. I think about this and I think about that. Sometimes I write down what I’m thinking about, most of the time I just keep my thoughts to myself, often intending to write them down later. However, there is no great incentive to write something down that no one will read; as a result, most of my thoughts have not gotten written down.

Therefore, I have decided to start a blog and to write down my “mental ramblings” (thus the name of this blog), as if someone would read them. This way I can pretend that I have an audience with whom I can share my thoughts without actually asking anyone to read what I have written. It is also a convenient way to keep all the random thoughts, anecdotes, essays, observations, etc. in one place. So, here goes!