January 12, 2003

Being new at sending my

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:37 pm

Being new at sending my words and thoughts into cyberspace, I am gratified when I see that some people actually read the meanderings of a middle-aged Jersey Guy. I’m even more gratified when people actually like them enough to link to the site. In that regard, I noticed that I was getting referrals from Diminished Responsibility. Naturally, I checked out the site, and I found it to be well written, very well organized and full of extremely varied content – something for everyone. I’m making it one of my daily reads, and I recommend you do so as well.

USS Cole.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 8:42 pm


Here are some great photos of the recovery of the USS Cole following its attack by Islamic Terrorists in Yemen on October 12, 2000. The attack resulted in 17 sailors being killed and 39 being wounded. The Cole, a guided missile destroyer, was recovered by the Norwegian heavy transport ship M/V Blue Marlin. Following extensive repairs, which included replacing 550 tons of exterior steel plating, the Cole, returned to the Fleet in April 2002.

Thanks to my friend Brian for sending me the photos.

January 11, 2003

Night Infiltration and the Pathetic Mondo Kane Turtle.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 1:17 am

It was January 1969, during the final weeks of Army basic training at Fort Dix. We stood shivering on that frigid, moonless night, waiting for our turn to “go over the top” to begin the Night Infiltration Course.

The purpose of the Night Infiltration Course was to give us some sense of how it feels to low crawl (i.e. keeping one’s chest and belt buckle in touch with ground at all times) towards an objective, as real bullets zing overhead and explosive charges go off nearby to simulate incoming mortar or artillery rounds. Essentially, the course consisted of an area that seemed to me to be about three quarters the size of size of a football field. However, that is a guess, as it was too dark to see the finish line from where we were.

The beginning of the course consisted of a chest-deep trench, where groups of about ten waited until instructed to go “over the top.” At that point, the group would climb out of the trench and begin the crawl to the other end of the course.

As I was waiting for my group’s turn, I watched several groups before ours begin the course. The machine gun fire from behind and above was virtually non-stop, which suggested to me that there must have been at least two guns. One gun would fire while the other was being re-loaded. We had been “assured” by the Sergeants that the guns were locked into a position that prevented them from being fired any lower than about seven feet from the ground. Even though I was quite certain that we would not be machine gunned to death in Fort Dix, I still was not at all eager to crawl on the freezing ground under live machine gun fire. I really need this shit?

I watched as the guys in the group before mine crawled out of the trench and disappeared into the darkness, while the tracers (there are about a half-dozen bullets between each tracer) produced fiery streaks of orange-red light in the night over their heads. I was trying to determine whether the bullets were really as high off the ground as promised, but I could not tell. I could also hear the explosive charges going off in the darkness ahead, which lit up the immediate area around the charge, showing brief flashes of the men on the ground in silhouette.

The Sergeant told us to get ready.

I leaned my rifle against the wall of the trench and nervously checked my helmet and web belt (on which was my bayonet and entrenching tool) to make sure everything was secure. As I had done a couple thousand times over the prior six weeks, I wondered what the hell am I doing here?

It also wasn’t the first time I considered how incomprehensible it seemed that strategic decisions that had been made years before, at the highest level of government – indeed, in the Oval Office itself – could set off a chain reaction of events that eventually placed me in this damned trench, waiting my turn to crawl to God-knows where, while other guys fired machine guns over my head. What the hell am I doing here?

“OVER THE TOP,” the Sergeant hollered.

I dutifully climbed out of the trench and began the long crawl. Almost immediately, my helmet slid forward, almost falling off. Each time my helmet slipped forward, it knocked my glasses (army glasses) halfway down my nose. Just keep crawling forward, I told myself, and ignore the machine gun fire overhead. (Talk about a supreme exercise in self-delusion.) I continued crawling, all the while pushing my helmet back on my head, and pushing my glasses back onto my nose.

All of a sudden, KAAH-BOOM!!!!! One of the charges exploded about ten feet from me (the charges were surrounded by chicken wire to prevent someone from actually crawling over them), and I felt something hit me in the leg. I thought, Holy shit! Could I have been hit?? Jesus, nobody gets WOUNDED in FORT DIX!! After a brief moment of panic, I realized that what had hit my leg was just some dirt that the explosive charge had thrown off. I was happy not to be hurt, but even happier not having to explain to everyone how I managed to get wounded on the Night Infiltration Course, something for which one surely does not receive the Purple Heart.

