My Most Enbarrassing Moment

Dale E. Sperling

© Copyright 2005 by Dale E. Sperling


The pace set by the instructors was brutal but I finally qualified for graduation from the Naval “A” school in Pensacola, Florida and received my assignment as a Communications Technician and given orders to report to a small base in Puerto Rico. My orders stated that I was granted fifteen days leave and three days travel time. Being new to the service, the old adage “hurry up and wait” had not hit me with full reality yet but it soon would.

 Even though I had no idea what my real job in the navy would be, I did expect to start work as soon as I was mustered in. I was surprised when I was ordered to report to Barracks A for work detail. At seven the next morning, dressed in my working uniform, which was the white doggy bowl navy hat, light blue long sleeve shirt and bell bottom jeans, I was handed a paint brush. “Your job is to paint all the doors,” the chief in charge instructed me.

I know this is just for a day or two, I thought. “Why are we doing this? I inquired of one of the other sailors painting along side me.

They have to have something for us to do while the base is waiting on our security clearance to arrive. It’s just for two or three days.”

I was certainly glad to hear that and at the end of my second day as started to get excited. This will all be over tomorrow I kept thinking.

 “The Globe Trotters are playing at the base in San Juan. Wanna go?” my roommate asked.

Yea, sounds like fun.”

 I had always wanted to see the Globe Trotters in person. I would laugh uncontrollably at their antics and always wondered why the people didn’t moved when they saw Meadowlark Lemon coming at them with that bucket of water. Still, I knew when I got to the game I would seek out a seat under one of the baskets. Curly, one of the originals lived in Greensboro, NC not far from where I was raised. I had no idea that it would be another thirty-five years before I would ever get to see him live and in person.

While waiting for the bus my stomach began to feel uneasy, a bloated feeling that is so uncomfortable, therefore I stopped by the dispensary and was given some antacid tablets by the attending physician. The bus ride was bumpy and the antacid tablets didn’t seem to help. I know I was only to take one every two hours but I swallowed them all seeking relief. “I’ll see you at the game in a little bit” I told my roommate. I’m going to stop by the dispensary here. These tablets aren’t helping me.”

Unfortunately, the base dispensary was closed so I stopped by the EM club for a 7 Up, hoping it would help settle by stomach. Drinking that seemed to exacerbate the problem so I left the half full bottle on the table and went on to the game. After watching the warm-ups, or at least the Washington Generals, I started feeling really uncomfortable so I decided to go back to the bus and rest awhile, hoping that being able to relax awhile would help.

I stretched out on the back seat of the bus but was never able to get comfortable. I was still lying there went the other sailors and dependants that rode the bus to the game began filing back on board. Two little teenage girls saw me lying there and assuming I was drunk, began poking fun at me. I really wanted to get up and have a word or two with them but I could only lie there and absorb their abuse.

 I wasn’t anymore comfortable in my bed and I began to become nauseas as well. Around 2:30 I made my way to the head, as the bathroom is called in nautical language, but throwing up didn’t head either. By the time muster came in the morning I was almost incapacitated. Never one to shirk my duties, I dressed and reported to work. I sat on some steps while awaiting role call and needed help to stand. “Sir, I think I need to go to the dispensary” I told the chief after my name was called. Given permission, I walked the sixty yards in the staggering time of twenty minutes.

You have appendicitis,” the attending physician informed me. “Prep him” he ordered the nurses. It needs to come out now.”

 After my operation and convalescents, I was more anxious to begin my career but I was put back to door painting. . “The FBI rejected your fingerprints. You can’t be assigned until they receive a clear set.”

 After several tires and weeks of waiting, I was again called to the base office. “We’re going to do five sets of each finger and cut and paste the best one,” a chief informed me. “You’re fingerprints are so fine they just don’t fingerprint clearly.”

Finally, after two months, the FBI accepted my prints and I was ready to start work. Well, almost. “You’ll have to be retested before we can assign you.”

I was placed in a training room with one other sailor, a little pudgy guy from Indiana who seemed to be as irritated by my presence as I was by his. He was tested first and could only copy at a level of twelve. My test showed that I had only fallen two points to sixteen so I thought my stay would be short. “I’m sorry but you both will have to work together and since he is at twelve, you’ll have to start at twelve too, were the instructors stinging words.

After a week of listening to tapes eight hours a day, this little puke hadn’t improved one bit. I tried to talk him into starting at sixteen and letting me get out of the class but he refused. I was beginning to hate this guy. When I tried to pressure him, he complained to the instructor. “I’m sorry Dale but you will just have to learn to work with him.”

Another week went by and the jerk had lost speed and now could only do ten words. I wanted to take him out behind the building and beat the crap out of him. He’s slacking on purpose just to irritate me I reasoned.

One afternoon we had some heated words so to cool us off, the instructor sent us out, escorted by two second class petty officers, to destroy some “secret” documents. Located on one end of a concrete patio was a big mesh drum with a crank on the right side of it. Underneath the drum was a pit designed for building a fire. To the left of this set-up was a water trough with running water that flowed about thirty feet before empting into a field.

We loaded the documents to be destroyed into the drum and built a fire. “Turn the crank until the paper turns to ash then load the ashes into this bucket and stir until it is just a black mush. Dump that into the trough,” one of the E-5’s instructed.

Pretending the crank was my” buddy’s’ neck, I started turning it as hard as I could, Thoughts of his head separating from his body like the chickens my grandmother used to prepare gave me a perverse sense of pleasure. Suddenly my comforting thoughts were interrupted.

Since you outrank him, why should you be doing the work? You can order him to turn the crank.”

Order? Him?” I glanced over at the little irritating fat guy and smiled inwardly at the thought of being able to give an order at my source of frustration.

Take over” I said to him as I let go of the rotating handle and took a step backwards to allow him room to grab the handle. As I did so, the handle slipped into my shirt and lifted me from the ground. I was completely helpless as the drum spun me around like a stone in David’s sling.

It wasn’t the feeling of helplessness or the realization of my mistake that I found embarrassing. But the thought of this little fat guy who had been the source of my frustration for three weeks was standing there enjoying this spectacle was almost more than I could bear.

When the thing finally flung me free and the little pudgy moron had to finish the burning job, I took no pleasure. My embarrassment was so great that I believe I would have rather faced a court martial than have to spend another day with that man. My instructor, recognizing my dilemma, assigned us both to permanent positions the next day. I went to sit a CT position and he was given a less prestigious job as a radioman.

I learned to better accept the shortcomings of others and the value of teamwork.

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