COLUMN THIRTY-THREE, MAY 1, 1998
(Copyright © 1998 Al Aronowitz)
THE NAVY CALLS SO I MUST ANSWER
[Sophia, who calls herself by that one name, is a friend I met on he Internet. Another compulsive writer, she and her one-named husband, Galileo, until recently earned their living at Renaissance Faires. This is an excerpt from her self-published book, Planetary Observations.]
I was looking through the junk mail one day when I came across a recruitment ad from the Navy Reserve. Being that I was totally broke (so what else is new?) I I actually read the damn thing because it mentioned money. I figured no way do they want ME in the navy. I'm WAY too old. So I called 'em up. Hey, it was an 800 number.
The woman, or should I say girl, being that she sounded like she was under the age of 20, assured me that, yes indeed I certainly did qualify though I was right on the old-age border at thirty-five. Well, easy money talks and I sent the postcard in, all the while wondering if they still make Navy women wear those see-through nylons with tight pocket-less skirts, and upside-down paper boat hats. Isn't there even a businessman's shirt with wings on the sleeves? With these thoughts, I started altering the uniform in my mind to make it more acceptable for my body.
A few weeks later, I got a call from some Navy guy in Syracuse, home of my Alma Mater. Of course I have more than one Alma Mater but that's another story. Another several stories. Anyway, the guy was cheerful as he asked me all these off-the-wall questions.
"Have you ever been arrested?"
"What?" I asked in a state of shock.
"I said, have you ever been busted?" '
I asked him if he thought I sounded like the kind of person who qualified for these questions. He assured me it was just routine and he had to ask everyone this. I should have told him that once I got a ticket, but due to the vow of poverty I have taken, I managed to weasel my way out of it with a copy of my tax return.
He then asked, "Do you use drugs?"
I answered, "Well no, but with four children I sometimes think I ought to."
I figured the Navy is trying to root out all those women who don't fit into those short tight skirts
"How much do you weigh?"
With this, I figured he was getting too personal and I hesitated to tell him. I figured the reasoning here was that the Navy is trying to root out all those women who don't fit into those short tight skirts. Finally he asked me regular questions about what I did for a living and was I married and all that. The questions would have been more regular if he didn't keep saying "way cool" after every answer I gave him.
Then I told him I wrote a book for college and he said "SEE!" I told him we don't really watch T.V. and he said "SEE!" I told him we were card-carrying members of the public library and he said "SEE!" I tried to figure out what it was he was SEEing! I pictured him looking around and talking to others every time the "SEE!" word came up. Who knows, maybe his boss was listening in on the extension. Or maybe, since this was the Navy, he was really saying "SEA!" Maybe the questions were filled with hidden meaning. Each time you get a right answer the recruiter calls out "SEA!" and when you get enough right answers you win the title of SEA worthy.
During my conversation with this man, my head kept telling me, No no, the Navy would never seriously consider someone who grew up reading Mad magazines and followed the Grateful Dead around on the concert circuit. So I put him to the test.
"I get seasick you know."
"That's okay, you don't qualify for that anyway. You qualify for some desk job in a gray cinder-block building out in the boonies."
Well, that was okay with me because at least I knew he was being honest, and we passed the rest of the time on the phone discussing our children. This I could relate to. He was older than I am by two years so I felt pretty good about myself. And since we got along so well I guess I was perfect Navy in his eyes.
After we tired of our conversation, the Navy guy told m that I managed to pass step-one here and someone closer to my home area would call me in the near future. He put my profession down as "journalist" so if hired by the government I could write stories for the Navy about the weekends' exciting training exercises. I could outline the glamour of the military at sea. I could paint a picture of intelligent officers in charge. In other words I'd be given free license to lie.
I thanked him a lot and told him if one day I ever sold my craft work at the Renaissance Faire near him, I would send him free tickets for his family. At this I heard him exclaim as I hung up the phone, "WAY COOL!" ##
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