I continued to crawl, dragging my rifle along, as instructed, so as to keep the firing mechanism free of dirt. My helmet and glasses continued to slip. I lost my sense of time and place. I just crawled and crawled. I was exhausted.

I must have looked like the pathetic turtle in the movie Mondo Kane. In nature, after emerging from the sea to lay their eggs inland, turtles instinctively crawl in the direction of the ocean to return to the sea. However, as shown in Mondo Kane, atomic testing near the turtles’ habitat had altered the genes of some of the turtles. The film focused on one turtle, which, after having laid its eggs, crawled in the direction away from the ocean. It continued to crawl in the wrong direction, a slave to its genetically altered instincts, until it could no longer propel its weight forward. It futilely pushed its flippers against the sand until it ultimately died of exhaustion. Yep. That’s me. The Mondo Friggin’ Kane Turtle.

I did not know how long I had been crawling, but I finally reached the trench at the end of the course. I was sweating and freezing all at the same time. I was covered with dirt and mud from head to toe, and my rifle was absolutely filthy. Even the rifle barrel was full of dirt, which would certainly have prevented it from being fired. The Sergeant saw the mud-caked rifle, took it in his hand, and got right in my face.

“What the f*** is wrong with you? Look at this gott-damned weapon. You got about a pound of dirt in the gott-damned barrel. You try to fire this weapon, and you’ll blow your f****** head clean off!”

He was right, but I really wasn’t paying attention to his hollering. I was too busy thinking about that turtle.

January 9, 2003

It’s Not One of the Great Pyramids.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:06 pm


It is, however, an interesting oddity in the Garden State. It is a 36 ton granite tombstone sculpted in the form of a full-sized 1982 Mercedes Benz 2400 diesel limousine. The details are here.

Jersey…Ya gotta love it.

Update.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:26 am

Sherry L. Murphy was arrested in the early morning hours. Unfortunately, this story continues to get worse.. The police also arrested a 45-year-old male “drifter” who confessed to having sexually abused one of the surviving children in the past. The so-called “drifter” is a friend of Ms. Murphy’s and Melinda Williams, the abused children’s mother. Human garbage.

January 7, 2003

Sherry L. Murphy.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:38 pm

Sherry L. Murphy, a 41-year-old go-go dancer, and alleged crack addict, is being sought by police in connection with what is euphemistically referred to as “child endangerment.” A visitor to Ms. Murphy’s residence in Newark, NJ found a 7-year-old boy and his 4-year-old brother concealed in a filthy basement, hiding under a bed, and “reeking of urine, feces and vomit.” The children were “malnourished and dehydrated, and their hair was covered with lice.” The following day, the 7 year old reported that his twin brother was missing. The police returned to Ms. Murphy’s house and found the missing boy’s body stuffed into a plastic container in a basement closet. An autopsy showed that the boy had died from starvation and blunt force trauma to the stomach.

Ms. Murphy, who was not present during either police search, was supposed to be caring for the three children while their mother (Ms. Murphy’s cousin) was serving time in prison for assault charges.

What makes this horrible story even worse is that the New Jersey Department of Youth and Family Services apparently had received reports of child neglect by the children’s mother, but did not investigate the matter. The Governor promises an “investigation.”

Authorities believe that Ms. Murphy may have fled New Jersey. If you happen to see this mutant, do your best to restrain yourself and just call the police.

January 6, 2003

Army Glasses.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:54 pm

Sometime during the second week of Army basic training at Fort Dix in 1968, the First Sergeant directed all the men in the company who wore eyeglasses to march to the place on the base where the Army would see to it that we all received Army eyeglasses. After having already relieved everyone of their civilian hair, and civilian clothing, taking away our civilian eyeglasses would effectively remove the only remaining vestige of our former civilian lives. This de-individualization was critical to the process of turning each of us into a “Gorilla Stompin’ Mean Fightin’ Machine.”

We knew the Army glasses were on their way because a few days earlier, the sixty or so of us who wore glasses were marched to the same location where we were filled out forms and temporarily surrendered our civilian glasses for about an hour so that an optician (probably a former truck driver in civilian life) could put our glasses on that widget that allows matching lenses to be made.

