Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Awake in the Middle of the Night

I found out the hard way that one of the biggest differences between the Navy and the Army - and one that betrays the particularly "anal" qualities of the latter - is the time at which I signed out on leave.

Since leave was counted in days, and since every day starts, in military lingo, at 0001 hours (0000 or 2400 hours isn't recognized), all that the Navy required of me was that I sign out on leave at COB, "close of business." I was allowed to officially sign out on leave when I normally got off work, at 4pm.

In the Army there is no such understanding. If my leave started at 0001 hours on a Saturday, then I had to show up at the duty desk at precisely that hour to sign out on leave. This often required that I wake up in the middle of the night, put on my uniform, walk from my barracks over to the CQ ("charge of quarters") desk, where my leave papers were supposed to be waiting, sign out, and then walk back to my barracks and go back to bed, catching a bus bound for home later in the morning.

When I was stationed at Fort Carson, in Colorado Springs, I lived in Denver (I was married at the time). So whenever I had to sign out on leave, I had to get up at around 1030pm, put on my uniform (even though I'd been off duty since 5pm or so), get in my car and drive seventy-five miles to Fort Carson, sign out at midnight (or, to be precise, at 0001 hours), and drive seventy-five miles home.

I considered this to be ridiculously pedantic. But what was an E-4 like me going to do about it?

Since my semi-retirement here in the Tropics, I don't stay up much past 10 in the evening (I get up at 7am). I don't celebrate (get drunk) like I used to. Staying up until midnight is lacking in appeal to me. So, last night, I went to bed at my usual hour and awoke just past 1130pm. At midnight (my timepiece synchronized with the BBC), I played some loud music, kissed my asawa several times, waved at passing neighbors from my verandah, and went back to bed sometime around 1230am.

At 1pm today I watched the ball drop "live" in New York City, while recordings of Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles sang "New York New York" and "America the Beautiful." I kissed my asawa again and wept. I'll be phoning my brother in Denver at 3pm, a friend in Seattle at 4pm, and - if I have any load left by then on my long-distance card - my sister in Anchorage at 5pm to wish them (assuming they're still awake)  a . . .

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