Next month on the 16th, it will have been twenty years since I was inducted into the Navy.

Boot camp was an interesting experience. Looking back on it is odd; thinking about being in boot and things that happened there are always considered from a ‘we’ perspective. Very, very few things that happened in boot were at all individual. I can think of three events during boot that were things that ‘I’ did rather than things that ‘we’ did. Just three.

I got sick. I had the so-called ‘Ricky Crud’ bad. The Ricky Crud is the sum of regional sicknesses that everyone brings to boot minus the ones from your own region. I got a really bad case of it. Having the Ricky Crud lost me a leadership position in our boot camp company (“I need a yeoman… I don’t need a sick yeoman”). It also got me out of a bicillin shot. The shot was legendary in its painfulness, both while being given and then again the following day. I went to sick call instead of to bicillin clinic. They forgot to send me later. I never told anyone of the oversight and as a result managed to avoid the bicillin shot.

I had time to myself during service week. One week late during the twelve weeks of boot, the recruits were farmed out to provide assistance and labor throughout the recruit training center. I was especially lucky in that I was sent as part of a work detail to the recruit recreation center. The rec center was a facility most recruits saw rarely; I only made it there once during my time in boot other than during service week. I’m not sure why, but I was put in charge of the detail and so had the run of the place. I had naps; I used bathroom stalls with doors and without ten or fifteen guys watching and waiting for their turn; I smoked cigarettes almost whenever I wanted to. Luxury.

I had illicit fun. During the second week we went to dental qualification. We stood in line for our turn in one of the ten or so exam chairs. As I got out of the chair, the dentist handed me my folder and told me to ‘follow the red line to room 333’. I did so; Room 333 had a sign on it that said ‘Dental Surgery’. I went in and was ushered into a chair. Two officers in scrubs placed lab goggles on me (‘in case we drop tools’) and used some medieval crank device to remove two wisdom teeth, just like that. They gave me six hits of Tylenol with Codeine and sent me back to my barracks on light duty for two days. Thinking ahead, I used four of the pills as prescribed; I hid the other two in my locker. During the last week of boot, we went over to a huge drill hall to practice our marching routine to be performed during graduation. I ate the two pills just before we departed for the practice and had an awesome afternoon floating around the drill hall.

Each morning they woke us about five to get on with things. For the first week or so, they did the hackneyed trash-can-down-the-barracks trick just before reveille. After that, we got an extra five minutes or so of sleep and then woke to reveille. After the first few weeks of that, it got so that we would wake up when the unseen functionary in some distant office put the needle on the record.

It was hugely depressing to wake up and hear the scratch of the record. It meant that the day was about to begin; once reveille was over, no one could be in their rack. So we’d lie there in our racks listening to the scratch of the impending recording and calculate the number of days left in boot. About week five, it seemed like a death sentence each morning. About week ten, it wasn’t so bad anymore.

I was thinking about the scratchy record last Monday morning while sitting in the ambulance, waiting for my partner to arrive. I woke to the tones at about 5:10; a woman across town had some kind of issue. I don’t recall the issue anymore; it doesn’t matter, really. I got up, depressed at the day starting before I was ready. I got my pants, boots, and jacket on and pulled the ambulance out of the bay. Then I sat in the rig and waited for my partner to arrive from wherever he lives in town. That’s when I found myself thinking about the scratch of the record.

I don’t remember the patient’s issue though I was the tech on the call. I tried to start a line twice and missed both attempts; right through the vein. The patient was very nice about it. It’s a lot different starting lines in a moving truck on bumpy roads.

Earlier in the evening, we took a young guy to the local big hospital from our localer little hospital. He had really bad tonsillitus and mononucleosis and had an unstable airway due to the hugely swollen tonsils. We took a doctor and nurse; they were concerned that they might have to do a cricothyrotomy on the way if the condition got worse. Didn’t happen, though.

Due to the call in the morning, I was late leaving for home. The last time I had worked Sunday night, two weeks before, I was toned for my volunteer squad and ended up spending five hours sitting in the firehouse providing immediate coverage for my side of town while everyone else in the department assisted in a mile-wide evacuation across town where a tractor-trailer had overturned on the interstate.

Just as I was leaving for home this week, the across-town sister department was toned to the interstate for an overturned trailer with boats. By the time I was in town, my department had been toned. I waited at the sister department for an engine from my department to take me up on the interstate; before my ride arrived I was pressed into service with the sister department and went up in one of their trucks.

The Dartmouth crew team was on its way to Miami for training. They made it twenty-five miles before one of the trailers jackknifed and overturned on the ice. $150,000 worth of boats. Twelve of them. Six of them were sixty feet long. The rest of them were at least thirty feet.

The picture shows the incident commander, two state troopers, and the lead guy from the heavy-wrecker service.

The first order of business was getting the boats off the trailer. Oars, too; about a hundred of them.

The people in civvies are unhappy Dartmouth coaches. They circulated like nervous parents while we took the fragile carbon-fiber boats off of the trailer and placed them in the median.

A sixty-foot boat weighs about 250 pounds.

Once all of the boats and gear were off the trailer, the wrecker people set to work righting it.

Surprisingly, none of the boats were damaged. The trailer was, though; not badly, however.

After the trailer was removed, one of the coaches took the undamaged truck back to Dartmouth to get a different trailer. He also gathered a number of students and sent them down in cars. Conveniently, they reloaded the boats on the trailer. Traffic was routed onto the shoulder for much of the morning.

The boats had to be turned to get them on the trailer in the right orientation. The jackknifed trailer had ended up backwards on the road; the replacement trailer was oriented with traffic. Due to the length of the boats, we had to completely stop traffic every few minutes so that the boats could be rotated.

The fire department arranged for pizza for the people working the scene. This resulted in the unusual and novel experience of standing in the middle of an interstate eating pizza while watching college students perform manual labor.

Finally the boats and oars were reloaded and the Dartmouth coaches got back on the road to Miami. No damage was done except some minor damage to the trailer. The whole thing took about five hours to resolve.

I’m working now; I had two calls earlier in the evening. I had a successful IV start; one poke, though I did have to resort to the Singer method. I was not going to miss the vein.

Put the needle on the record. Put the needle on the record. Put the needle on the record ’til the drumbeat goes like this…

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