The U.S. draft did not affect me because, fortunately for both the military and me, I was born, raised and worked in Canada until I acquired a Social Security card and joined the Detroit News in my early 30s before moving to California a half-dozen years later.
But I did have a fleeting turn with the military in my 20s. A handful of us reporters at a southern Ontario daily — K-W Record — responded to a call to donate two years of our time to serve as reservists. After Press Club conversations with local military poohbahs, we drew straws to see which company we would approach. I wound up with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. They told me I was a second lieutenant, the company’s PIO and signed me up for an intro training weekend.
I got the Friday off and drove to Camp Borden about an hour north of Toronto. A light rain began as we assembled in the mess hall where we were assigned to small squads according to numbers handed us as we entered the building. Each unit comprised three or four regular enlisted men and three or four reservists. My sergeant (enlisted) had a map marked into squares. It was announced that each squad would search the square marked with its number on the map. And, we were told, “There’s a case of beer out there and it’s marked on the map.” The first thing I looked for after the sergeant unfolded our map was the X marking the beer. Then I hunted for the grid with our number. We were nowhere near.
So I asked the sergeant to give me one of his regulars and, while he and the rest of the men searched our grid, we would get the beer.
That’s when I learned I was not compatible with the military. He gave me a flat stare and, pressing his forefinger on the square with our number on it, said, “Sir, we can’t do that, we’re assigned to this area.” I agreed and pointed out that he and the rest of the unit would complete our task while the two of us – I wasn’t going to carry a case of beer all by myself and I needed a regular who was familiar with the camp’s terrain – would get the beer and meet them back at our bunks. He was unable to translate that thought and repeated to this civilian reservist, “Sir, our orders are to search this area.” For once in my life, I was thinking clearly. I scanned the group and recognized that his regular-enlisted 2-IC liked the logic of my approach, so I said, “Corporal, come with me.”
We got the beer (and let the sergeant share) but that obliterated any thought of further military service. The next morning, I claimed a family emergency and drove out of camp.
But it gets painful when Kismet, the stars, fate and its fickle finger, aura, vibes, luck, serendipity, the crumbling cookie, circumstance, fortune, karma and the gods line up against you.
They all turned on us recently when hackers smacked everybody in my email address book with a request for $2,000 to bail me out of a jam in the Philippines. It happened the morning we motored over the mountains into the desert enroute to visit the grandkids. Bev checked her phone messages during our gas stop in Yuma and had a text message from son Michael informing us of the breach. On arrival in Phoenix, I immediately changed my email password but was unable to notify everybody of the scam because I couldn’t access my address book from our kids’ computer.
Upon returning home Monday afternoon, I learned I no longer had an address book. There were about a dozen addresses left, including my wife’s. She did not receive the fraudulent Philippines plea. So we surmised that the address for each person contacted was chewed up and spat into cyberspace.
I’m rebuilding my address list and copying it onto a thumb drive as redundancy dictates.
At the same time, the rotted floor of our outdoor wooden paint-and-gardening-stuff storage cabinet beside the garage finally gave way and tumbled against a wooden fence dividing our yard from our neighbor’s. We trundled off to Home Depot to pick up a plastic replacement that required assembly.
While I was trying to catch-up on some writing chores, our printer pooped out so it was it was off to Staples. We found the latest version of our four-in-one that just died. The rest of the day was eaten up getting it installed and running on all three desktops and then catching up our print chores.
The next day was devoted to putting together the plastic storage shed like a big Lego puzzle and tucking it tightly against a concrete-block wall at the rear of the property between the garage and lot-line fence.
Since mishaps and miracles seem to run in threes, it appeared we had traversed the hump.
Until Saturday morning. The sewer backed up. Despite the threat and trauma, we were fortunate on a few counts. One, only the toilet and drain in my shower at the rear of the house was backing up. Two, the back-up was mainly water from the washer and Bev’s shower – she was taking a shower while doing the laundry. Three, I happened to be in the bathroom in time to see the water pouring over the shower-floor ledge so I hollered at Bev to stop her shower and turn off the washer. We grabbed all the towels within reach to soak up the water at my bathroom door so it wouldn’t cascade out onto the carpet in our back bedroom, which would have magnified a calamity into a catastrophe requiring knocking heads with insurance adjusters.
I pounded the plunger on the shower drain for five or 10 minutes. Nothing happened. So we called our friendly drain service. Less than five minutes later, we heard a series of loud pops and gurgles as the water plopped down the drain. When the drain cleaners arrived, he did a quick survey and we all agreed where the problem was. He and his helper screwed out the driveway plug on the line draining into the city sewer line in the alley and screwed out the plug in the side of the house that accesses the shower line. Extracting the plugs took some sweat and swearing because both had been wrenched tightly into place since we remodeled the house in 1987. Anyhow, the drain was cleaned and cleared and has been working magnificently.
After writing out the check to the plumbers, I figured that was it.
Until I got back to putting stuff back into the storage shed and reinforcing the concrete-block wall supporting it. The six-foot shed was about a foot taller than the existing wall so I gathered up a half-dozen spare concrete blocks hanging around the yard under potted plants and things like that to shove them atop the fence to hide the shed. It was during one of these shoves that I tweaked me back. It was just a tick at the time but that was Saturday. On Monday, I couldn’t even climb into my car. If I had got in, I would never have got out unless someone called 911 and they came with the Jaws of Life.
Just recounting all this is painful but, at the same time, it’s a bit cathartic.