Thursday, April 30, 2009

TMI Thursday: From the (HACK! COUGH! AHHHHHH!)

It's TMI Thursday my friends. For more stories that will entertain and disgust you at the same time go to LiLu’s place for this week's full list. And now, on to the fun!

In TMIs far and wide, the four Ps have been widely discussed. For those unfamiliar with the four Ps, they are, in descending order: Pussy, Penis, Piss and Poo. In a way they kind of remind me of George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say On TV.” Such wonderful words those were: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits.

Anyway, for your consideration, I’d like to suggest a fifth P, Phlegm, and its subcategory, snot, with this little story.

[Note: After a day's contemplation, I realized, Phlegm, and its subcategory, snot, would actually be the sixth P. I'd forgotten one of the most venerated Ps earlier and I'd like to take this opportunity to give Puke its proper due. So, Puke, here's to you! Huzzah!]

It was late November; we’d been aboard that little island off the South Carolina coast for about nine weeks. None of us had any hair yet, mainly because it’d been shorn to the skin about four times in the two months, but we were starting to believe we maybe just might march off the Parris Island parade deck as Marines in about a month. (Historical note: It was freezing fucking cold Dec. 17 of that year and I got to graduate from boot camp indoors. Yipee!)

Yes, we were hard, hard young men. We’d lost weight – in my case, more than 50 pounds in nine weeks while eating about 7,500 calories a day – built muscle and learned to shoot a man from 500 yards. We’d run the obstacle course, learned how to turn our backpacks into a flotation device we could shoot from while assaulting a beach and battled the other platoons in the pugil stick ring.

We were tough.

Yeah, not so much.

Nothing, and I mean nothing at boot camp is done without a reason. No matter what you may think at the time or later, there is a method to the seemingly insane madness that is Parris Island. The drill instructors know the recruits’ heads are getting a bit swollen now that they’ve survived more than two months and made it through the rifle range and Mess & Maintenance (working in the chow hall) weeks. So it’s time to take them down a peg or two.

Or, say, 20.

The build-up starts the day before. DIs laughing and smiling and commenting about what’s coming tomorrow. “Ha, boy, we’re gonna git you good,” is a common refrain.

And then, suddenly, it’s the next day already. It’s time.

You’ve had the classes, you know your mask works, but that’s little comfort as you pass through a door with this sign over the lintel: Even the Brave Cry Here.

The gas chamber.

You walk in with your hand on the shoulder of the recruit in front of you, and the hand of the recruit behind you on your shoulder. The air is thick, you can barely see the person you’re holding onto for dear life.

The billowing clouds of acrid CS (tear gas) bite hard into the exposed skin of your head, neck and hands. Unlike the DIs you’re not wearing a hood or gloves to protect these parts of your body. But then again, they’re going in and out, you just have to do it once (easy in retrospect to understand, but it kinda sucked at the time).

“Just let me get through the next three minutes. Just let me get through thenextthreeminutes. HolyFuckingShit!Justletmegetthroughthenextthreeminutes!”

They start you start slow. You crack the seal of the mask while holding your breath and let the mask fill with the gas and then re-seal it and clear the gas by blowing hard. You get most of it out, but not all, and now your cheeks are tingling…just like your ears. (I’ve heard tell CS feels a bit like a sunburn. That’s a fucking lie. It feels like a sunburn someone is rubbing with steel wool.)

After everyone’s clear and gives the thumbs up, it’s time. Time for the mask to come off. Completely.

The funny thing about CS is while you may think you can avoid it by holding your breath, you can’t. You may not be breathing, but it’s still seeping up your nose, irritating it and causing you to breath in just a little.

And that’s all it takes my friend. That tiny, insignificant breath, no more than the tiniest little whiff really, and you’re done cause your next instinct is to take a deep breath to really blow it out and now it’s in your lungs and you’re coughing and you’re hacking and the only thing keeping you from screaming like a little bitch is the one thing you’ve remembered is to keep your fucking eyes closed.

Oh, and did I mention it doesn’t matter if you’re an pearl diver from the Philippines and can hold your breath for five minutes? You don’t get the chance to hold your breath because the DIs start asking you questions which you have to answer. This requires you to breathe, which you can’t do 'cause your lungs are filled with CS gas resulting in a scene suitable for America’s Funniest Pseudo-Sadistic Home Videos.

And then, like the cherry on top of a shit Sundae, you get to sing the Marines Hymn.

“From the (cough, cough,) Halls of Montezuma (hack, cough, hack), to (cough) the (hack) shores (hack-cough) of (cough-hack) Tripoli (cough-hack, hack-cough, spit, hack, hack, hack)…”

Eventually, they let you don and clear your mask proving, again, the equipment works, which is all the gas chamber is really for anyway.

Then you’re allowed to leave the chamber, your hand on the shoulder of the man in front, one hand on your shoulder. When you emerge into the weak, late fall sun, it’s only two minutes after you went in, but your head’s a lot less swollen.

Probably a side effect of the five gallons of phlegm leaking from your nose and mouth. Seriously, have you ever seen a man with a 4-foot trail of snot running from his nose?

I have. And I’ve been that man as well. It pretty much sucks. But on the bright side, my sinuses were cleared for the next week or so.

And that's not even a very long snot trail.


Lemmonex said...

Not enough tissues in the world to make me do that.

Liebchen said...

I'm not even sure where to begin...I was cringing at the thought of being in the chamber. And then gagging a little at the thought of all that snot dripping down my face...

FoggyDew said...

Lem - That's what your sleeve is for.

Liebchen - The best you can hope for is a stiff breeze to cool your skin and blow the snot away.

Titania said...

Not sure this qualifies as TMI Thursday. It sounds more like a horror torture story to me...

FoggyDew said...

Titania - It only hurt for a little while. The crappy part was you had to requalify every year...

Fearless in Toronto said...

Good grief...why?

Hannah said...

Oh God. That is awful! Did anyone throw up or pass out?

FoggyDew said...

Fearless - Why? as in "Why did we do it?" or "Why did we have to do it every year?" The answers are simple and similar. We did it because we were at boot camp and they told us, and we kept doing it because it was, quite possibly, life-saving training.

Hannah - Nope, no puke or passing out. Although, I don't remember them feeding us beforehand. Hmmm? Coincidence? I think not.

LiLu said...

I'll be sure to try this out when I get Swine Flu.

FoggyDew said...

LiLu - I'm sure it would kill the little buggers. If nothing else, it would make you snort them out.

sour said...

duude, that sounds awful...but kind of neat at the same time
i bet your sinuses felt great a week later once they stopped being rubbed with steel wool

Zandria said...

Ah, yes, the good ole' gas chamber...that was one memory of my Army days I didn't want to relive, but I do appreciate the fact that the hard core SemperFi boys had to endure it, too...I distinctly remember wanting to die.

FoggyDew said...

Sour - Welcome. Like many things at Parris Island, it only seemed bad at the moment it was happening. The really bad part was wearing the utilities you wore in the gas chamber for the rest of the day. It was like the gift that kept on giving.

Zan - Finally! A kindered soul who can relate. You're right, death did seem like a viable option at the time.