Location: marengo, il, United States

Friday, February 11, 2005

How to be Hoisted by Your Own Petard

Any infraction defined by the Uniform Code of Military Justice is punishable by court-martial. The UCMJ, the bedrock of military justice, requires every marine to wear a hat. One is further required to wear said hat outdoors only, except when bearing arms. In a more cozy manner of speaking, you keep the hat on your head when entering a building only if you are carrying a weapon.

Throughout a dozen years of service, I managed to stay out of court, although there were several close calls.

For a while I had a great job that required me to enter and leave buildings often, and in those days, mailmen went about their duties unarmed. I liked the outdoors and the fresh air. Like anyone, I enjoyed the feeling of being needed; mail from home is greatly appreciated by all ranks, both high and low, and I was always offered at least a smile for my efforts.

But one day I forgot. I had forgot where I put my hat after toting one particular heavily-laden leather bag through the set of front doors, delivering mail to an out-lying aircraft hanger. Singular of purpose, I marched through the doorway and…Actually, I know where the hat was; it’s location at the time just slipped my mind later on.

Only office pouges wore the khaki uniform, along with tightly tied ties and collar stays, ribbons and medals pinned over the left breast pocket, spit-shined shoes on their feet and their nicely manicured fingernails placed at their individual typewriters. Pogues, understand, were the owlish sorts that wore pink-framed glasses and acted goofier than most, and their paler skin and pimply faces somehow reflected a total lack of whatever it took to be a mean-assed marine. If one resembled a sissy, he got assigned as an office pogue.

Being half-blind myself, I too wore the pink-framed glasses, but I tanned easily, plus I purposely snarled a lot. I hated the idea of typing on typewriters all day, so I escaped being that sort of a pogue by my act. I also wore green utilities with its matching cotton hat.

In keeping with the law, I removed the hat when I entered, and then slipped the bill inside my pants at the small of my back. I turned right after clearing the foyer. Down a long hallway I marched, dropping off letters to each office on one side. Coming back, I gave mail to the other half. At the opposite end of the hall, a door led out to the hangar bay. Mechanics busied themselves there with helicopters as I strode around the cavernous area, leaving longed-for envelopes in the greasy hands of men anxious of news from home. Satisfied with my duties, I stopped by the head for another pressing delivery.

Inside a stall, and after some relief, I stood up and realized what I had forgotten. The wet hat now lay in a bowl, and to put it delicately, both hat and bowl were now filled.

Marines aren’t your normal sorts. The average Joe might have retreated from and left the scene as it lay. One of those office pouges might have even had the foresight to keep an extra hat in his desk. But I had no choice in this matter before me. And like I said, I have never, ever been to court.


Blogger Ned said...

Semper Fidelis! Great story... The best things about your great stories is that they are true, and wonderfully funny.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Thanks, Nedder. Well, true it is.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Good story, told with humor and subtlety. Needs must when the devil drives...

7:34 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

I agree with Ned. I have to admit I didn't enjoy that owlish description, though. I, for one, happen to be a VERY cool owl. Hmph!

8:15 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

I'm sorry, Hannah.

Loosened up on provocative words seductivly said by Ned, I went and slipped into a cliché; I thensince lost my head.

Forgive me.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Harvey Young said...

Having read this story I get your meaning about how it was inspired.

I wear hats all year long now, baseball caps sporting whatever logo I find unoffensive and provided to me for free or very low cost. Like you I often find myself tucking the hat in the small of my back, which just seems like the right place, or perhaps this is a carry over from my days as the Airforce version of an office pogue. Never lost one yet, and I take it that you have not either.

Great story. You have a keen knack for weaving the story very well.

9:49 AM  

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