Thursday, February 23, 2012

Polishing the Brass

I graduated boot camp and went to Defense Language Institute (DLI) at
the Presidio of Monterey in Monterey, California. Usually, "A" school
is the school you enter after boot camp and almost acts as an extended
boot camp. They tend to be very strict with things like inspections and
watches, etc, in order to prepare you for military life.
DLI was not like that. To say it was relaxed may be an
understatement. We wore civilian clothes at night and only wore
uniforms on watches and in class. Most people ate food out in town.
It was a bit like going to a high school with a school uniform.

After approximately 50 weeks of my 67 week course, a new XO (executive
officer) came in and started to change things. He wanted things to be
more like a traditional A school. He instituted weekly uniform and
room inspections and failing an inspection had severe consequences,
things like not being able to leave the base on the weekends and
standing extra watches.

I failed room inspections several weeks in a row. I resented the imposition
of new standards and I always failed for tiny infractions. Finally, I
snapped. I turned the whole thing into a game. I went way overboard.
I mean, I cleaned everything like it was going to be used for an
operating room. This included the light fixture.

We had these bulbous round light fixtures on the ceilings. They had
been there so long that they were mostly painted in place. Initially,
they were brass. They were a uniformly drab color now. Well, I
cracked the thing free of the paint very carefully and set out to
polish it. I got brasso and started putting some serious elbow grease
into it. Unfortunately, this wasn't nearly enough.

Something many people don't know about military bases is because their
people move all the time, they make an effort to accommodate nearly
every hobby under the sun. For me, this is significant because my friends,
Jon and Veda, lived on Fort Ord army base and Fort Ord, as so many
other bases, had a jewelry making shop.

I took the light fixture to the jewelry shop, set it against a
polishing wheel and by god, I had that entire fixture shining as it
may not have ever done. I mean, seriously, it may not have come off the
production line with as much polish as I put on it. The thing fucking
shined. It nearly glowed. It was like the sun shown down in the room
when you turned the lights on.

My next inspection, they took one look at that tiny glowing sun on the
ceiling and passed me on the spot. I never failed another inspection
as long as I was in Monterey.

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