Now the sixty of us were back in the same large room sitting on the floor waiting to be “issued” our Army glasses. (As I noted before, the Army never “gives” you things; it issues you things). A sergeant and two corporals entered the room. It was plain to see that “issuing” the glasses was going to be a three-man operation. Corporal Number One held a stack of eyeglasses. The sergeant had an alphabetical list of names that matched up with each of the pairs of glasses. I wondered what Corporal Number Two’s job was, but I soon found out.

Here’s how it went. The sergeant started at the top of the list, “Aardvark, Anthony A. Front and center! On the double. Remove your civilian glasses and stand at attention.” Pvt. Aardvark would move quickly from the floor to the front of the room, where he would stand at attention. Corporal Two would take a pair of Army glasses from Corporal One, and in one motion quickly push them onto the face of Pvt. Aardvark. (Ah ha! I realized then that Corporal Two was the eyeglasses “putter on’r”) Once that was done, the Sergeant would say, “Move out,” at which time, Pvt. Aardvark would execute an about-face and walk briskly out of the room and back to our regular barracks.

This was proceeding through the alphabet without a hitch. Indeed a certain fluid rhythm began to emerge. Sergeant calls the name, and the guy goes to the front. Glasses are pushed onto his face. He is told to “Move out.” He does and about face and walks out of the room wearing Army glasses. No problems.

Then it was my turn.

The sergeant barked, “[Irish last name], James A. Front and Center!”

I scrambled from the floor to the designated spot and stood at attention. The eyeglass-putter-on’r pushed the glasses on my face. I was stunned for a moment and then blurted out, “I CAN’T SEE!” Keep in mind that, until that time, the sergeant’s voice had been the only one heard in the room.

Sgt.: “WHAT DID YOU SAY?”

Me: “I CAN’T SEE!”

Sgt.: (looking momentarily puzzled, then looking down at his list and then back up at me) “ARE YOU [Irish last name], James A.?”

Me: Yes, sergeant.”

Sgt.: “You CAN SEE. MOVE OUT!” I swear that is exactly what he said.

I made my way to the door and walked back to the barracks, not without some difficulty and a fulminating headache. I truly could not see worth a damn with the Army glasses. I decided that I would risk the wrath of the Army by continuing to wear my civilian glasses, lest I injure myself or others because I could not see what I was doing while wearing Army glasses. I assumed that I was “issued” someone else’s glasses. Sure, I knew that I was [Irish last name], James A., but I knew equally as well that I could not see with those Army specs.

About a week later, we were scheduled for an inspection, which was no ordinary inspection (not that any Army inspection can reasonably be considered “ordinary”). This particular inspection would be conducted by the Company Commander – an eyeglasses wearing Captain.

During these inspections, one stands at attention at the foot of one’s bunk while the Captain and the Drill Sergeant inspect every inch of the barracks, every locker, and every, single detail of one’s attire. EVERYTHING had to be perfect.

When the Captain and the Drill Sergeant came to me, the Captain looked at my boots (spit shined) my trousers (recently starched, and meticulously bloused at the top of my boots), my belt (perfectly shined and centered), my shirt line (a perfect vertical line from the top of my shirt to the bottom of the fly in my trousers), the lower part of my face (cleanly shaven), and then he came to my eyes.

Captain: “You’re not wearing Army glasses!”

Me: “No sir.” (I had learned that one does not take opportunities like this to open a dialog, rather one just answers the question posed – even though, technically, the Captain had made a statement rather than having asked a question.)

Captain: “Do you HAVE Army glasses?”

Me: “Yes sir.”

Captain: “But you’re not WEARING Army glasses.”

Me: “No sir.”

Captain: “Well, where ARE your Army glasses?”

Me: “They are in my locker, sir.”

Captain: “Well, why aren’t you wearing them?”

Me: “Because I cannot see with them on, sir.”

Captain: “WHAT?”

Me: “”I cannot see with them on, sir.”

Captain: “You cannot see with them on?”

Me: “No sir.”

At that point, the Captain turned to the Drill Sergeant, and said, “Make sure that this man sees a doctor.” The Drill Sergeant said, “Yes sir,” and the two of them moved on to the next guy. Meanwhile I was thinking, You dopey bastard. Don’t you think there just might be something wrong with the f****** glasses and not with my f****** eyes? This is Bizarro Land.

The next day I found myself at the Army Hospital waiting to see an ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist??? I could not believe that I had been ordered to see an ophthalmologist. These guys treat serious eye conditions and even do surgery on eyes.

The doctor entered the room and said, “What seems to be the problem?”

