Thursday, January 04, 2018

I joined the US Navy (well, thirty years ago)

January 4, 1988 I boarded a bus to the Naval Training Center in Orlando Florida. It's gone now, a park.
While there, towards the end of the first week I began to pray for someone in my company to die. He sounded like he was going to. He had a dry, hacking cough that was so loud and... abrupt, that the fire bell over the door would resonate and continue to ring after he had a coughing fit. It served to bridge the slight pauses between his coughing fits that lasted all night long. I'm sure he was miserable because I was. He didn't die. Finally I got to sleep. I'm not sure if his cough stopped or if I just finally collapsed after nights of not sleeping because of his noise. I know it happened multiple nights, many, many, many nights and I hated him for it well after it stopped because I didn't trust it to stay gone.

After completing basic training I stayed there in Orlando but moved over to the Naval Training Center, just across the base, where I attended Nuclear Field "A" School as a Machinist Mate. When I finished that I changed buildings to go to Nuclear Power School and did really well in that. That I loved.

FINALLY the reason I'd joined. Science. Nuke stuff. I loved it. I didn't ace it, but I was in the top of the class. As our class dwindled, the attrition rate was huge on the "dark side." It was called the "dark side" because the classes were hard enough that you never saw the light of day because you were studying so much you never got outside. Well, sort of.

Remember the cougher from the first paragraph? He was also in school, but he was still in "A" School for "Electronics Tech" which went longer, and then he was in Power School, but I was still ahead of him. He had plenty of free time and I was doing well enough, even on the dark side, that we hung out a lot. Went to a lot of movies.

I listened to Def Lepard's Hysteria and Guns 'n Roses' Appetite for Destruction on repeat just about non-stop for most of that time. Those are still two of my favorite albums ever. Not just because they're great albums, but because of where I was geographically, and in my life at the time. It was fun and warm, and we were in Orlando, Florida. You know what there is to do in Central Florida when you're young and have no bills? Everything. That's what there is to do.

I bought a car, a white Renault Encore that was, when I looked at the owner's manual, originally owned by a lady from a place called Ogden, Iowa. When I bought it I didn't know I'd soon be moving to a town about 45 miles from there.

So, long story short, too late. That guy with the cough? We wound up getting married last year so we don't introduce each other as "old Navy buddies" quite as often as we did for decades.

So, happy anniversary of joining the world's greatest navy, and I'm glad he didn't die from pneumonia... I guess.

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