Category Archives: Humor

Hooking and Scaling: The Tale of Modern Torture

The thing to remember about dentists can best be summed up in the words of Bill Cosby: “Dentists tell you not to pick at your teeth with any sharp metal objects. Then, you sit in their chair and the first thing they grab is an iron hook.” I recently spent four mornings sitting in a dentist’s chair and I have had several hooks picking at my teeth under the guise of good dental heath. To say this was not a pleasant experience is like saying the biblical 40-day flood was a light, spring shower.

Like most people, my mother admonished me to always brush my teeth while I was growing up and like most people, I let those admonishments fall on deaf ears until fresh breath became important to me in my teen years. It is worth noting that girls seem to have a dental hygiene preference when deciding who to kiss. I now ensure I brush everyday with my Colgate Spinbrush and have done so for decades. I recall a dentist once commenting how strong my teeth were when I was younger. In fact, the only dental work I ever had was after I smashed a tooth that necessitated a root canal and a post and crown.

About ten years ago, I went to the dentist for a checkup and cleaning, since it had been several years since my last visit and the hygienist refused to clean my teeth until I had a “scaling” performed. For the uninitiated, a scaling is where they attack the teeth and gums with that iron hook, scraping a concrete-like substance called tartar off the enamel. This substance provides a growth environment for tooth decay and forms in areas typically missed by brushing alone. Unfortunately, my insurance would not pay for the scaling procedure and it would have cost more than $200, which, at the time, was more than I had. I also figured if the insurance wouldn’t cover it, it must not be too important, because clearly the insurance company had my best interests in mind. I went to two more dentists and was told the same thing. They would not clean my teeth without my first agreeing to the scaling. Sounded like a racket to me, so I increased the time I spent brushing to compensate. Because nylon bristles are clearly every bit as effective as metal hooks at scraping concrete off teeth.

I broke a tooth recently and needed a crown, so I went back to the dentist to have it done and the hygienist once again recommended the scaling. When I said my insurance won’t cover it, I was informed that now they do. So I did. During the exam, it was also discovered that I had several cavities that needed attention. So, what I expected to be two visits—one for the impression and temporary crown and one for the permanent crown—became four visits. They don’t like to do the entire scaling in one sitting (and I agree with them on this) so I had to make several visits.

For about four hours per visit, I reclined in the admittedly not-uncomfortable chair while the elasticity of my jaw muscles was sorely tested and I regularly fought with the suction tube in order not to drown. All the while, a procession of metal hooks traumatized my over-stretched mouth accompanied by two different drills, a couple of needles, and a glowing LED light wand. This, I presume, was a light saber to get the tartar the hooks couldn’t coax off my teeth. Fortunately, the anesthetic did its job and I felt no excruciating pain, though the sensation of that hook scraping along the gum line was akin to fingernails on a chalkboard and the feeling of the drill vibrating through my jaw was worse than the aftermath of a right hook. Lest I forget to mention the worst part, it was most difficult to remain still while the dentist rammed a foot-long needle through my skull into the chair behind me and left it there for a year while I tried to remember how to breathe. Then she slowly squeezed fire through that needle into my mouth. Fortunately, the Marcane worked fairly quickly and I felt my cheeks and tongue grow to five times their normal size as the nerves became deadened.

I found out that the anesthetic they use lasts four hours. I had to endure four days with an anesthetized mouth for four hours each day. I also found that during those four hours, talking becomes problematic and eating becomes dangerous. You never realize just how much your tongue moves when you eat until it doesn’t. My tongue now has battle scars from lunch.

It was great relief when I drove away after the final scaling and cavity filling visit, knowing I shouldn’t have to repeat that process for some time. The only thing that remained to be done is to attach the permanent crown when it comes in. Then, during a trek to Dallas this week, one of my brand new fillings decided to vacate its post, leaving an annoying hole in my rear molar. This means another trip to the dentist’s chair and another battle with the iron hook. At least it won’t involve scraping tartar this time, though I might wait until dinnertime before I try to eat anything.

