Random ramblings of a mind damaged by years of disuse and abuse. Also a place to go to be bored to tears.
The Random Cartoon
Words to live by...
"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."
(The right to looseness has been officially given)
By the way... there's a crossword at the bottom of this page
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Snippet of Life - An Interesting Day
When I enlisted in the Navy, I was a skinny, almost tall (5'11") 19 year old who was used to finding himself in new environments. Still, this was an adventure. I was among some 20 young men taking the oath that morning in Miami but the only one who would be traveling to San Diego for Boot Camp. It was November and the only condition I had insisted on when signing up was that I go there rather than to Great Lakes NTC in Illinois. I was not ready to face both military life and a northern winter at the same time.
It wasn't long before I was seeing indications of having made a bad decision. My parents took me to Miami International (whose code is, oddly, MIA) after the swearing in and bade me goodbye. My mother was brave, my father stoic. Or they were hiding their glee, I am not sure. I boarded a Delta Boeing 707 and took my first ever commercial flight, first to Atlanta and then to Los Angeles for a hop down to San Diego. It was then that the impact of what I had done actually hit me. I had just given the next four years of my life to the US Government to do with me as it wished.
The flight to Atlanta was uneventful and we were to be there only an hour before taking off again to L.A. but that hour stretched to 90 minutes before they told us we might want to get off the plane and wait in the lounge until the plane's "minor mechanical problem" was resolved. After an additional hour in the lounge, we were called to the counter to be assigned new flights since this plane wasn't going anywhere. It was another hour later before my new plane began rolling down the runway.
Like the first flight, I had an aisle seat. But the gentleman in the window seat offered to swap with me when he learned that I was headed for Boot Camp and that this was my first trip across the country by plane. Of course I accepted. We were seated just forward of the left wing which allowed me a great view through the tiny window. I spent much of the next several hours looking out the window at the lights of the cities below and wondering at the vast expanses of darkness between. I was mostly quiet, though my seatmates and I chatted from time to time, as I pondered my decision to enlist.
Approaching LAX at night is fascinating. In fact, flying into almost any large city at night is quite an experience. The lights are fantastic and, as you swoop low on the approach, you begin to see the cars moving along the roadways that had been just ribbons of light moments before. When at high altitude, the plane seems almost motionless but now the sensation of speed hits you as things on the ground slip under the plane too quick to concentrate on. All of a sudden, the runway is there and the plane is dropping fast. I always get tense at this point, it's a reflex, maybe because I know this is the second of the two most dangerous parts of flying. The other is takeoff.
This being the first opportunity I had to see the landing through the window, I was watching intently. The tarmac grew closer and closer and I readied myself for that jolt when the wheels touch down. Only this time it was a bit different, the wheels hit and then the plane tilted to the left and I saw sparks, big sparks, spraying out from beneath the wing, some forward but a huge trail of them from the back of the wing. The tires had blown out. There were a few shouts of fear, a scream maybe, I don't recall. I was enthralled with what I was seeing. But I wasn't afraid at all. In fact, I recall being completely calm and relaxed as if I was not involved in any way.
The pilot was a master at his trade, we never swerved or jerked but seemed to just smoothly continue down the runway until we came to a gentle stop. I think they knew something in advance because the firetrucks were there as soon as we came to a stop and immediately started spraying foam on the flames that came from, I assumed, the burning remaining rubber of the tires. It was only a couple of minutes before the door was opened and we were calmly but quickly directed off the plane onto a stairway that backed up to the plane by truck. No chutes for us.
There was a bus waiting to take us into the terminal. In less than 30 minutes I was boarding the short flight down to San Diego. I don't recall dwelling on the landing at LA until much later that night. After landing at San Diego, we taxied up to the terminal. As I entered the terminal, I came upon a CPO (Chief Petty Officer) who asked for my orders and then ordered me (my first order) to go outside and get on the blue Navy bus that would take me and maybe a dozen others to the Naval Training Center.
The ride was a blur, I saw little because it was night, and we arrived inside the gate near a typical wooden military building. We were led to some benches outside the building but under a roof where we spent the next couple of hours listening to a recorded voice droning out apparently vitally important sections of the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice), all of which seemed to end with...
"Penetration , however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense."
Eventually, there were a sufficient number of us to warrant our being moved to barracks. We were brought inside and directed into a room full of bunkbeds after being given some toiletries; razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste. We were left to choose our beds and told that it would be "lights out" in 30 minutes.