The road not trav­elled

The Compass - - OPINION - – Alex Har­rold writes from Westport

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.

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