February 26, 2001

On Sunday, Feb 24th, it was my time of the month again. The time I put on my uniform and travel South to Rosemount, Minnesota for my weekend drill. Drill itself was uneventful except for the adventuresome perils of driving 40 miles each way during the worst winter weather of 2001. Most of what I do at drill I can't write about and expect to keep my security clearance anyway, but there was one event that happened on the way home on Sunday that I would like to share. A few weeks ago, my wife's wallet (the thing she normally keeps in her purse) was misplaced at Ruby Tuesdays in the Mall of America. Since it was on my way and we were released a little early to avoid the weather, I stopped by the great temple of American consumerism to pick up the misplaced wallet. I was in uniform, having come directly from the drill site. As I walked through the mall to get to the resturant (I had parked on completely the opposite side of where I wanted to be, as usual) I got the standard looks and double-takes so common in the non-military presence state of Minnesota. You rarely see anyone in uniform in MN unless you are very close to a recruiting office or at the airport. I am used to this phenomenon, and it doesn't phase me at all. I usually just smile and stick my chest out trying to be the best ambassador of the Naval Service as I can.
What happened after I had retrieved the wallet and done a little shopping, (since I was there) was something I will never forget. I had dropped my sunglasses in the snow while making a final security check of a building placed very close to the edge of our drill site with another petty officer. I picked them up and blew as much snow off as possible. In my car on the way to the mall, I had these sunglasses on and they were nearly impossible to see through, with streaks and salty water spots on both lenses. When I was finished with my business at the mall, I stopped into the restroom to clean my glasses. I had nothing in my car to wipe them with, and the poly-wool blend uniform I was wearing would have only made matters worse. Thinking I could rinse them off and wipe them clean with a paper towel was my idea, but to my horror, after I had run them under the faucet, I found that the restrooms in the mall only had warm air hand dryers. So I looked around for any type of cloth to dry them off. There was none. There was however another person in the restroom, at the sink, with a flannel shirt tied around his waist. When he understood the purpose of my visit and realized that I was about to fail, he untied the shirt and offered me the corner to wipe the water from my glasses. Do I think that he would have done that had I not been in uniform? No way. There are a lot of wierdos at the Mall of America, they will admit that freely. That is the precise reason they have a SWAT-like emergency response team stationed there. But seeing the uniform put this indiviudal at ease to the point that he offered to assist in solving a problem that in a global sense was inconsequential, but to me was monumental. This person may or may not have been in the service, I don't know, but I would venture to guess that his support of the United States Military goes well beyond helping some poor first class petty officer clean his glasses. I offer my thanks to this person and all of those people like him that do support the military, whether they do so directly, like he did, or indirectly, in thier thoughts and prayers.
Fair winds and following seas.

February 20, 2001

DANGER: Hugging can cause injury.
Nice headline, but it is true. The other night I was giving my 4 year old Lucas a hug goodnight. He was standing on his bed, and just as I put my chin over his shoulder and my arms around his back he suddenly lurched upwards unexpectedly. His bony little shoulder caught me with much force smack on my adam's apple. I heard a loud crunch, much like knuckles cracking. For a moment I couldn't breathe, and I almost panicked. Panic in the presence of my children is something I try to avoid, but this was really scary. I paused and found that I was able to breath, but swallowing was nearly impossible. I could still speak clearly, so we finished the hug and he placed his head on his pillow and I went upstairs. By the time I got up there, I found I could swallow, but only with a great deal of pain. I went to the doctor the next morning, which effectively was the same as going to the emergency room that night. Nothing in the exam warrented an x-ray, and I was given a presription for 800mg Ibuprofin for the swelling. Because of the myriad of tubes and various plumbing fixtures in my neck, I was able to feel the pain all the way up to my left ear when I swallowed. The nurse practictioner that diagnosed me with a bruised neck just told me to watch for difficulty breathing or changes in my voice. If either of those were to happen I was to return immediately. That was three days ago now, it still hurts a bit to swallow. I will always continue to hug my kids, I will just be a little more prepared for the unexpected from now on.
Facts on hugs.

February 14, 2001

Did you see or hear the news reports about the movie stores? It is reported that VHS tape rental and video game rental companies attribute 30-40% of their profits to late fees. But they don't call them late fees anymore. Now they are called "extended viewing charges". What a laugh. Most places you rent a movie for 3-5 days and it is due back by noon on the last day. It has a due date, it is right there in the contract. If you don't bring it back by noon on the due date, it is late and you will be assessed an extended viewing charge. When you rent a movie, do you ever wait until the day it is due to start watching it? I would venture a guess, and since 99% of all statistics are made up at the moment they are written, that 99% of the people that rent a movie watch it that same day. I would also guess that no one, and I mean zero out of 100 people watch that same movie a second time during the same rental period. (Unless you are four, and it is a Barney movie, in which case you will watch it 57 times during the 5 day rental period.) I just brought back a movie, one that we didn't even finish watching, and it was late. We weren't sitting there watching it at noon on the due date. We didn't make the conscious decision to keep it for 4 more hours and accept the extended viewing charge, it was late. I was too busy to bring it back, knew I was going to get nailed with a LATE FEE and I accepted it. If the end of the world is signalled by people refusing to call things what they are, then we are there. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go to the library and pay off my extended reading charge.

February 05, 2001

January 26 was the last time I wrote anything here. Just like the empty notebooks and journals I carry around with me daily, this place has been somewhat void of my writings. There have been in my life many more project initiations than project completions. I feel like a walking major corporation that always has lots of irons in the fire, but rarely celebrates the completion of anything. Understanding that something like making entries into a journal or a weblog really has no ending point, it is easy to say "I will do it tomorrow." Well, I have missed about 10 tomorrows since I last wrote here; since I last wrote anywhere. There are so many things that take up time, some important, some not. Priorities are screwed. I do what I can, but there are a heck of a lot of things that need doing that go undone. Avoidance, laziness. Disconnect. I need to plug back in. I never should have wasted that time watching Jesse and the XFL stink up Las Vegas in front of one of the largest television audiences ever. I can't believe I was IN that audience. Ever want to know what it is like to be part of a hoarde of morons? Watch the XFL next Saturday. You'll get the same sensation if you bang your head against the wall for three hours. Difference is, the pain caused by watching that game is over when the game is over, but your head is going to hurt and you'll probably have to repair your wall if you try my alternate method.