“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”
A very good friend of mine, Joe, joined the military. He wasn’t a very military minded man, definitely not the soldier type, but he was patriotic and thought it was his duty to join up. A very commendable attitude.
When Joe had taken this notion he was a little bit long in the tooth for the regular forces. He wasn’t old by any means, but he wasn’t in his teens either as most new recruits are these days. So he elected to join one of the part-time militias.
On his first day Joe arrived at the assigned army camp and joined other new recruits. They were all assembled in the square-bashing quadrangle for the inevitable welcoming speeches by the Officer in Charge and then a piece of less well structured but certainly more gritty initiation from the Sgt Major.
Times being what they have been within the last decade and more the military, like many other similar organizations have taken to having random tests of readiness and security to surprise attacks. Basically what happens is an alarm sounds and everyone gets to their pre-assigned positions and duties as fast as possible.
That is if you have been given a pre-assigned position to get to as fast as possible.
I don’t know whether Joe had been late getting to the base that first day (he did live quite a bit away) or whether he just hadn’t been paying attention, but when the alarm sounded everyone knew what to do – except for him.
All the other regulars and recruits ran off in various directions to what were obviously their pre-assigned positions. But Joe just stood there for a few moments, completely bewildered at what had just happened and where everybody had gone. But he quickly decided that he was far too conspicuous standing alone in the yard and that if everyone else was running somewhere then, hell, he would run somewhere too.
He just didn’t know where.
Then he remembered a big tree near the entrance to the army camp. He was fond of trees and nature and wildlife and the outdoors. I am too, but unlike myself Joe had always been a great climber and a fast one too. Before you could say “where did he go?”, Joe was well up the tree and hiding amongst its leaves. His camo gear worked a treat there as indeed it should.
Then in a while’s time the exercise was over and the signal sounded for everyone to stand down.
The new recruits all re-assembled back in the quad and as the army likes to do (frequently!) they dressed off (that’s got into lines properly spaced for those who have never participated in such things) and started a count. Away they went one, two, three, etc., but when they got to the end they were a man short. Joe.
Well, the military being the military, could never leave a man behind. They immediately identified who was missing and proceeded to organize search parties to find poor Joe. To paraphrase the famous Scarlet Pimpernel poem by P.D.Q. Blakeney, “they sought him here, they sought him there. Those squaddies sought him everywhere! Was he in heaven? Was he in hell? That dammed elusive Pimpernel!”
But Pimpernel Joe was neither of those places. You see, not only did Joe not know the signal for the start of the attack exercise, he didn’t know the signal for the end of it either! As far as he was concerned he was still under attack and therefore still hiding up in the tree!!
He heard some of the search parties, but by this time Joe was completely confused. He had made the mistake a lot of people make when faced with unusual situations. He had thrown logic and plain reasoning out and had over analyzed his predicament. Not knowing that the exercise was finished, he thought that the search parties might be some kind of rouse by the “enemy” and the last thing he wanted to do, particularly on his first day, was to be captured by the opposing forces. I mean would that have looked stupid or what?
So he remained silent. And he remained up the tree.
Luckily it wasn’t cold that night and it didn’t rain either. In the morning at the crack of dawn reveille sounded and once the formalities were done the search parties were sent out again to find Joe.
He was really stiff and sore by this time and hungry too. I think during the night he had figured out that the “attack” was over and that it would be safe to come back down on to terra firma. And that’s what he did. A bit disheveled looking he made it to the ground and was greeted by one of the search parties who ushered him back to the Sgt.
The Sgt inquired politely where Joe had gone and where he had spent the night (WTFHYB……?). At first they thought that he had left the camp, in other words gone AWOL, but eventually he got them convinced of what he had done and where he had been.
They gave Joe a fool’s pardon, but they made sure he learned all his protocols for the next time. I don’t know whether they now use the tree trick as part of their training or not. Perhaps they should, it was certainly effective for Joe.