Being unaccompanied overseas is occasionally a double-edged blade. On the one hand, it sucks because my family isn’t here. On the other hand, family not being able to reach across 4,000 miles and react violently to numerous forms of self-entertainment has it perks. I’ve always been one to make the best of a situation, so I often opt to live dangerously. The urge to risk the ire of loved ones often becomes more acute when, as I am now, on the verge of recovering from whatever sickness threatens my survival. Maybe it’s a misguided sense of overconfidence having brushed so close with death and emerging unscathed. I’m telling y’all, this bout of anthrax-flu-pox was rough.
The first day of feeling better, I was presented with yet another form to fill out. Contrary to popular belief, the Army does not march on its stomach. It careens down a greased slope on a torrent of documentation despite its decade-plus old claim to be going digital. Seriously. Every paper form eliminated for a digital analog is replaced by and requires for submission: at least two locally generated paper forms, a folder, a tracking form (also paper), and the printed version of the digital form because apparently we all hate digital signatures. However, this affords for some interesting methods by which one can entertain themselves if one were willing to risk hiding the devil in the details.
The Platoon Sergeant walked in and handed me a formerly digital form so that I could fill it out manually. The idea was that once they are all collected for the entire company, they could be scanned and sent to a certain individual’s email. Makes perfect sense. But I was feeling better and feeling playful. For those not familiar, there are these abhorrent little clubs in the Army that are mandatory for one’s spouse to join, or the service member must attend the little get togethers designed to equip spouses with the tools for survival in the absence of service member. The dreaded FRG, or Family Readiness Group. They are often chaired by the Commander’s spouses unless said spouse is in the service as well. Though in retrospect, I know a male Master Sergeant who would have been a stellar FRG leader and there would be no tolerance of the ludicrous complaints or requests often witnessed. Imagine an angry, opinionated, scowling white version of Michael Clarke Duncan and you’ll have a pretty good idea why.
Anyway, the form had all the standard data. Name, Rank, Social, contact data for spouse, etc. etc. There was also a block for spouse’s native language. If you aren’t aware, my wife is a psychologist which becomes important in a minute. She’d had to teach the night prior on her side of the planet and I’d been up early on mine. This meant that she would be sleeping in and I would be going to bed early which disrupts the timeline for our daily video chats. So, I needed to send her a message to let her know I was thinking of her. I’m attentive like that. And a great communicator.
“Hi, love. If the FRG leader contacts you, just know that it was me entertaining myself.”
Before I fell asleep, she’d already awakened.
“What”? That question keeps getting asked around me.
“I don’t think they read those forms anyway,” I assured her.
“I swear if you tried to get me into anything…”
“Noooope!” I beamed. “Just an interesting choice for the spouse’s native language section.”
“Just tell me which Rosetta Stone program to buy.”
“That’s the beauty of it! You are already a doctor in the lingo!”
“You didn’t say woman-speak.”
“Of course not,” I was a little hurt right there. “How insensitive do you think I am? I said Psychobabble.”
She then launched a few unflattering terms of what is most certainly not what one might expect in a shrink’s vernacular. “You just told your Commander’s wife that I’m an idiot!”
“You do know I’m the English major, right?”
“You don’t get to analyze words. That’s my job. You’re a shrink.”
No response. Sometimes you have to draw academics in using their own language.
“So, unless you want to discuss psychoanalytic literary theory….” I began. “Or linguistics and word origin, it seems your response was too focused on the babble part rather than the psycho part your vehemence might suggest.”
Did I fail to mention that despite being an English major, I am not the great communicator I once suspected?
*Insert blinking, non-responsive cursor here.
Plan B: “But I’m sick. A shrink wouldn’t treat a patient this way.”
“LOL,” She replied.
A line from Simon and Garfunkel’s Cecilia ran through my head. Jubilation! She loves me again! I fall on the floor and I’m laughing!