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Gettin’ Down with Bob and Sue

There are moments of unexpected joy that come around in life.  These moments are rare and when they come, one must see them for what they are and savor every second of them.  My granddaughter called me a few weeks ago to ask me for a favor.  The last favor she asked for was to borrow a couple of books, so I didn’t think much of it when I replied, “Sure.  What is it?”

“What are you doing the week of the 28th?”

“Nothing much.  I don’t know for sure, but I doubt I have anything scheduled.  Why?”

“We’re having a Bob and Sue dance and I was hoping you could be my Bob.”

Now, I had never heard of a Bob and Sue dance, so the first thing that popped into my head was something like a Sadie Hawkins thing.  She went on to explain that there would be a couple of practices and a dinner prior to the dance.  It was then that it occurred to me that she was talking about Drill Team.  My granddaughter is a Morton Ranch Maverick Belle and she was asking me to dance at the half time show during the football game.

And I had already said yes.

What had I gotten myself into?

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t dance.  At least not without first imbibing copious amounts of inhibition lowering beverages.  When I was in middle school, I attended my first school dance.  My lack of experience in that particular social ritual was glaringly apparent as I tried to figure out how to move to the rhythm while simultaneously screwing up enough courage to ask a girl to actually dance.  As I tried to surreptitiously practice dancing while hiding along the gym’s sidelines, some school mate observed my awkward gyrations and commented that I couldn’t dance.  That killed dancing for me for a couple of years.  It was in high school before I tried again.  I did manage to perform as Will Smith instructed Kevin James in “Hitch”, elbows in, shuffling from left to right in that safe space.  No one would confuse me with Tony Manero.

It was with more than a little trepidation that I entered the Morton Ranch gym that first practice session.  Reyna was nonplussed.  Nothing fazes her these days; at least nothing having to do with dancing.  She has been dancing her whole life.  For her 13th birthday, her parents threw a surprise party for her after she had been with me on a road trip driving back from Arkansas.  Once we got to the house, that girl started dancing with her friends and didn’t stop by the time I left to go home.  I was exhausted just watching her dance.  I have attended her dance recitals throughout her school performances as long as she has been doing them, only missing one or two.  This girl can dance.

This guy cannot.

So once the other “Bobs” showed up for the practice, I noticed that several of them were in no better physical condition as I was, so I felt marginally better.  Most of the Bobs were the girls’ fathers, so I was probably the oldest one there.  Once the leaders started instructing us in the choreography, I became more concerned.  There were steps and counting and shuffling and spinning and lifting involved.  I began to feel better as the other Bobs were struggling as I was, so I drove on.  The practice was on the same night as Game one of the World Series, so they wrapped up pretty quick, since the home town Astros were playing and many of the Bobs were anxious to get home for the game.

The next practice went longer, but they added more moves!  I had not even gotten down the first set and now I had to remember even more!  Oh, this was not going to go well.  I was going to embarrass my granddaughter and she was going to hate me for life.

I needn’t have worried.  On game day, we practiced one more time and I felt better.  Besides, the rest of the Bobs were in the same boat. The dance was far from perfect, but that was clearly not the point, given how little preparation went into the Bob part.  It was just supposed to be a great and fun time for the girls and their “Bobs.”  I am so proud Reyna asked me to be her Bob for the event.  Even if she didn’t think it was a big deal for her, it was enough of one for me for the both of us.

So, here is the video.  Enjoy!

 

Bob and Sue

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Shut Up, Mr. Man!

Let me issue a trigger warning. I am about to embark on a circular argument, because I am about to explain something while being a man. This act has been labeled by the liberals as a derogatory term, since for a man to explain something is evidently a microaggression. They have lumped this microaggression into a grouping designed to address what many feminists perceive as an affront to humanity: Mansplaining, manspreading and, here’s a new one, manterrupting. These are terms that feminists are using to promote the “gender inequality” argument that has been catching traction the past few years, so much so that CBS correspondent Faith Salie did a segment on the phenomenon on CBS Sunday Morning.

