Sunday, May 6, 2012

12-Day Weeks and Polygamy

Don't worry, this isn't some scheme or recruitment pitch for a religious cult.

Instead, it's a quick summary of some points I thought about after coming back from drill, which was my first required military event of any kind since February 10, which seems like quite a while ago.  I had to re-remember that first names and hands-in-pockets are not okay.  Because it's the Guard, though, first names can slip through sometimes, and hands-in-pockets aren't too hard to find.  So tomorrow shouldn't be too difficult.

Anyway, here are two quick points:

"Two wives."  My old OIC (Officer in Charge) used to say that being in the Guard or Reserve is kind of like having two wives.  The idea is that you have a full-time civilian career.  You love it, or at least tolerate it, but of course sometimes it grates on you.  When you get tired of the same faces, same routines, same office politics, etc. a drill weekend comes around and you've got a chance to be in a new environment.  Of course, by the time the drill weekend ends, you're ready to get back to wherever you were.  As he said at the time, "It's kind of like having two wives."

Being back this weekend definitely had me thinking about that -- I don't miss much about our deployment, but the exceptions to that are the personalities and the stories.  It was a great feeling to be able to catch up with 180 people that I know very, very well but hadn't seen in three months.  Of that total number, there are maybe 15 or so that I would say I'm close enough with to have a serious else could I see them all in one place?  True to form, one of my guys texted me just prior to our Change-of-Command ceremony today in Wakefield.  He didn't feel like standing at parade rest for an hour in the sun, so he just said, "I'm going to duck this one out in the port-a-john."  And five minutes before things were set to roll, he loudly announced that he wasn't feeling well, and made a beeline for the latrines.  Some seventh-grade-level locker room humor emanated from the ranks (he was advised not to be a simultaneous perpetrator and victim of any unseemly business) and then we got serious again right when the ceremony started.  I realize that might be a had-to-be-there type of story, but things like that don't happen often in the civilian world.  When you've spent that much time in close quarters with people, sometimes a single word, just uttered by itself, can trigger minutes of uncontrolled laughter.  A forty-three year-old man with nearly twenty years of experience and multiple overseas deployments hiding from a dog-and-pony show in a port-a-john was all the comic relief we needed at that moment.

Maybe I'm only saying this because it was an *easy* drill (we mostly just sat around and learned about veterans' programs at a hotel in Burlington, and then had the thing in Wakefield today) but it felt good to be in a new environment.  Yes, I missed out on some things I would've gone to (environmental event, flag raising, Mill City Skill Share) but sometimes it's good to break away from your immediate scenery.  It snaps you out of the patterns and thought processes that have become comfortable, and normal.  I've spent the past six weeks very immersed in all things Lowell, and it was good to be reminded that there are people doing important things in Medford, Attleboro, and Boston, too.  If you get too wrapped up in your own bubble, or your own echo chamber, you risk losing that.  Never mind the serious discussions about the consequences of deployment, or way some soldiers described a fear/panic that their kids felt when they saw Daddy or Mommy put a uniform on Saturday morning (no, no, honey, he's just going down the road), or the important stuff about our upcoming unit transfers and personal plans -- on a way more basic level, it's just good to be reminded that there are people who don't care about sewer hookups, home-rule petitions, and amendments to Rule 17.  It's not that those things don't matter -- they do -- but sometimes you have to step out of something, and then step back in, to regain your sense of perspective.

The 12-Day Week.  This is the downside to being in the Guard or Reserve while holding a separate civilian job (before the deployment I was 'transitional' and then employed by the unit, so I am charting new waters here) is that you work a five-day week, then come in for two more days of work (that usually start much earlier than the civilian job, sometimes in a location that's much further away), and then turn right back around for a standard, five-day week.  There are ways to ease that pain (for instance, just staying at the armory on Saturday even after final formation, which saves you from two drives and lets you sleep more on Sunday morning)...but either way, it throws a lot more on your plate because whatever you normally do on the weekends hasn't happened.  That alarm-clock-be-damned feeling next Saturday morning will be great, but the to-do list won't be any shorter once I'm vertical.

And on that note, time to steal some shut-eye:  Busy week ahead!  

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