Character Building


When I was a young and foolish, I enrolled and subsequently graduated from a four-year military college.  It was supposed to be character building and provide me with enough structure to keep from being a layabout drunkard.  There was a strict code of conduct that was enforced through a punishment system known commonly as demerits.  If you accumulated too many demerits for violating the rules, you were required to walk "tours".  Tours consisted of marching in front of the gymnasium/military department on the weekends from the beginning of the duty day until Retreat.  Those who suffered this fate  had to wear a steel pot Vietnam-era helmet and carry a rubber M-16 at right shoulder arms.  It wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs. *

Once I realized that college was the perfect environment for spending all my time chasing girls and being a layabout drunkard, the demerits started to pile up.  Soon, I was walking tours every damn weekend.  This caused a problem as far as pursuing women and beer priorities were concerned. 

After one particular instance of AFDBTAR (Absent from dormitory between Taps and Reveille; 20 demerits one week restriction to limits), the Assistant Commandant decided that walking tours on the weekend just wasn’t getting me right with Jesus or Patton or whoever.  Evidently, my admission that "Well, sir, there was this girl over in the trailer park…" failed to sway the stern hand of justice.  Also, I had more demerits than hours left to walk them in the semester.  So instead of walking tours, I was sentenced to working tours.  Which I thought would be great.  Nothing compares to the boredom of walking around the building for eight hours.

The gym was undergoing renovation.  They were installing a handicapped elevator or a torture chamber in the basement.  I forget which one.  There was a hole in the side of the building which dropped down below grade about six feet.  From there, there was an elevator shaft and a step up of about five feet.  Outside the gym were several pallets of cinder blocks.  My punishment was to take a cinder block, jump down into the hole and come up to the floor level in the gym and re-stack the cinder block inside  for the lazy-ass masonry workers.  There was no way or no how to bridge the pit or come up with a lever and pulley system to transport the blocks inside.  Believe me, I had time to try to come up with as many ways to get out of this as I could think of. 

At the time, I  had this Cool Hand Luke mentality that no chicken shit Army major and his chicken shit detail was going to break me.   Well, after eight hours of back breaking hauling of cinder blocks, I was ready to admit to kidnapping the Lindbergh Baby if it meant I didnt’t have to dick around with this little obstacle course of self-inflicted misery anymore.  Right there and then I swore with God as my witness, I’ll never get caught again!

This little story came back to me the other day at the jobsite.  We had demolished the elevator shaft in this particular building and were hauling cinder blocks out of the elevator pit one by one and throwing them in the dumpster.  As my back and shoulders were aching, the miserable realization that what was once a crappy punishment detail is now how I earn a living.   Put that with the drinking and women chasing and it becomes pretty clear that my life hasn’t really changed that much since.

*Although, there are some pretty funny stories from the pranks played while walking tours.  Every now and then, someone from those days will come up to me and ask if I remember the time I stuffed the Retreat Cannon full of wet toilet paper, so that when Retreat was sounded the cannon blasted confetti all over the parking lot; or the time we stole the Officer of the Day’s keys; or broke into the disciplinary file cabinet; or replaced the Taps cassette tape with Led Zeppelin.   They always remember these things better than I do.  Probably because I was half in the bag at the time.


4 Responses to “Character Building”

  1. tutularue Says:

    This is all news to me. I guess the statute of limitations has run out. xx

  2. Sarcastro Says:

    I’m pretty sure I told you I was going to college.

  3. Short and Fat Says:

    I admire that you learned a valuable skill that served you later in life.

  4. W Says:

    Beer and women make a lot of things tolerable.

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