Mansplaining is the tendency for a man to “talk down” to a woman by way of explaining the man’s position “in a condescending manner.” Unfortunately, a condescending manner appears to be any time a woman doesn’t want to hear the argument, which, most men who are or have been married know, is all the time. But the label doesn’t really cover the gamut of condescending explanations. My kids condescend all the time. I have had enough eye rolls and heavy sighs from my granddaughter and women friends as they try to explain something to me to know that condescending is not a gender specific trait. Men explain things to other men. As an instructor, my whole day is spent explaining things. Is this mansplaining? Or is it only mansplaining when a man explains something to a woman? So if I teach a class of both men and women, am I only committing half a crime?

Manspreading is the masculine tendency to sit with the knees far apart supposedly to expose the genitals in some sort of sexual power display. This particular faux pax is a well-earned one, but maybe misunderstood. I know I tend to spread my legs when sitting, as many men do. Unfortunately, this has less to do with sex or power than with comfort. Men have certain physical accoutrements that occupy the space between the legs and those attributes can be in a position to cause discomfort with sitting with the legs together. The only remedies are to sit with the legs slightly apart, or to manually adjust the affected parts. Neither option is socially accepted and thus men find themselves between a rock and a hard place, or more to the point, stones and timber. That is not to say that some men don’t go overboard and stretch out to an excessive point. This is not exclusively a male trait though. Many larger people of both sexes can occupy more space that is appropriate. These people are simply douchebags. Again, not sexist. Just asshats.

Manterrupting is the tendency to interrupt a woman who is talking, presumably to do some mansplaining. This is a new one, because evidently, only men interrupt. Women are far too civilized to engage in such a rude activity, and it is only when a man interrupts a woman does the crime rise to the level of manterrupting. Women interrupt other people all the time. Both of my Ex-wives were quite ready to interrupt me in any discussion. Why is it manterrupting only if I interrupt them? Faith Salie threw out some statistics that during the presidential debates, Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton 55 times compared to the 11 times she interrupted him. The wonderful thing about that debate was that Donald interrupted everyone, including the moderators. It is just a Donaldism. Perhaps the term should be Donterrupting or Trumpterrupting.

One of the more tried and true rhetorical strategies that have been employed throughout the history of human interaction is that of undermining the authority of opposing views. This is no more evident that the current argument that men cannot have a voice in the abortion issue because men have no uterus. This is also evident when a feminist labels a male argument as “mansplaining.” Once the label has been applied, the man’s argument can be dismissed in its entirety with no more consideration to the content of the argument. So, when a label like mansplaining or manterrupting is thrown out in a discussion, it is merely another way for a woman to say “shut up, Mr. Man.”

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Observations During a Mundane Afternoon

After several weeks of procrastinating, I finally got my list of chores done this week. Among other chores, I got my hair cut, the oil changed, tires rotated, and the car detailed.

I needed a haircut, so while I was getting my oil changed at Walmart auto center, I went to the TGF hair salon in the Walmart for my quarterly trim. While the beautician was delicately snipping the half inch off the top (only the grays, I told her) an older, brightly clad bottle-blonde woman with blue-veined legs emerging from hot pink spandex shorts came in, walked up to my attendant and demanded Paul Mitchell face soap.

“We don’t have any,” the employee said, not missing a snip of her scissors.

“Could you order it?” the woman persisted.

“I’m afraid not,” the employee started to reply, but didn’t get to finish the thought.

“Why not?” the woman interrupted.

The employee stopped snipping for a moment. I caught her eye in the mirror and gave her a bemused smile of sympathy. “We don’t carry it,” she answered.

“So, you can order it.”

“No, ma’am.”

“Why not? You carry other Paul Mitchell products.”

The manager came out and took over the conversation, desperately trying to get the woman to understand that face soaps are not a product that TGF can order. The customer seemed unable to process that a hair salon does not carry the facial product she wants. The question “why not” was asked after every statement.

