Sunday, August 24, 2008

Doing Time

The pile of gear that I've been putting off for days still stands out and demands attention, so I finally break down and stuff it all into buckets and a rucksack, heading to the laundry room with a scrub brush and a virgin bottle of Simple Green. Using audacious amounts of the cleaning elixir, I start attacking the pixelated pouches and whatnot, evicting as much residual Iraq filth as I can while my mind wanders.

I try to find a way to reframe the way I'm thinking, to make this stay of mine more bearable. To stop the self-pity. This low on the totem pole, a bad attitude is like termite damage and lots of it. I could let the higher elements of the totem to come down on me, but let's put pride aside for a minute. You can't fuck the Army nearly as hard as it can fuck you.

All I can think of, is "tread water". As long as you're only neck deep, you still have a chance.

Any old-timer right now would probably say, "Just do your time, quietly, and get out." Simple enough. You gotta be a yes-man almost everywhere you go.

So I guess I'll just do my time. The crime: enlistment. The sentence: 4 years, give or take a clause or two of a contract. Time remaining: less than one year, no chance of parole, may be released a month early on Good Behavior, provided the sacrifice of a Christmas.

I got four brick walls around me, painted white, housed in a federal building. Generic furnishings. Minimal personal effects that I've managed to acquire. No hollowed out Bibles, no sharpened toothbrushes. No harmonica, just a guitar (fair trade).

Gotta hang up the new calendar and start marking days. Maybe start folding paper cranes. Freedom birds. Put on the PTs, get some exercise in the yard. Put the standard issue uniform back on, be where you gotta be on time.

Wait for the warden to hand me my packet, wish me luck, and send me on my way. All the best. We got a saying though....

Too easy.


themorethingchange... said...

"...This low on the totem pole, a bad attitude is like termite damage and lots of it"...

You got that right!


BigD said...

Hi Jail Bird,
What we have here is a failure to communicate! I think what you need is a lot more fun in your life. Just ask yourself,"What would Andy DuFresne do? Or better yet, what would Cool Hand Luke do? Now I don't want you to give those MP's any reason to put their grubby paws on you, so let's not go overboard, but, there's gotta be something you can do to put some excitement back in your days, besides praising the power of "Simple Green" to purge even the stubbornest stains from flak vests and knee pads. Yuck! (Although good old fashioned physical labor can sometimes cure what ails you.)

You have made a pretty good case for a Shawshank = Army analogy. I can send you a poster of the celeb hottie of your choice and a Bible with a rock hammer in it. Will that help? While you are digging your way to freedom, keep repeating any one of the following cliches:

It will be worse
Feeling bad is just a new sensation
Tomorrow is another day
I will survive
Every cloud has a silver lining
There is a light at the end of the tunnel
After the rain comes a rainbow
It's always darkest before the dawn
It has to get worse, before it gets better
Every rose has its thorn
Midnight is where the day begins
Cheer up, it's not the end of the world
This too, shall pass

God(s) bless you Ryan. Remember you gotta swim through some sewage to finally be free. I guess in this case truer words were never spoken. Be sure to pack some Simple will need it on the other side. Hang in there troop, you still rock my socks!

P.S. - Here is the quote on the Shawshank Redemption box
"Fear can hold you prisoner,
hope can set you free."

"If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream."
~Martin Luther King

Anonymous said...

It's still your life, dude. This is wall that you will run into in many guises throughout your life. It could be a bad marriage, your own kid hating you, cancer, aging, loss of loved ones...the only thing to do is to learn to roll with grace. It's still your life and it's the only one you got. How you feel about living it is up to you. You got Natural Bounce! Find some way to cause trouble WITHOUT getting caught. Or being a jackass.

admiyo said...

Not sure where you are stationed, but I suspect that the post has some sort of school for prepping the units about to deploy over seas. I would polietly suggest to you chain of command that, since you are not going to re-up, the best use for your experience in Iraq is to help pass it on to the guys headed over to the big suck. Being in a training unit usually implies a little more lattitude, and a little better attitude.

When I was at Schofield, we had air assault and lightining leaders school. I suspect they have something similar where you are.

If that doesn't work, try heading up to Battalion, Brigade, or Division HQ. WHen everyone is an officer, you'd be surprised at how much better treatment a specialist can get.

This will have a secondary effect: you will learn the skills necessary to function well in an office, as well as access to a lot of people that have been through college themselves. Pick their brains about which schools they went too (avoid my fellow USMA graduates unless they've been to grad school) and also what they majored in.

Use the fact that you can write, that you can communicate in your favor. You have a years worth of journalism experience under your belt, even if it was inadvertent. A Specialist that is literate, eloquent, and intelligent is in big demand. One with a combat patch will gain a higher degree of respect as well.

Or, barring that, make the most of your remaining time in the Army to learn something that you can't learn as easily in the outside world. Get sent over to the motor pool and learn how to fix vehicles. You have an active mind and you need to keep it occupied, a difficult task in the Army ( I well know that) but it is possible. Just get out of the line for a while. I suspect your CofC will be supportive if you frame it that way.

Good Luck.

red said...

+1 to admiyo, good idea. Particularly if you can express yourself this well in any kind of formal educational setting. (with some changes to the rhetoric, unfortunately)

Anonymous said...

Quote from one of my favorite authors:
"While mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power."

membrain said...

Admiyo's advice sounds like a plan.

"This low on the totem pole, a bad attitude is like termite damage and lots of it." Iknow that's already been quoted above but, damn, that's fine writing.

Anonymous said...

You are an intriguing writer. People long onto your blog and hang on your words, because they're interesting. You describe pictures and feelings in a way very few can. You're not at war anymore; yet, you describe complete boredom in an interesting way. Congratulations. You've arrived.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Admiyo. I'm sure if you really care what we all think, but your powerful writing begs a response, and I'm weak. :) Let me just say could be out in the real world feeling the same way stuck in a job for a paycheck, with your employers trying to crush your indomitable spirit. Be strong. Read the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson's Ulysses, and know that your life lies ahead of you like an oyster - many pearls ahead of you.