Small town girl. Joins Navy. Sees the world. Flies in planes. Hunts submarines. Gets out of military and has 3 kids. Rejoins Air National Guard as an "old lady" of 38.


A humorous compilation of stories and lessons learned. Usually the hard way.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Defining Moments







Some conversations you never forget.

The night was slow and dramatically drawn out like a cat yawn.  I sat at my desk, spinning my pen with my right hand.  I hated silence and the night shift caused for silences so loud that one could count the seconds
ticking away at the clock that clung to the pale brick wall across the room. 

At last the Duty Officer returned to his desk adjacent to mine after making his rounds. I nearly jumped at the opportunity for some conversation.  I flooded him with questions about his upcoming plans for the weekend.  It soon evolved into talking about his children.  I enjoyed listening as much as story telling.  Almost.

The time began to pass much quicker.  An hour.  Another.  Pretty soon we took a stab at current world events.  I couldn't help but get excited as I do when my passion about a subject leaks out.  My opinions and viewpoints poured on out like a rambling brook.  In turn, I listened intently to his.  Another hour passed.  I felt refreshed.  Cultural stimulation at its finest.  

Then, he crossed his arms across his chest and leaned back in his chair.  He frowned and cocked his head to the side.

“Petty Officer Maki, you’re a smart girl.”  He paused, and I was about to thank him when I sensed there was more to come.  “Why did you go enlisted?”

Enlisted.  The word was spoken like a pungent metallic taste in his mouth.  Had I heard him correctly?  Don't react.  Don't react.

I answered slowly, carefully choosing my words.  “You… think… I enlisted because I wasn’t smart enough to go to college?”

“I didn’t say you weren’t smart, but isn’t that why most people enlist in the military instead of going in as an officer?”  His demeanor was as casual as a Sunday picnic.  It was why I had previously let my guard down.

My fists began to clench.  “No, Sir.”  I was nearly whispering by now.  “Actually, my father begged me to go to college up until the day I got on the bus headed for boot camp.  He promised to find a way to pay for it.  Whatever it took.”  I shifted in my chair.

He looked even more perplexed as he considered the thought.

“I enlisted because I needed to get out there,” I continued. “I wanted an adventure and the Navy seemed the easiest route to do so at the time.”

“Oh.  Okay.”  He paused for a moment as he studied my face.  “Did I offend you or something?”

I had enough conversation for one night.  I began spinning my pen on my desk again, not bothering to look up.  “No, Sir.  Actually, you enlightened me."

  

18 comments:

  1. Hey Julia,

    I enjoyed your #writeonedge piece. I love the opening line: The night was slow and dramatically drawn out like a cat yawn.

    I was just wondering why the narrator got so offended by the Duty Officer's comment.

    I'm new to Write on Edge. It's so cool seeing how people take the same prompt and come up with so many different things.

    I wrote a little piece too: www.writereadrepeat.com
    Are you on Twitter?

    Erica

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    1. Thank you!

      The narrator was offended because he realized that the officer truly believed that people enlisted in the military because they're not smart enough to go to college.

      And no, I'm not Twitter-trained yet. But one of these days I'll step into the modern world!

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  2. That moment moment of "don't react" is so true... I can only imagine in an instant where the military hierarchy is in place. Your opening line is a wonderful image, and the physical behaviors certainly illustrate the tension in the conversation.

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    1. Thanks Cameron- that was what I was really working on with this!

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  3. I've witnessed/eavesdropped on conversations like this in the workplace. You think you're teaming up to solve the world's problems and then some comment slips that informs you just how superior they believe themselves to be, even unintentionally.

    Extremely well played!

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    1. Ugh- yes! That is exactly right! Thanks!!

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  4. Great job with the dialogue and body language. You've got great descriptions in here. There was one line that tripped me up - "he crossed his arms across his chest". I'd leave it at "he crossed his arms". I think that implies they are across his chest and would read smoother. Might be just me though as it's been kind of a long day. Nice work.

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    1. That's a very good idea. I struggle with the 'less is more concept'. I think because I naturally ramble. A lot. I appreciate your insight! And thank you!!

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  5. I liked the dawning realization of that line between officer and enlisted, no matter what else you might have in common. Great job!

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    1. That is right. It's funny though- there are those that make the line very apparent, and there are people who believe that in order to gain respect, they must first respect others.

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  6. I like the gentle shifts in the mood of this piece. Boredom at the silence, the excitement of a flowing conversation, and then the tension and eventual dismissal.

    One of my favorite parts was the narrator's reaction to hearing the word "enlisted" said in such a negative way, and the way he wills himself not to react and to just disengage. Nice job!

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes, I was really trying to convey that!

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  7. You had a lot of really great descriptions in this piece. But as much as I loved them individually, there were a few parts where they slowed me down.

    I'd probably trim them up a bit.

    Other than that, you had a fantastic hand with pacing and tone. Great job!

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    1. I do need to work on that. Thank you!

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  8. Love that yawning cat. Love your restraint and the tension created here.

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  9. It's so funny that so many people are seeing the narrator as "he" when the officer says "girl." I admit I was startled when the military reference came in, because I was envisioning something quite different and utterly civilian. For what that's worth.

    It was a very enjoyable piece. I expected it to go a different direction. I always like being redirected midway. It's like a little sparkle surprise.

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    1. Thank you Kathleen! Yes, it most likely is a "she" despite that I went with the "he" earlier. And since it's a memoir... :) But I didn't really make that known earlier.

      I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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