Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuck and Shave

Of all the postings here it dawned on me that I've never told any humorous military stories, so to fix that I'll share my favorite of all time.

As anyone who has been through boot camp will tell you that we did a lot of stupid things daily that made no sense. One such practice was tucking our shirts into everything. If you're wearing uniform pants, tuck your shirt in. If you're wearing exercise (PT) shorts, tuck your shirt in. If you're wearing a sweat suit, tuck your sweatshirt in. The point: We always had to have our damn shirts tucked in.

The military also has written directives on how to do almost everything. One such directive is the "Marine Corps Grooming Standard" that dictates our hair cut, our weight, our glasses, and how wear our clothes. There is a line that specifically states "
The face will be clean-shaven, except that a mustache may be worn." It's that first part that got me in trouble. We didn't learn verbatim the shaving part, but we did shave everyday so maybe they figured we'd keep up the practice or maybe I was just sick that day.

I have the curse of having a 5 O'clock shadow by noon, because of this, shaving everyday for me is not only a pain in the ass figuratively it's a pain on my face literally. I countered this by not shaving all weekend or on days off so I could give myself a break. This was all well and good if I would have had my own place to live outside the gates, but when you live on base there are countless number of people who are waiting to not only point out your problem but also tell you loudly, it makes for some drama. One such incident occurred when I went shopping with the wife.

It was a typical Saturday morning, I was sitting on the sofa in my boxers drinking coffee watching TV when the wife then says, "I want to go to the mall." So I head to the mall without shaving. It didn't cross my mind until who should come walking the other way but the Sergeant Major who is a career grunt who is going through culture shock by serving in his first Intelligence Battalion in over 20 years. We didn't get along. He worked harder and I worked smarter. The two worlds could not be further opposite.

Upon seeing him I quickly did what any man would do in that situation, I hid in the nearest store in hopes that he wouldn't see me or my "Elvis Beard"(I know Elvis never wore a beard, but to many a Sergeant Major he did and, he was also used to illustrate all contradictions to the grooming standard.). After he passed I went back to my wife who was standing in the center of the mall with a very confused and annoyed look on her face. I thought I was safe; but come Monday it was apparent that I thought wrong.

As I passed his office I hear "Lance Corporal!" I tried the dumb approach and entered his office with a smile (Mistake 1) and said, "Good morning Sergeant Major! What can I do for you?" (Mistake 2) He told me that entrance was disrespectful and he'd address that shortly but first, "Didn't they teach you in boot camp to shave every day? Didn't you're highly motivated, truly dedicated Drill Instructors tell you that a Marine is to be clean shaven daily?" To which my prep school smugness kicked in and I responded with a very dry, "Yes Sergeant Major my DI's did have me shave everyday, but then again, they also had us tuck our t-shirts into our underwear so I just figured it was another cruel joke." As I watched his eyes bulge, his face turn red, his teeth began to grind, and I notice the vein on his forehead begin to swell I knew I was in for a real treat. He proceeded to verbally assault everything about me except my mother.

I expected this reaction, so the yelling didn't really bother me. What I took away from the whole thing, however, was this: The Sergeant Major was not a witty man. If he was he would have told me to pull my pants down to make sure my T-shirt was tucked into my underwear and then yelled at me for that too.