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Monday, August 27, 2007

You know it's time when...

In October of 1984, as a newly minted Seaman Apprentice fresh out of boot camp, I was a student at the Naval Technical Training Center, Corry Station in Pensacola, Florida. I was strolling along the outdoor catwalk on the 2nd deck of the 3700 Barracks when I passed a wild-eyed Irishman who was carrying a 4-pack of Guinness Stout. Guinness freakin’ Stout, in the land of Bud Lite. Surrounded as I was by Sailors who drank only what ever the cheapest pizzle was on tap at the EM Club, a guy with a pack of real beer was truly an unappreciated novelty. I think I said something like, “Heeeeeey, Guinness!” in the tone of stunned amazement. And we struck up a conversation.

It’s funny, those moments when your life changes. I like to think that even if we hadn’t met on that catwalk, Shawn Riley and I would have still have been friends. I like to think it was inevitable. Twenty-two years after we first met, Shawn called me and asked if I would be the guest speaker at his retirement in San Diego. By then he was a Senior Chief and I was a Warrant - we had a certain obligation to put on a good show. And we did, Riley’s retirement was the best dammed ceremony in the history of retirement ceremonies. It was unusual. It was legendary. And it was fun. My speech was a masterpiece of scurrilous wit, watching the tape afterward, Shawn and I were thrilled to hear scandalized gasps from the audience. Someday I may publish the full text of that speech. Today I’ll give you just a piece of it.

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How do you know? I mean when the time comes, how do you know when to give it up? To retire? What are the indicators? Here are a few I came up with; I think you’ll recognize the format:

- If, when the Chief’s list comes out, you don’t recognize a single name on it, it might be time to retire…

- If, when the Master Chief list comes out, and some smart Alec points out that everybody on it is ten years younger than you, it might be time to retire…

- If, the cover music in the SCIF (* the secure area, we played cover muzak to prevent eavesdropping) gives you a tension headache because it’s too damned loud, it might be time to retire…

- Now we’re all used to having young Division Officers, but if the XO was born five years after you graduated from high school, it might be time to retire…

- If, when you’re shooting pool and drinking beer in the CPO Club, and you realize that you’ve been discussing kitchen renovation for the last two hours, it might be time to retire…

- If, every duty station and ship you’ve ever served in has been disestablished, decommissioned, or renamed, it might be time to retire…

- If, you keep ice packs in your refrigerator for your knees and not for your beer, it might be time to retire…

- If, your medical record is more than five inches thick, or comes in two volumes, it might be time to retire…

- If , when you overhear the Junior Officers talking about what a miserable SOB the “OLD MAN” is and then you eventually realize that they’re talking about you and the not the CO, it might be time to retire…

- If, you start chewing out a young Sailor for something he did wrong but halfway through your tirade, you can’t remember what the offense was, it might be time to retire…

- If, you find yourself driving around base in a Recreational Vehicle, and it’s your primary mode of transportation, it might be time to retire…

- And finally, if, when you go down to the barber shop to get a haircut and not only does the barber trim the hair in your ears without asking, but he spends more time doing it than cutting that little fringe around your bald melon, well then, Shipmate, King Neptune is sending you a message, it’s time to retire.


3 comments:

  1. Oh Lordy, I qualify.

    A friend of mine joined the Army (after I was out) and I couldn't stop him. He wasn't a good fit. Maybe if he could survive until the end of Ranger School or some other specialty school he might have been a good fit, but general Army, nope. So when he finally got out (after louging in Germany for 2 years) with sgt stripes he let me take him out for an "I told you so," drink. I bought Guinness (there was a local bar that had it on tap, unique in the late 80s) and started to drink thinking that we should have a good evening catching back up. He downed half the glass as a starter (having been used to German Beer for the past two years) and I started thinking just how expensive that night was going to get. :)

    Life's too short to drink bad beer.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Life too short to drink bad beer, amen, Steve, amen.

    Riley shared that pack of Guinness with me and we've been the best of friends ever since. He may even drop by here once in a while (If he can step away from the lathe long enough).

    ReplyDelete
  3. And man who will share his good is a friend for life. And not from just sharing the beer, but from the mind set behind the ability to share the good stuff (the $25 keg - tells you how long ago I bought it that way - stuff just doesn't count this way).

    Oh, and you're tagged.

    You don't have to do it. I don't do many of them myself.

    ReplyDelete

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