“Well, I’ll be back in a week to pick it up. Please order it for me,” the woman demanded as she pushed her shopping cart out of the store. We all snickered when she wandered out of sight.

While sitting in the chair getting my ears lowered, my stomach started rumbling. During this week, there was a discussion online about In-n-Out Burger coming to Houston, so I decided to have lunch at what I thought would be its most direct competition, Smash Burger. After that meal, I have determined that Smash Burger is not in competition with In-N-Out Burger. And having had In-N-Out on more than one occasion, the real competition it has to beat is 5 Guys or Whataburger. Smash Burger is above McDonalds and Burger King, but that’s about it.

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While leaving Smash Burger and heading to Discount Tire, I came upon a lone wheel rolling down the feeder road, weaving lazily from one lane to the other, never quite finding the curb before angling back across traffic. It rolled for at least a mile before it wandered down a side road. There was no car pulled over that was missing said wheel, no indication that anyone had lost it and no one appeared to be looking for it. It was just out for an afternoon jaunt all by itself. Makes you wonder what else your car does when you think it’s parked.

I left Discount Tire and headed over to the car wash. After getting my car detailed, I stopped in a parts store to get a battery for my motorcycle and then to the gas station to fill up the tank. Before I could even open the gas cap, a van pulled up beside me and a young Hispanic fellow stuck his head out of the window.

“Hey, man,” he asked, “you need a new home theater system? I got a spare one in the back.”

“Nope. I’m fine, thank you.”

“You sure, man? I can let you have it cheap.”

“I’m good.”

As they drove off, I had to wonder of what truck that system “fell off” or whether or not some home was missing its stereo.

On the way home, after completing all the tasks I needed, including getting the car detailed, the skies opened up and rained all over my car. But, it’s all good. It just gave my car “the wet look.”

It was an interesting afternoon, to be sure.

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Driving the Dream

There aren’t many things that are more satisfying than making the final payment on a car note. The last car I bought was a 2009 Ford Escape and I made sure to pay a little more than the scheduled payment each month so it would be paid off as quickly as possible. When I issued that final payment in 2013, I was ecstatic. No more car note! The car was still new enough that maintenance wasn’t an issue. No need to keep a tool box in the trunk just in case the car broke down. I have had cars where that was a requirement. I remember spending a scorching afternoon on the side of the road swapping out an alternator in a 1994 Chevy Corsica while my girlfriend sat on the curb and that toolbox got a workout. As I have gotten older, I appreciate not having to do my own mechanic work on my vehicles, so it was a relief to have a car I owned free and clear that didn’t need a toolbox. Well, I managed to make it three years with no car note, but circumstances dictated it was time to get a new car, no matter how badly I didn’t want to have to pay for one.

Of course, there is no way—in the strictest sense of the word legal—to obtain a new car without paying for it, so I had to consider if I wanted to go cheap and buy a used car or commit to a payment schedule demanded of a new car. New, or used: that was the question, and it was a question to which I didn’t like the answer. Sure I could buy some beater vehicle. I could pull some money out of savings and own the vehicle free and clear without getting under a payment schedule. But then, I would probably have to start toting a toolbox around again. I hated that option. It’s not that I can’t do the work; I just don’t want to. I looked through Craig’s List and a few other websites at the vehicles listed and the one’s that looked more mechanically trustworthy were almost as expensive as a new car. Unfortunately, the only ones I was willing to pay for looked like they would need a toolbox insurance policy.

I had a conversation last night with a friend of mine about do-it-yourself work after he had spent the afternoon repairing a water pipe feeding his house. He takes great pride in that he saved so much money by not having a plumber come out to fix it. I have done plenty of do-it-yourself jobs over the years. Most recently, I fixed my air conditioner. I can do most mechanical or electrical work if needs be, but, as I said, at my age, it is more satisfying to have someone else do it, particularly if that work is under warrantee. If someone else fixes it and it breaks, it doesn’t cost any more to fix it again. Warrantees are wonderful things like that. Know what comes with a warrantee? A new car!