Me: “I cannot see with my Army glasses.”

Doc: “Can you see OK with your regular glasses?” BINGO!! He was the first person who thought to ask me that question!

Me: “I see fine with my regular glasses.”

Doc. “Why did they send you to see me?”

Me: “I have no idea why they did that, sir. I was ordered to come here.”

Doc: “O.K. Well then, let’s take a look at those Army glasses.”

He took a quick look at my prescription and looked at the glasses.

Doc: (chuckling, sighing, shaking his head, and shrugging his shoulders) “I see the problem here. They put the left lens where the right one should be and the right lens where the left one should be. You have a pretty bad left eye. No wonder you couldn’t see. We’ll fix them right now.”

A few minutes later, I walked out of the hospital wearing my gray, translucent-framed Army glasses and wondering how I would survive the next two years in Bizarro Land.

January 3, 2003

Instant Money?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:39 pm

On one of the streets where I walk in the mornings, H&R Block turned a vacant storefront into a large tax preparation center in something like three weeks. I walked past the place at about 10:00 a.m. on January 2, and saw that there must have been 25 people already waiting to have their 2002 income tax returns prepared.

I can only assume that they were there to get what H&R Block refers to as “Instant Money.” The advertisement says, in large print, “Walk in with your taxes. Walk out with Instant Money.” In only slightly smaller print, the customer is advised, “Instant Money. Why wait for your refund?” The customer doesn’t even have to worry about paying H&R Block that day for preparing and filing his tax return, because H&R Block will happily deduct it from the customer’s estimated refund.

I wonder how many people showing up for their Instant Money realize that what they are actually getting is a loan against an anticipated tax refund — a loan that may come with a very hefty interest rate. It turns out that H&R Block does not actually make the loans, but rather it teams up with Imperial Capital Bank, and bank actually makes the loans. The bank is chartered in Delaware, where there apparently is no cap on interest rates.

Last year, Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer-director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, stated, “All consumer advocates [e.g. here] consider these refund anticipation loans to be predatory.” The same article reported that H&R Block has gotten into legal soup over the years for failing to fully disclose that the loans may be very expensive. To this, an H&R Block spokesperson responded, “.”We think we do a very good job of making clear to our clients that, when they get a refund anticipation loan, it is just that — a loan.”

True, H&R Block’s ad does tell the customer in the “How it Works” Section of the ad, that “while you are there [having your tax return prepared], you can apply for a refund loan of up to $5,000,” and further states, “If you qualify, you’ll get your money on the spot.” However, if the customer wants to know who is making the loan and what the interest on the loan is, he is relegated to the fine print. There, those customers with good eyesight and the skills necessary to understand language carefully crafted by H&R Block’s attorneys are advised that a bank will actually be making the loan, that the bank determines what the interest will be, and that the customer will be advised of the interest rate and other fees either on a separate disclosure statement, or on the loan check stub.

You can bet the ranch that the separate disclosure statement referred to will only be provided in those states that specifically require it, and, even then, it will most certainly be about as clear as mud to the average Instant Money seeker. And, the practice of “disclosing” the terms of a loan on the stub of the check representing the proceeds of the loan is beneath contempt.

What is really sad is that H&R Block is preying on those who are most vulnerable – those who are likely filing low-income returns, who are living from paycheck to paycheck, and who probably need the money right away to make ends meet. I suspect there are even some people who need the money right away in anticipation of receiving credit card bills for holiday purchases, a factor, which doubtless did not escape notice by the H&R Block folks.

Maybe some day — hopefully soon — the IRS will figure out a way to handle electronically filed, low income returns rapidly enough to issue same-day refunds to those who truly need Instant Money.

January 2, 2003

Test Day. The Sergeant, and the Wannabe “Remington Raider”.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 3:48 pm

Once I passed my pre-induction physical (See, “Greeting” 12/12/02) and was re-classified from II-S (college student) to I-A (draft-ready), I began thinking (more accurately, worrying) about what job the Army would assign me to do for two years. This ever-present concern escalated dramatically following my induction in December 1968.

In the Army, one doesn’t speak of one’s job. Rather, each person is assigned a “Military Occupation Specialty,” or “MOS.” The Army has hundreds of MOSs, ranging from cooks and clerks and photographers, to infantry men. I spent countless hours wondering how the Army decides which draftee would be assigned which MOS. I knew all too well that, even if the Army had some rational process of making these thousands of individual personnel decisions, the process might well be trumped, or at least tilted, by the Army’s great need at the time for infantrymen (MOS 11B, or, as it is known in Armyspeak, “Eleven Bravo”).

