Far more years ago than I really want to remember, there was an incident with my National Guard unit that in a way came back to haunt me this week. Being more specific with the time frame, this all started in the spring of 1999. My son, Darth Spoilboy, was almost five years-old and playing Pee Wee soccer for the first time. In fact, his first game was on a Sunday during one of my National Guard drill weekends and this is where things went south.
In the old days, ending around the mid-1990's, the National Guard use to take into consideration things like important family events and “minor” stuff like civilian jobs. Both of those circumstances, along with the birth of a child or the death of a loved one was almost an automatic “get out of jail free card” allowing a soldier to skip drill weekend. The National Guard unit would then work with the soldier allowing them make up the missed time, usually having the individual come during the regular work week and do chores for the full-time Guard staff. The other option was to send the soldier off to drill with a different unit or some sort of special training at yet another location.
For various reasons in the mid-1990's, this easygoing policy went out the door with drill weekends starting to resemble a short term prison sentence. One of the causes of the leadership becoming far more stricter was that, of course, a lot of people abused the relaxed attitude about attendance to the point they had to do something. Another reason was simple bean counting because desk bound bureaucrats were actually closing National Guard units that were understrength. There was a rumor that never quite died that the bean counters, over the course of a number of years, found several units where the attendance roster didn't match up with the people that were suppose to be wearing the uniform in the armory that weekend. The results being that the leadership and full-time guys and gals of those units were relieved of command and had their careers ended.
Such an extreme circumstance caused the people in charge to lose their minds and clamp down like the fate of Western Civilization rested on perfect attendance. This extended to even no-brainer issues like civilian job work conflicts with the unit leadership literally informing the soldier to tell their civilian boss and coworkers to suck it up and deal with it. During the last four to five years before I retired from the Guard, I had to work around this issue many time resulting in severely strained relationships with my boss and coworkers.
All that being said, my issue that Sunday in 1999 didn't amount to the proverbial hill of beans in the greater scheme of things but on a personal level it was monumental. My loving spouse, the great Dragonwife, never agreed with the part of the National Guard spousal support manual that tells the wife or husband of a National Guard soldier your significant other belongs both body and soul to them until they say it doesn't. She wanted me at my son's soccer game and there would be hell to pay if I missed it. Initially, there shouldn't have been a conflict since my son's soccer game was scheduled so late that my unit was usually dismissed before that time.
Not that weekend, just after lunch all the officers and senior NCO's came out of a meeting telling everyone that the unit had a whole shitload of stuff to do and no one should expect to get home until well after 6:00pm. There wasn't any use in calling my wife and trying to explain the situation because I knew she would hit the roof and frankly, I was rather pissed myself. I'm uncertain how many people who have never served in the military have heard the euphemism, “Hurry up and wait”, but after the declaration that every soldier would be running around like chickens with their heads cut off for the rest of the day, somehow no direction or orders as what to do ever appeared. Enlisted soldiers and junior NCO's like myself just clustered together and began waiting for some sort of guidance to manifest itself.
A couple of hours ticked by with me getting increasingly upset. My son had an important event in his life about to occur and I was marooned on the other end of town. That was when I spotted the old fashioned phone booth inside the drill hall. A true relic from a past era, it had a small bench seat and those folding doors that allowed someone to shut themselves off from the rest of the world. As I stared at that early telecommunications wonder a plan quickly formulated in my tiny and inefficient brain.
I immediately called my brother, who lives in the upstate of South Carolina, and told him to phone my unit and say he was in Columbia and had just been involved in a car accident and needed a ride to get back home. We worked a short but important back story with the major point being that he had called my house looking for me but found out from my wife that I was doing my National Guard weekend duty. Another important point was that he had to wait thirty-minutes before calling the unit because several people had seen me in the phone booth and I didn't want the wrong person to connect the sudden emergency with my curious actions.
After that, all I could do was wait while remembering that I had once asked him to drop off some army blankets to my old National Guard unit that he passed within twenty yards (a little over 18 meters) everyday while on the way to work and back home again. I somehow forgot to turn them in during the process of transferring down to the Columbia unit. A couple of months later I'm reviewing my National Guard pay statement and discover my old unit had charged me sixty dollars for those blankets. I learned that my brother had forgotten to drop the blankets off with them ending up covers for the back seats of his van.
He came through this time with some nondescript lieutenant calling me to the office and almost immediately releasing me for the rest of the day. Not before I literally bumped into the first sergeant and having to explain the situation to him. You would have to have served in the military to understand the nature of first sergeants, having worked their way up through the ranks they know every stunt or scam a soldier could possibly pull. He didn't say anything, but just as sure as bears leave steamy piles of poop in the deep dark woods I realized he knew the scam I was attempting. For reasons I never figured out he told me to haul ass but drive safely.
Luckily for me, I got out of there with enough time to make it to my son's soccer game. This is where my daughter's recent scam comes into play.
It was last Wednesday around 10:30am when my ringing cell phone woke me up. “Hey Dad,” my daughter Darth Wiggles said, “I need you to come pick me up from school, the nurse says I have a fever and I feel awful.”
Working third shift is a pain in the backside but I did the required dad stuff and made my way to my daughter's school with every intention of taking her home. When I arrived I found that the two ladies that work at the reception desk in the main office had just stepped out and left the school nurse there to answer the phone and deal with slightly dazed parents like me.
“Hi,” I said, “my daughter just called and said she had a fever and needed me to pick her up.”
Since the school nurse has to deal with dozens of children each morning she just asked me for my daughter's name and her homeroom teacher then called that classroom. After hanging up though the nurse suddenly remembered dealing with my daughter.
“Ah Mr. Johnson, I checked your daughter's temperature about an hour ago and she was fine. Not only that, I've been her at the desk or my office the entire time and she hasn't used any of these phones.”
No one will ever make the mistake and think I'm that mentally swift but it was at that moment I realized the number that was displayed on my cell phone screen was the one for my daughter's cell phone. Since she had woke me up, I didn't pay attention to the number and just assumed everything was legit. It was also then the memories of my own phone scam to get out of drill and get to my son's soccer game came flooding back. I also remembered that my daughter had an algebra test that day and that she probably didn't study enough on Tuesday and was looking for a way to get out of it.
Instead of just turning around and leaving I had the nurse call my daughter's classroom and have her report to the office. A couple of minutes later Darth Wiggles walks into the office and sees the nurse and I talking. The “Oh Crap” look on her face was totally priceless. She then immediately turned around and went back to class while I was soon driving home eager to get back to sleep.