So, I decided to go the route of a new car, even though it meant a car note. Now the question becomes one of “which car” as I looked through the dealer’s websites. Now, before I go into how I picked my car, let me say this: I was doing this car shopping right after my marriage broke up, so I was not in the best frame of mind to make a decision that comes with a huge financial commitment. Remember how, in high school, they told you never to go to the grocery store hungry? If you did, you’d buy all this food you didn’t need and pay a lot more than you should have. Right? Well, let me add this: Never buy a car when you’re emotionally compromised.

I am a practical person. I buy practical vehicles. I have had two SUVs, a sedan, and a station wagon. The sportiest vehicle I have ever bought was a 1994 Dodge Shadow and technically, that was my wife’s car as I was driving it’s more practical sister, the Plymouth Sundance. Even my motorcycle is a cruiser instead of a sport bike. I am not a “sporty” guy. But inside of each of us is that hidden, secret, sporty streak. We look at Camaros and Corvettes and Chargers and Challengers and wish we could have one. Since I am not a big fan of GM or Dodge, I like Ford. So my secret wish was the one sports car that has been in constant production since its inception in 1964—the year of my birth—the one car that is as old as I am: the Mustang.

In 1984, I was home on leave from the Army and I wondered into Frontier Ford in Humble. Now, as a private in the Army I had no money to buy any car, much less a sports car. But the salesman took a look at me in my uniform and walked me right up to the convertible Boss Mustang sitting front and center on the showroom floor and with a big sweep of his arm, opened the door and told me to sit in it and give it a try. Now, even though I knew there was no way I was going home with this dream machine, I sat in it. I didn’t even say no when he asked if I wanted to test drive it. He opened the big doors of the showroom, drove it out to the lot and offered me the driver’s seat. What would you do? Of course, I took it! I drove that baby up and down the freeway at speeds that I can’t confess to so I am not admitting to any crime. I had a ball, but I knew it was only going to be that one time. I would not be able to own such a fine machine.

It’s funny how at times when your emotions are all in flux, frustrations from years ago percolate up and get mixed up in your decision making process. There, as I was looking through the available cars on my computer screen, was a cherry 2016 convertible Mustang calling to me. It was as if my 1984 self was being given a second chance. I had already looked at the Fusion and the Escape and the Explorer, and the rational, reasoning part of my brain knew I was going to test drive those more practical options, but I wrote down the VIN number for the Mustang just to see it. Perhaps I would test drive it and relive the memory of my last drive.

The next day my friend came over and ferried me to the lot. That was how sure I was going to be driving home in a new car, I didn’t even ride my bike so I wouldn’t have to figure out how to get it home. We started walking the lot, heading straight for the Fusions. As we walked along, I saw a pretty Explorer that I hadn’t seen on the website, So I made a mental note to look at it later. Before we found the Fusion, however, I saw her.

Ruby Red is what Ford calls it, but any Arkansas fan knows it as Razorback red. The sun was glimmering off its finish as she sat on the line, with her nose sticking out just enough to make her stand out. It was as though she was calling to me. She was the puppy in the window that dances against the glass while all the other puppies play in the back of the pen. I was just staring at her when the salesman came up. I think he saw the look on my face because we kept coming back around to the Mustang.

Now, I did test drive the Fusion and the Explorer, but I also tested the Mustang—with the top down, of course. The rational, reasonable part of my brain was arguing for the Fusion. It was making cogent, logical points. It won the argument on its merits, but lost it in the end. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the Boss 5.0 V-8 engine, but that was another ten grand. I just couldn’t do that. My rational and reasonable brain won that argument. Despite the fact that the Mustang was out of my budget, didn’t have a back seat to speak of, and was a bit difficult to get into and out of, several hours later I was signing the contract.