This was so because the Army needed new, fresh infantrymen in large numbers in order to replace those who came home from Southeast Asia after completing their one-year tours, and those who came home in coffins. I also knew all too well that draftees stood an excellent chance of winding up in the infantry, because the technical MOSs (and therefore those less likely to belong to people returning to the U.S. in a box) were often staffed with the guys who enlisted and got to select their MOS, in return for an extra one or two years of service.

I admit it. The prospect of being assigned to the infantry frightened hell out of me. They were the poor guys we all had seen on the 7 o’clock news every night, humping packs and rifles through rice paddies and being killed by the thousands in a war that I never thought was a good idea in the first place. For numerous reasons (which might make the stuff of a future, more serious post), I had concluded that I would serve if called, but I would do whatever I could properly do to maximize the chance of not being shot.

I tried to think of something I had to offer, in addition to a college degree, that might convince the Army that I might be more useful to it by doing something other than toting an M-16. I realized that I had a couple cards to play, one being, in my sixties mind, the biggie. I COULD TYPE! (I also spoke and wrote passable German). I had to figure out how and when I could let the Army know that it had in its possession a guy who really could type – home keys, no looking at the keyboard – the real item. Remember, this was in 1968, back when computers were the size of a basketball court, and generally only women learned how to type. Men who could really type were a rarity.

It was settled. I would do everything I could do to be an Army Clerk Typist, or known somewhat derisively by the Eleven Bravos as a “Remington Raider.”

It looked like everyone’s one big chance to show his stuff was at hand, when one evening, a few days into basic training, the sergeants told us to be on our best game tomorrow because it was “Test Day.” [Not to be confused with the test that was the subject of "You Must have Cheated"] One sergeant explained that “Test Day” is the day that the Army would be giving us draftees about five hours worth of aptitude, achievement, and personality tests. The stated reason for the comprehensive testing was that it provides the Army with the means to capitalize on each draftee’s aptitude, abilities and personality characteristics in making MOS assignments. Eureka! So there was at least some evidence that the Army did not assign MOSs randomly. I asked the sergeant if a typing test was part of the process, and he replied that the typing test is a special test given after all the other testing is done. The same was true, he said, for foreign language tests. Special tests! I have two special skills! Yes!

My momentary (and increasingly rare) feeling of optimism was, however, short lived when the sergeant then said in a rich southern accent, “Hell, the truth is – them tests don’t mean shit. Y’all gonna wind up being grunts [infantrymen] anyway.” I was hoping that it was just a cynical comment designed to scare hell out of me (It did), rather than being a statement of fact or even an informed opinion. Nevertheless, I saw no downside in answering the questions on the tests (as well as demonstrate my flying typing fingers) so as to convince the Army that it could make excellent use of me for two years as a Remington Raider (and one who spoke German at that).

Test day had arrived. There must have been 300 of us in a huge room. The sergeant in charge, a shockingly articulate guy (I figured that he probably had a Masters Degree in English and enlisted to get the Testmeister gig), explained the various tests we would be given, and he confirmed that typing and foreign language tests would be given after the main testing was completed. There would be a lot riding on this – at least I wanted to believe that.

The tests covered everything from reading comprehension, vocabulary, writing skills (punctuation, word choice, etc.), and quantitative skills, ranging literally from simple addition to geometry and even a sprinkling of calculus. There were also tests of mechanical aptitude (gears, pulleys, levers), none of which were the stuff of a Remington Raider, and a test to gauge our aptitude for quickly learning to tell the difference between Morse Code’s dits and dahs coming through a headset first very slowly but ending up blasting through at machine gun speed. Finally, there were a couple personality inventories, presumably calculated to identify those among us who would do particularly well in a firefight or in a minefield.

My plan was to knock hell out of the reading and writing related tests and to try to answer the personality inventories in a manner befitting a Remington Raider. So, for example, one question might look like:

Given a choice, would you prefer to:
(a) go camping
(b) attend a sporting event
(c) participate in sporting event
(d) go hunting
(e) spend time in a library

Hunting? Camping? Sports? No way. Sounds like Eleven Bravo stuff to me. Remington Raiders like the library. Hey, I was desperate.

