Tuesday, July 6, 2010
NICKNAMES ON CRETE or DON'T FALL OFF THE MOUNTAIN or HOW TO MAKE ELF BOOTS
I'm sure most of you remember when we were stationed at Iraklion Air Station on Crete, a great many of us had nicknames which stuck to us worse than a BP tarball from the Gulf of Mexico. Names like "Hair", "Polar Bear", "Doo-doo" and "Chickenman" were worn proudly like badges of honor. And, yes, even I had a nickname...Midget. I think that referred to my height...or lack thereof. However, many of you may not be aware, but before I was known as Midget, I had two prior nicknames...nicknames that were in reference to my inability to hold my liquor. Yes, before I was Midget, I was known as "Ralphin' Robert" and "Barfin' Bob"! It seemed that when I drank to an excess, which didn't take much, I would often wake up in a bed spinning wildly out of control and race down the hall toward the latrine in an effort to kneel before the porcelain god and pay homage. However, much of the time, I would either overshoot the latrine like a gooney bird trying to land on a frozen lake or just simply fail to arrive at the latrine in time to deposit my stomach's contents in the appropriate receptacle. When that occurred, the contents of my stomach could often be found the following morning along the side of the hallway, much to the chagrin of the Greeks whose job it was to keep the hallway clean. I'm quite certain that if any of them had found out who had thrown up in their hallway, my life would have been in mortal danger!
That brings me to the following story: One night I had returned from an evening of raucous drinking at the Airmen's Club. I was so smashed that I didn't even have enough sense to know when to go to bed. Some of the other guys who were with me, but more sober than I, made the decision that it was time for me to go to bed. So, with some much needed assistance, my clothes were removed, I was directed to the bed, and the lights turned out. At some point later on, I awoke because of the incessant spinning of my bed. I held on tightly like a child struggling to hold on to a spinning carousel, and my stomach was turning faster than the rotating wheel inside a gyroscope. I knew what was next...it was inevitable...I was about to get sick. When I reached out in my darkened room, I couldn't feel anything, much less see anything. And, for some reason I got the impression that I was outside and alone on a mountainside. Perhaps the cool air blowing in from my open window contributed to that assessment. Fearing that if I moved or tried to descend the mountain, I would surely fall to my death, I did what anyone else would do in a similar situation - I simply leaned over the side of the mountain and threw up!
When I awakened the following morning, not only was I hung over, but I was also a little confused as to how I got off the mountain and made it safely back to my room in the dorm. I walked down the hall to the latrine where I was met with laughter and ridicule from those who had been witness to my previous evening's drinking activities. After a good hot shower, I returned to my room and got dressed in my fatigues. However, when I slid my feet into my combat boots, it felt as if the inside of the boots were a little damp. Thinking the dampness was just my imagination, I finished getting dressed and then proceeded to the chow hall to eat some soup before heading down to the compound to relieve my counterpart. I sat at my position monitoring my assigned targets, when a short time later the airman sitting to my left nudged me. I pulled my left earphone back and asked, "Yeah?" "Do you smell anything, Bob?", he asked. "Like what?", I inquired. "I'm not sure, but whatever it is, it doesn't smell good", he said. I raised my nose in the air and flared my nostrils like a dog on a hunt in an effort to detect both the source and the identity of the odor. "You know, it kind of smells kinda like barf", I said. "Yeah", he responded, "like barf". Then, a few minutes later, the airmen seated to my right tapped my shoulder and asked if I smelled anything odd. "Yes", I said, "It smells like barf". When I pulled my feet out from beneath the console to look for the source of the odor, the odor disappeared. All of us were puzzled as what could be producing such a foul smell. For the remainder of the shift, the odor of barf would wax and wane like tide from the sea. At the end of the shift, I left the compound and went directly to my room in the dorm. I was tired and still feeling the effects of the previous night's drinking. I got to my room and sat down on the bed. I unlaced one of my combat boots and crossed my leg to pull the boot off. As soon as my foot was out of my boot, I noticed something on the bottom of my sock. I looked closely but couldn't quite identify it, but then the tell-tale odor hit me - it smelled like barf! I looked inside and there in the bottom of my combat boot was something that closely resembled leftover vegetable soup. I quickly removed my other boot, only to find the same thing on the bottom of my sock and in the bottom of my other boot! "What the Hell!", I thought to myself as I tried to figure out how Campbell's vegetable soup got inside my combat boots. Then, things began to come together....the night of hard drinking...the darkness...the mountainside...leaning over. "Oh my God!", I said aloud, "I threw up in my combat boots!" I couldn't believe it!!!
Now if the story ended there, it would have been bad enough, but things were about to get even a little worse. I decided the best way to clean my combat boots was to wash them. So, I did what any twenty year old young man would do - I removed the boot laces, walked down the hallway to the laundry room and threw my combat boots into the washing machine. I added plenty of detergent and let my boots go through the wash, rinse and spin cycles repeatedly. After pulling them from the washing machine, I threw the boots into the dryer. I knew that because of the heavy material and leather the boots were made from, it would probably take extra longer for them to dry, so after the first hour was completed, I turned the timer on for another hour, and when that hour was completed, I turned the timer on for one final hour. The boots made an awful sound inside the dryer as they crashed, banged and plopped against the inside of the drum. For the fun of it, I was tempted to fill out a repair tag for the dryer, stating, "Dryer making sound like midget running around dryer drum in combat boots". But, I was afraid the repairman would just write in the comments section of the repair form, "Found midget - took away boots". Anyway, after three hours in the dryer, I reached in and pulled out my boots. Now folks, I don't know how many of you have ever seen little elf boots - you know the ones - with the ends of the toes all curled up. Well, that is exactly how my combat boots looked! The toes of my boots were turned upward in a sharp angle and the surface looked as if someone had buffed them with sandpaper. I decided the only way to straighten out my boots was to wear them. But first I had to put a shine back on them. I must have used almost a full can of Kiwi shoe polish before I was able to get even the slightest hint of a shine on them. And the first time I put on the boots and wore them was pure Hell! I felt as if my toes were turned so far up in an unnatural position that they would surely break. And when I walked, it looked as if I were walking on my heels with my toes pointed skyward. I felt as if I were walking in elf Hell! Now I understand why elfs never smile!!!
Anyway, that's my story...and after 40 years, I'm still sticking with it!
Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.
Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",