The road not travelled
Have you ever noticed, during periods when you have too much time on your hands, that you often spend that very valuable time musing over things that happened to you that you could say changed your life completely?
For instance, I have been musing over an incident that happened to me in September of 1970 that has kept me awake every other night or so.
I think this occurs more often than people like to admit. And this isn’t really about changing things but for that incident. Overall, life has been pretty good. So far. But I decided to tell you about this one incident for a particular reason. Because I think that this does occur to a lot of people, I hope that my little story will prompt you to remember something similar in your own past that you would like to write about and send to me.
Not only do I think this would make an interesting collection for a book, many of you can come up with better stories than this one. In that way, I can begin to start feeling a little better about myself, but only if you are more miserable than me because of it.
Without this incident occurring in September of 1970, I probably would have ended up as a professional musician. I could have gone to the University of Oklahoma after high school in music, but I made a conscious choice not to because I thought I would never go to college anyway. Since that was my choice, that doesn’t count.
After arriving at boot camp on September 16, 1970 at approximately 2 o’clock in the morning, we were shuffled into a large hall to receive our sea bags, uniforms, and the lectures that come with screwing with your mind, starting with giving you all kinds of important information at 2 o’clock in the morning after a fourhour train ride through the darkness.
My service number is B479329, a number I haven’t had to use for anything since that night. We were all sitting around on chairs waiting to be told what to do next when all of the company commanders left the hall.
A young recruit who I did not know was a young recruit in his seventh week of training, came out to warn us that someone would come out and ask if any of us played music. If we raised our hands, we were volunteering to do something that would keep us there till about 5 a.m., and only a fool would raise their hand.
Not several minutes later, a stern looking chief petty officer came out and asked the group of about 400 wide-eyed, long-haired, deer-in-the-headlights goof-balls that we were if anybody was a musician. About halfa-dozen guys raised their hand, to which I immediately scoffed at how idiotic they were when we were just told what was going happen if you did that.
It wasn’t until my third week of boot camp that I discovered the guys who raised their hands were sent to a music company to be trained as navy musicians.
When I asked my company commander if I could transfer to a music company, he said sure, if I was willing to start over in my first week of basic training. Today, three weeks means very little. At the time, I couldn’t fin- ish that 11 weeks of hell fast enough. I was sent to fleet sonar school at the end of the 11 weeks. I was pretty good at it.
I have never forgotten Metcalf, the young recruit who told me that lie. Sometimes, I lie awake at night and throw metaphorical darts at his face. I thought about trying to look him up, but really, I have no idea what I would say to him.
I like to think that I was just naive, seeing as admitting that you were stunned as the day is long is a less pleasant memory.
There’s more to this little story. But it serves the purpose to get you motivated to tell me what sad incident interfered with your grand plan.
If you come up with something, please e-mail it to me, or snail mail it to me at P. O. Box 33, Westport, NL. If I get enough of them, your story may end up in a book. I have no doubt your story is better than mine. If it keeps me awake at night, I’ll let you know.