After hours of exhausting testing, the Testmeister announced, “Any man wishing to take a typing or a foreign language test report to Sgt. Smith [not his real name] in the small room in the rear.”

My time was at hand. I walked back to the room, expecting to be one of a couple dozen guys seeking to take the special tests, particularly since foreign language tests were being given. To my surprise, there was only me, a Hispanic guy named “Angel” and Sergeant Smith.

Sergeant Smith must have thought this to be his lucky day because, at most, he would only have to administer two tests. It would be even better for him if he had to administer NO tests, which, judging by what happened next, is what he had in mind.

He started with Angel. “What’s your name, boy?”

Angel: “Angel [Clearly Hispanic last name]”

Sgt.: “What test you wanna take?”

Angel: “Spanish,” Sergeant.

Sgt.: “You speak and read m***** f****** Spanish?”

Angel: “I always spoke it at home with my parents and grandparents.”

Sgt.: “Sure, you may be able to SPEAK m***** f****** Spanish, but can you READ it?”

Angel: (Now, scared shitless – as was I, listening to this crazy exchange) “Well, I don’t think I read it that well; I can read it, but mainly we spoke it.”

Sgt.: “You best not be wastin’ my m***** f****** time here, boy. Don’t let me see that you can’t read that shit. Now, are you gott-damned sure you want to take this test?”

Angel decided that he really didn’t want to take the test, after all. Some picture — a sergeant who barely spoke English in more than grunts scared a kid, who had spoken Spanish all his life, out of taking the test because he perhaps felt that he couldn’t read it like a Spanish professor!

Angel left. One down – one to go. Now, it was my turn.

Sgt.: “What’s your name, boy?”

Me: “James [Irish last name]”

Sgt.: “What language test you wanna take?”

Me: “German.”

Sgt.: (Exploding) WHAT?? You wanna take a m***** f***** German test with a last name like [Irish last name]? What’s a guy with a m******* f****** last name like [Irish last name] doing speaking German? Don’t BOOshit me, boy. You can’t really speak that shit.”

Me: “I believe I speak it well enough to take the test.”

Sgt.: (Getting really angry) “Well, can you READ it?” Here he goes again, I thought.

Me: “I can read it well enough.”

Sgt.: “You f****** BOOshitting me. Where you learn to speak that shit?”

Me: “In school.”

The sergeant ranted the same warning that he had given Angel to frighten him out of taking the Spanish test. I didn’t budge. This was my shot, and I’d be damned if I was going to let this lazy jerk scare me away just so he could have the rest of the day off.

Then it got REALLY crazy.

As the seargent was muttering and handing me that material for the German test, we had the following meaningful exchange:

Me: “When I’m through with the German test, I would like to take the typing test.”

Sgt.: “WHAT??? You wanna take TWO m***** f****** tests??? Nobody takes two m***** f****** tests!!!

Me: “No one ever said that one person could not take two tests.”

The Sergeant, apparently realizing that his on-the-spot concocted no-two-test “rule” wasn’t working, did a variation on the language rant.

Sgt.: “So, you must be some kind of m***** f****** smart guy. You can speak German AND you can type?”

Me: “I just want to take the tests, is all.”

Sgt.: “OK, you can take the m***** f****** typing test too, but you gott-damned better be able to type thirty-‘fie’ words a minute! Can you type thirty-‘fie’ m***** f****** words a minute?”

Me: “I think I can.”

Sgt.: (pointing out the window at a freshly snow-covered parking lot) “Listen up, boy. You BETTER type thirty-‘fie’ words a minute, or your wastin’ my m***** f****** time. If you wastin’ my m***** f***** time, you gonna shovel that whole m***** f***** parking lot your m***** f****** self.”

Wow. Talk about taking tests under pressure. And, to my mind, these weren’t tests that would make or break me for the Dean’s List. No, these tests could at least conceivably be a matter of life or death.

So, I took both tests alone, under the watchful and seriously resentful eyes of Sgt. Smith. When it was all over, he said that I had “passed” (whatever that meant) the German test and that I had typed forty-something words a minute.

It looked like I wouldn’t be shoveling the m***** f****** parking lot after all, but I fervently hoped that’s how Sergeant Smith would spend the rest of his m***** f****** day.

I left the room, mentally and emotionally exhausted, but even more hopeful that I still might become a Remington Raider.

Oh yeah. I took the tests wearing my civilian eyeglasses. I’ll tell you about Army glasses, but that’s a story for another day.

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