Now I am on the hook for 60 months of loan payments and insurance payments. I still am bummed about having to get under a car note again, but my Mustang is fun to drive, when I drive her. I still ride my bike to commute to work because the gas mileage is better and I get to ride in the managed lanes which saves time. But on the weekends and rainy days, I get to drive my Sally. Yes, Mustang Sally. Sue me. And on nice days, you know the top is down. My youngest son calls it my “mid-life crisis” car. I’ll own that. I am 52 and single, after all. What better excuse does one need to live out a dream and buy the car he’s always wanted?

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Into the Swarm

Last night’s exercise was originally scheduled to be swimming and walking, but with the rains we’ve endured this past week, circumstances differed…in more ways than one. I already wrote about catching the drizzle between cloud bursts of the storm on Tuesday, but the storm raged all day yesterday, making the regularly scheduled bike ride ill advised. It rained a little today as well, but fortunately, it stopped in time to do some kind of exercise, so my son and I decided to ride bikes rather than swim. One other effect of all the rain was an increase in a certain insect population.

For our ride, my son and I cranked out to what I think is a good cruising speed. My speedometer called it about 14 Mph, though my phone insists that it is 12.7 to 13. Either way, that is a good speed to maintain for 10 miles, which I have set as a daily target. Since DJ’s bike is not a road bike, he has to work a little harder to keep pace. We were riding along and the phone announced that we had just hit the six mile mark when it hit me.

I was peddling along when the first one entered my mouth. Now the phrase, “keep your trap shut” takes on a whole new meaning when you are spitting and hacking up some poor unfortunate flying creature before you gag. I remember Mr. Miyagi admonishing young Daniel-san “breathe in through the nose, out the mouth. These are words to live by when riding a bicycle at 14 miles an hour (OK, ok maybe 12.7 but still). And this one was while I was still in the neighborhood. Once we entered the park with the detention pond, things got real.

It was dark as we started along the recently paved path. New park benches, recently mounted to the paved pads, were still wrapped in wet paint tape, but just barely visible in the twilight. The attack squadrons of mosquitoes were lined up and ready to start their offensive to reclaim the park from the human interlopers who invaded their wetlands to do nothing more than spend their time running in circles. The first wave hit rather timidly, as if feeling out our defenses. The impacts on my arms and face were not much more than nuisances, easily ignored. But once we finished the first loop, we started on the second. This wave was much more aggressive and must have had some kamikaze bugs. These insects were not simple little mosquitoes. No, these bugs had heft to them. When they hit, I felt it. They almost knocked me off the bike when one hit my square in the forehead. This was no easy feat as I was wearing a bike helmet so the bug had to pilot his way past my visor in order to hit his target.

Despite being outnumbered a million to two, we rode on, knowing our goal was still within reach. Thousands of bugs gave their life in their futile assault. I think the bug high command realized their plan was failing so they regrouped. They took a couple of their best pilots and had them swarm us at the end of the loop where they dove straight for our eyes. One hit me right in the tear duct and stuck there like an unexploded bomb. When I reached up to wipe it away, some of it got into my eye almost making me fall off the bike. I was lucky that I managed to unclip my shoe from the pedal to keep myself upright while I tried to clear my vision and deal with the sting. My son had a similar experience at the same time. Once we got back into the neighborhood, the attack was over. We only had to deal with a few pockets of resistance fighters.

I felt so many bugs’ impact, I would not have been surprised if I looked like the front end of a car after driving through the Atchafalaya swamp during love bug season when I got home. I had to shower just to get the feeling of all those bugs off of me.

Thankfully, tonight is not bike night. I plan on swimming my 10 laps and walking my 10,000 steps and calling it a day. Hopefully by my ride Saturday morning, the bugs will have abandoned their plan to retake the park and they can just live their little bug lives and let us live ours. Even so, I do plan on keeping my trap shut when I ride from now on.

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Pacing the Storm

The rain was falling not particularly hard and the wind was not blowing as I walked. There was no thunder or lightning or anything usually associated with a storm, particularly a storm that had been dumping rain on the city all day. The rain had ostensibly started Sunday night, cancelling our planned walk that night and the storm continued through Monday and Tuesday, similarly cancelling exercise plans again. I had not missed three days of walking since I began this quest, and I was not about to do it now, so when the rain seemed to stop, I laced up my walking shoes and hit the street.

