Thursday, February 25, 2010

Protest what?

When I was in technical school out in California we had to go through this thing called phased training. What that means is when you first show up fresh out of basic training you're basically restricted to base. I guess they want you to be able to readjust to a normal life surrounded by normal people. So for two weeks we couldn't go off base at all. Then after two weeks we could go off base in our uniforms.

Having just spent six weeks in basic training having nothing but chow hall food and another two weeks on base having nothing but chow hall food, and the food court at the BX (military shopping store) I got a serious desire to have a Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

So we get up early on Saturday morning and start looking for a McDonald's. We ask around a little bit and find out there is one not too far off base. The base was on the top of a fairly steep hill, and the McDonald's we were told about was down at the bottom of the hill maybe a mile or little over a mile from the gate. Awesome...a mile walk is nothing.

As we're getting our Blue's on, and getting ready to head out to enjoy what could possibly be the best Quarter Pounder ever we notice a sign posted on the door.


Protesting? Seriously? It's 1990 not the sixties. What do people have to protest about?

So we kind of laughed at that and headed out to get some food.

After walking down the hill in the cool day and fresh sunshine we're all in pretty good spirits. And not a protester in sight. All is going well, and we're close enough now to see the golden arches. Our pace increases a little bit and we're totally focused on the goal.

That's probably why we failed to notice that the houses we were passing had slowly given way to a park. Not just any park. But the park where the anti-military protesters have decided they would set up shop for the day.

We continue walking along the road, dreaming about that tasty burger and fries that will very soon be ours. The first time we even noticed any protesting was when we hear in the distance "You suck!"

Being fresh out of basic training, and having experienced the joy of being yelled at, and degraded for six great weeks we do what any good trainee would do. Ignore it. Keep your eye on the goal. Accomplish the mission.

Apparently protesters in California don't take well to being ignored completely by the object of their ire. They come closer, and more remarks follow about everything ranging from things that we have never even heard of doing, to we killed JFK, to comments about our mothers and such. Only they are a little louder now.

We press on, heads down, eyes on the prize. Must have burger and fries.

Then things got a little more complicated. I guess in our desire for a burger and fries, we totally lost our situational awareness or SA. SA is very important because it will help you not do stupid things when things start to go bad. Now having been in a fairly protected environment for the last eight weeks tends to have a bad effect on your SA. And the fact that I could almost taste that burger and fries probably wasn't helping either.

From my right over in the park someone yells something to the effect that we were baby killers and rapists or something like that. Guess someone had watched one too many Vietnam films. But before I could stop myself I spin to my right and say "Why don't you shut up and let us go eat!"

At that point my SA becomes glaringly obvious and what I have done becomes apparent to me that I have just stepped in it. What we had figured would be a little group of people together in the park singing Kum-By-Yah or something was apparently a much larger much angrier group. The one I had just told to shut up was surrounded by a group of about 40 other people that seemed to share his opinion that we were the scum of the earth and shouldn't be allowed to walk the streets.

At this point training kicks in. We have a typical flight or fight scenario. There's three of us, and about 40 of them. So fight was out of the question. Flight was pretty low on the opinion chart too, because we weren't really sure where we were, and running in low quarter military issue shoes is pretty much impossible.

The guy in front steps closer to us and just starts repeating "What did you say to me? What did you say to me? What did you say to me?" and his face is getting redder and redder. He also has this little vein that is starting to kind of pulse right in the middle of his forehead.

Again I lose my SA. The vein is quite possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life up to this point. I can't help it. I point and laugh, right at the guy. It wasn't bravery or stupidity or anything that prompted this action from me, it was just so stinking funny at this point.

Apparently pointing and laughing at an angry protester does little or nothing to improve your situation. The guy tries to grab my arm, and at this point the flight instinct takes over. But we don't head back toward the relative safety of the base or anything. The three of us take off at sprint. Straight toward McDonald's. Now this may not be the greatest plan in the history of escapes, but if I'm gonna get the crap kicked out of me I'm going to have a Quarter Pounder first.

As we barrel in to the McDonald's full stride we almost run over a policeman who I guess had had the same desire for a burger and fries. At the sight of him the protesters break off pursuit but they are still hanging out in the park across the street. Still yelling lots of things in our general direction.

But I gotta say that was the best Quarter Pounder with Cheese I have ever had. It was followed a couple of hours later by another. Then a little while after that a ice cream cone. You see we were in the McDonald's for about 5 hours. It seems protesters in California are nothing if not vigilant. They were waiting for us. There were even some that showed up after we got in McDonald's that were just as ticked off as the original group, and no idea why.

But eventually they got tired of waiting us out, and I think the McDonald's employees were a little concerned through the whole thing. Heck we almost filled out applications so we could at least help out while we were there.

As the sun started to go down, the group across the street breaks up and heads home, and we leave McDonald's thinking we should be fairly safe now.

As we're walking up the hill back to the base a car goes by, we get yelled at again and the car speeds off. Guess they had to get the last word.

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