With Thanksgiving coming up this week – and your imminent return home to see your dear beloved family with whom you have not visited since the recent election – we here at Angry Staff Officer thought you might enjoy a short reprieve before you are forced to have an actual face-to-face discussion about politics with someone who disagrees with you. Hopefully this puts you in a better mood before you eventually put the turkey on your head to drown out the happy discord that is the confluence of the American family and American politics these days.
Bottom line up front, we do a lot of things in the military, and we do them over and over and over and over and over again because apparently muscle memory is supposed to teach us how to be better at our jobs. What it really does is make us obsessive-compulsive freaks who show up fifteen minutes prior to everything – who doesn’t love sitting in a car for half an hour waiting for a friend to show up fifteen minutes late to lunch – and ranger roll all our clothing. Pro-tip: your wife is not impressed that you can ranger roll her dresses. This tendency to apply everything we’ve learned in the military to our daily lives has mixed results. We are better organized, sure, but now the most common household tasks are fraught with military flashbacks. Here are just a few things that can trigger a “veteran” moment, which is kind of like a senior moment just with more chagrin.
Oh yeah, it’s a listicle. And before you go off on “Millenials with their damn listicles,” just remember that some of the most important and influential documents in history have been listicles: the Magna Carta, Luther’s 95 Theses, the Declaration of Independence, and the US Constitution. So there.
1.Opening anything with a ring pull tab
In an effort to increase efficiency, more and more bottles and containers come with ring pull tabs. I most often see them on milk or half-and-half cartons or – oddly enough – olive oil bottles. These handy little tabs can be pulled off by firmly securing the bottle in your dominant hand, inserting the thumb of your non-dominant hand into the ring tab, assuming a good throwing stance, raising the bottle to your chest, pulling the tab with your thumb while simultaneously pushing out with your chest, and then resisting hours and hours of training that tells you to yell “frag out!” while tossing the bottle at the closest thing that needs to be destroyed and dropping to the ground. That last step is important. Don’t throw half-and-half or a can of chili – that is, if you don’t want to then have to do a battle damage assessment on your kitchen. A “turn and burn” is not a good tactic when making an omelet.
2. Reloading a stapler
Every so often I eventually run out of staples on the standard stapler on my desk. What should be a simple task becomes something much more visceral, because as soon as I open the top of a stapler it suddenly turns into the feed tray cover of an automatic weapon and I unconsciously sweep my finger across the top to remove any old staples or links or loose brass before checking my row of new staples to ensure that the brass is to the grass…and then realizing that if I were to share my thought process with the nearest sane person they would recommend I get checked out for insanity. So I resignedly slap in the staples, close the feed tray cover, and fumble for the bolt handle, only to realize that yes, I am in fact out of my mind.
3. Reloading a K-cup into a Keurig coffee machine
This is very similar to Number Two on this list and the maker of the Keurig machine would look on in wonder as I put my head down as I opened the top of the machine so as to ensure that no K-cups were left in the machine to explode in my face. Repeat all the steps for number two, including the muttered curses at not being able to do a proper functions check.
4. Putting laundry into a front-loading dryer
I don’t know about you, but my washer and dryer sit right next to each other, so I’m always loading my dryer from the side, and the dryer opening looks very much like a machine gun port on a bunker. So all of a sudden the commonplace act of putting wet clothes into the dryer turns into destroying an enemy bunker with a grenade. The process is simple: reach into the washing machine, grab a handful of wet laundry, take up a good covered and concealed position next to the dryer, peer around the side, visually inspect the opening of the dryer to ensure you have a clear shot, then extend your arm, toss the laundry into the dryer, and roll back and away from the dryer to ensure you’re not caught in your own blast. And my wife wonders why I take so long to do laundry.
5. Going out to dinner some place that has crayons to doodle with
Going out to dinner with family and friends is always fun. It’s a fun thing for the kids if you go to one of those restaurants that has paper tablecloths so the kids can doodle on them with crayons. “Kids.” You can get halfway through waiting for your meal to arrive before the other adults suddenly realize you haven’t said anything for ten minutes and are hogging all the red, green, blue, and brown crayons. When you explain to them that according to ADRP 1-02 these are the doctrinally correct colors for your SITTEMP, you will be met with confused looks and worried glances. And when you further demonstrate that you needed the brown for contour lines, red to place your enemy mechanized infantry and armored battalions along their avenues of approach, green for your obstacle groups (“see, this turn will put that enemy battalion of T-90s directly in my engagement area where they’ll run into my fix obstacle and I can destroy them with this TRP”), and blue for your lone combined arms battalion making its heroic stand against the Donovians, you too can relish in hearing your loved ones whisper that the military has really changed you. It’s okay, though. Because you know your awesome obstacle plan with integrated fires would’ve totally destroyed that enemy BTG.
Okay, so yeah, listicles are also easy to write and I’m lazy because of the holiday. And have a happy Thanksgiving and don’t challenge your grandpa to settle a political argument with combatives, because he came of age killing Nazis and can probably whoop your ass.
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About the Author: Angry Staff Officer is an Army engineer officer who is adrift in a sea of doctrine and staff operations and uses writing as a means to retain his sanity. He also collaborates on a podcast with Adin Dobkin entitled War Stories, which examines key moments in the history of warfare.