I made almost two-thirds of the way when the drizzle started back up. I was walking at a brisk pace, figuring I would not have much time before the storm resumed, and trying to get home before I got soaked. As I stepped, I remembered a time when I was trying to beat another walking deadline.081716_0200_1.png

“I’m Delirious!” My partner hollered as we marched along on that warm summer day in 1986. We were in Germany, Bad Kreuznach, if memory serves, doing a 12-mile force march as part of the Expert Field Medical Badge test. We both were wearing battle-dress uniform (BDU) with Kevlar helmets and load-bearing equipment (LBE) and carrying a fully loaded ruck sack and trying to make it back to the testing site before the timer expired. We were not in bad shape, the Army was nothing if not all about keeping soldiers in shape, but I was not particularly speedy in my marching.

I knew many of my compatriots were going to try to beat the record and they took off at a dead run when the march began, each hoping to be the one to get the fastest time. I had a different strategy: just finish in time. Kind of like that joke that goes “what do you call a man who passes his medical boards with the lowest passing score? Doctor.” Well, as long as I crossed the finish line before the timer counted down to zero from three hours, I was golden.

In order to facilitate the march, the testing site employed pace setters to march along the route. They had marched the route before and knew just how fast to go to make it in three hours. As long as I stayed in front of them, I knew I would make the time requirement. Easy peasy.

“I’m Delirious,” I answered. We had been repeating this to each other since the half-way point as a way to rally our strength. It had been just over two hours into our march when the load on our backs began to take its toll. Since we started out at a measured pace, we paced many of the younger medics who had started out running, but then ran out of steam. I understand several had to be carried to the aid station having exhausted themselves trying to run.

The test was designed to be taxing. A 100-question written exam started the week-long process which also included marksmanship testing, a litter obstacle course, land navigation (day and night), nuclear-biological-chemical safety testing (Gas masks and MOPP suits), combat medical scenario lanes and, of course, the 12-mile force march. I was doing rather well in the test so far. I had passed the written test, the NBC test, land navigation and the marksmanship test. All that was left was the lanes and the march (I think anyway, it was more than 25 years ago). They call it the Expert Field Medical Badge for a reason. They don’t just give the award away. It was worth a boatload of points come the promotion boards, so you really had to earn it.

So as we marched, the weight of the rucks dug into our already tired shoulders, sinking into our weary bodies. We had to reach deep down to pull out the reserves to finish this test. We had started the march talking between ourselves, but by this time, we were saving our strength. Even chit chat was exhausting.

“I’m delirious!” he hollered again. I was about to echo his call when I saw them. The pace setters were coming up from behind us. If we let them pass, that meant we were not going to cross the finish line in time.

“Be delirious in front of them,” I countered thumbing over my shoulder.

We redoubled our efforts to stay in front for the last couple of miles. I saw the finish line ahead of us as we rounded a curve. There on a table to one side of the path was a large digital clock counting down the time. It read just a few minutes left, but those minutes seemed like seconds as we stepped up our pace and the finish line never seemed to get any closer.

We almost broke into a jog for the last couple of hundred feet as the seconds ticked off. The pace setters were still behind us, but it didn’t matter. The final reading of zero was already glowing at me as my foot crossed the line. We were less than one second too late. So were the pace setters, but then they were not competing for the badge. Even though we had outrun the pacesetters, we had not outrun the clock.

I never did go back to take the test again, so I finished my Army career never having earned that badge. It is one of the regrets I carry from my military days, but I have many more positive memories and experiences that the Army instilled in me, such as always finish what you start. Charlie Mike: Complete the Mission.

So tonight as I walked home with the drizzle incessantly dripping on me, never really amounting to a rain, I walked myself along the path getting slowly more and more soaked. Of course, it doesn’t matter if it never really rained. I didn’t outrun the storm. I got wet just the same. Some things you just can’t outrun.

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