What’s your idea of a good time? Having fun perhaps? Yeah, me too. Unfortunately, I had to usher in my favorite month of the year by attending a formal dinner in my military dress uniform. Why unfortunately, you ask? Imagine, if you will, that attendance is a requirement. You must pay $30 for the meal. Did I mention that my classmates and I had to shell out at least five hundred bucks for the uniform? You cannot drink, yet the theme of the shindig is Mardi Gras (!) You are subject to constant scrutiny and might become the object of “lighthearted” ridicule. The guest speaker, some colonel who for some reason goes out of his way to call himself “Dick,” gives us—unbeknownst to him—a solid lesson on how not to deliver a dinner speech. If someone should find a pin or button out of place on your uniform or should you fail to observe the “Rules of the Mess,” you will suffer the consequences. One of the penalties includes drinking from the grog, a bowl filled with vodka, whiskey, wine, beer, tequila, chocolate syrup, and other unpleasant ingredients. To add insult to injury, we, the junior officers, must perform a skit for the higher-ups. One of the Rules of the Mess is to “enjoy thyself to the fullest.” Yeah, right! No running, jumping, diving, skipping, sliding, smoking, yelling, urinating, or talking. Enjoy the pool!
I just wanted to eat my frickin’ thirty-dollar meal and engage in some festive merrymaking; instead, I found myself entering Planet Arschloch. My peers and I looked like deer caught in the headlights, trying to make sense of the carnivalesque atmosphere around us as we sat at our tables eyeballing the salad that we couldn’t eat. Worried about violating the rules and a cadre member singling me out, I imagined myself in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I'm trying to keep a low profile and pretending to be “one of them” when all of a sudden a zombie-looking alien points at my uniform and grunts: “Get him!” The President of the Mess, our commandant, who shall remain nameless, had captains and warrant officers parading themselves through the dining hall. Some had to dance the Macarena, while others performed karaoke or skipped around our tables for having misspelled the guess speaker’s name. Put some fancy dress clothes on a bunch of biped mammals, throw in some alcohol for good measure, top it off with a fair share of asinine frivolity, and voilà: a painful waste of an evening. I could have spent my time more productively catching up on my correspondence, watching the paint dry on the walls, awaiting the sweet release of death, or reorganizing my sock drawer.
If you had the misfortune of being in the skit, as I did, you had to be at the place at 6:30 in the morning for a rehearsal. Moreover, you had to show up again at 2 pm, three and a half hours before the dinner started. Four classes each performed a skit that mostly reflected our impressions of the cadre. The powers that be moved each skit team on and off the stage as if we were mere pawns on a chessboard, all for the good pleasure and entertainment of the head table. Bring in the clowns! Amuse me or be gone with you! Quickly, quickly. I tire of this already.
Some kidding aside, I somewhat kind of maybe enjoyed the evening, largely because of my peeps and homies, that is to say, my classmates in the Adjutant General-Basic Officer Leadership Course. I’d like to single out Cochise, whose impersonation of our class leader was great; Snuffy, whose absence kept our class free of an alcohol-related incident; Miss Drama, who somehow managed not to cause a scene; High Speed, whose wit helped me through the evening; Princess, who’s done a great job thus far as class leader; Slick, who helped me figure out my camera issues; and Lieutenant Ripley, who reminded me which fork I should use for the salad. To his credit, the commandant picked on the cadre and not so much the students. I appreciated his sense of humor and wry wit. The last of the four skits, by the way, was the highlight: students performed a hilarious satire on the commandant and overall program by simulating a rap video. All in all, the “dining in” was about letting one’s hair down and fostering an esprit de corps. Likewise, it was more or less an initiation of the new AG officers into the exclusive club. I fear this won’t be my last military dinner.