When I was in the Navy, I can remember being taught that there were certain folks on base you didn’t want to ever upset. To be specific, there were five types of folks in particular who were good to have on your side: hospital corpsmen, dental technicians, postal clerks, disbursing clerks, and mess management specialists.
I was a hospital corpsman. Corpsmen assisted doctor’s and nurses with the medical care of military personnel. Corpsman have access to (among other things), immunizations records. Getting on the wrong side of a corpsman could result in the sudden unexplained disappearance of said immunization records. Immunization records (or shot records) must be up to date before personnel can go on leave (vacation) or transfer to another duty station. It’s quite possible that the corpsman will tell his buddy – the dental technician. Dental records must also be up to date. Suddenly, a rude an impatient sailor may find himself having to undergo dental x-rays and an exam in addition to the vaccinations he KNOWS he got six months ago. The dental technician might tell his buddy – the postal clerk who is stationed at the base where this sailor is transferring. Strangely, an issue has arisen with the forwarding of the sailor’s mail from the previous base. The dental clerk might tell his buddy – the disbursing clerk. Disbursing clerks handle payroll. Now the sailor finds that something has gone wrong with his direct deposit. The disbursing clerk may even tell his buddy – the mess management specialist (cook). The mess management specialist prepares a special meal for the sailor to “make him feel welcome”. Later that day, the initially rude and impatient sailor, has come down with a sudden “stomach bug” and has to go to sick call at the new duty station. The sailor finds himself with sore arms from vaccinations, sore gums from dental exams, homesick because he hasn’t gotten any mail from home, flat broke, and extremely nauseous (might have been something he ate). When he arrives at sick call. The corpsman notices that the sailor was last stationed aboard the USS Ersatz. The corpsman asks the sailor if he knew a corpsman by the name of so-and-so. It turns out that the former corpsman is “old buddies from boot camp” with the latter corpsman. The sailor is now as pleasant as punch and suddenly feels “much better now”. The next day, the sailor is informed that his mail has been forwarded, his back pay has been re-instated, and his immunization and dental records are all in order (once again). He even goes on to eat three square meals in the galley without incident (and uncertain what brought on that stomach bug the previous day).
It has been nearly twenty-five years since I got out of the Navy. I can honestly say that I have never participated in such a conspiracy about which I have just written. However, I couldn’t help but think of it as I went to get my hair cut this evening. I went to a stylist. The difference between a barber and a stylist is about $15. The stylist gently washed my hair and lead me to my chair. I told her that I wanted a very short cut. Her technique was such that I wasn’t sure if she was using clippers or 200 grit sandpaper. I watched her in the mirror as she did this. You’d have thought my hair was made of graphite and she was trying to erase it. I got out of the chair wondering what I had done to her to inspire such anger. Whom did I anger earlier in the day that knew her and called her before I arrived? Now I sit here in the comfort of my own home, satisfied with the final result of my haircut. One question haunts me: Are my shot records up to date?