Three Rides, an essay


I

Between the recruiter’s office and bootcamp, there is MEPS. The Military Entrance Processing Station, where potential servicemembers go to be screened before formally enlisting. MEPS serves as an opening in the bureaucratic membrane which surrounds every function of government. It’s where they confirm your identity, quiz you on your background, test for drug use, etc., all in a meticulous and slow fashion. There’s a couple in every state, usually located in a Federal building. And between the recruiter’s office and MEPS, there is a ride in a white van.

For me, the van came to Carbondale, Illinois, in the summer of 2008, where I had been living for the last few years, first as a student at the local university and then as an appliance repairman. I’d first come into recruiting office a month earlier. It was this little, one-story building a few blocks from my house that I’d driven by countless times without a second thought. Inside, the building was divided into two smaller offices, one occupied by a Navy recruiter, and the other by the Marines. I had actually gone into the Navy office first. The only person in there was this overweight guy with a three-day beard in gym shorts, playing Madden 2007. I stood there in the corner while he finished a play. Then he paused the game and asked me what I needed. I said I wanted to talk to a Navy recruiter. “Well, bro, that’s me,” he said. His shirt was riding up his stomach. I got nothing but love for the Navy, but it wasn’t the best first impression.

Next week, I went across the hall and the talked to the Marine recruiter. That meeting went better. He asked when I could be ready to ship out for bootcamp. As a joke, I asked him if I could skip that part. He didn’t get it, and I found myself sitting through a long explanation of why Marines were trained the way they did. For a few weeks after that, the recruiter and I went back and forth over the terms of my enlistment. A number of my friends had already joined. The most ardent piece of advice I got was to avoid signing an open contract. In the military, an open contract is basically an invitation to be thrown into the kinds of jobs that no one else wants to do. And no, not because they’re too dangerous. More than enough teenagers were in line for those. They were the jobs that were tedious, thankless, or involved close proximity to human waste.

I settled for infantry, then filled out an immense application. I got a date at which I would report to MEPS for processing and to sign the formal contract. ‘Be prepared for a long, suck ass day, was my recruiter’s comment on it. Processing started around five in the morning. The white van would come the day before and take me out to Saint Louis, where I would spend a night in a hotel, then start at it early next morning. I listened as my recruiter got on the phone to reserve a spot. Then he laughed. When he hung up, he explained the driver was something of a local legend.  Back in the day, the guy had been a roadie for Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The day came. I walked over to the office. I was anxious. I knew that all the paperwork I had been filling out and group exercise I did with the rest of the would-be Marines was building up to this, but most of the time the recruiter’s office had just felt like another part of the town. No different from work or the gym. This was the first step in going beyond that. But I didn’t get a chance to dwell on it. I heard shouting before I got through the door. Inside, my recruiter was reaming out another applicant. Turned out the recruiter had given him one of those cheap, home piss-tests only minutes earlier and the kid had flunked. Sounded like it wasn’t the first time this had happened either.

I sat around with the few other guys heading out that day as the recruiters plotted what they were going to tell their superiors in Saint Louis. The office test was purely informal, but the kid was registered to be there tomorrow, and they weren’t about to send someone guaranteed to flunk a more enhanced test. Calling in to say the kid had just dipped on them would have reflected poorly as well. The senior Staff Sergeant said he would handle it. He made a call around the back of the building. I never heard what excuse he gave. As for the rest of us, it was into the van.

We pulled out the recruiting station. The kid stood alone on the corner, watching us go. He was in his own predicament now. He was still in high school and now he would have to explain to his parents why his contract with the Marines had been voided. The driver chuckled as we drove off. “Yeah. He’s fucked,” he said in a very matter-of-fact voice. I asked the driver about his Skynyrd days. He told me they were over, then smiled and tapped the side of his nose.

We spent the rest of the day driving around southern Illinois and eastern Missouri, picking up more would be enlistees from the many different recruiting stations in the region. The drives between each spot were long, sometimes taking up to an hour between each leg. It was a lot of time to spend just staring out the window at the repeating combinations of corn fields, strip malls, and highways. At one stop, we picked up two Army hopefuls. One guy was still drunk from the night before. He asked if we wouldn’t mind letting him sprawl across the floor. I had no problem with it. The other guy shook his head and explained the first thing they do at MEPS is breathalyze you. He asked me what branch I was joining. I told him the Corps. He said he was trying to get back into the Army.

“First time up to MEPS?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I answered.

He nodded. This was his third trip in two months. He had a medical issue, something about his back, that was keeping him from reenlisting. So he’d been getting ping-ponged between his hometown and MEPS. His recruiter would slap the seal of approval on him but MEPS just kept bouncing him back.

“That sucks,” I said.

He shrugged, “Why? I love going to MEPS. Catch a Cardinals game, get a free meal, sleep in that comfy hotel bed.”

I’d never considered that before. All my life, I’ve considered hotels as mostly gross. That inside one, you tried to touch as little as possible. Wear sandals and throw the comforter into the corner. Assume you were only a blacklight away from realizing the amount of bodily fluids you were walking around in. But for this guy, it was a luxury. A few weeks earlier, I’d spent a week with both my power and water shut off due to non-payment, and that was not unusual for the neighborhood I lived in, but this was something different. As Americans, our culture is so overly saturated with rags-to-riches stories that it becomes formulaic. Everyone wants to be able to point back to some rougher period of their lives and genuflect on how they made it through, so much so that proactively fantasizing about it is itself a part of that formula. But it’s different when you speak to someone who can talk about a life lived roughly without any sense of resentment or embarrassment because the expanse of that world is so great that there is nothing else to compare it to.

We talked some more. He said he’d never owned a cellphone or a car. Prior to joining the Army, all he’d ever had for shoes were flip-flops or work boots. He had no clue how many siblings he had. After that, we mostly just talked about music. He asked the driver to turn to a rock station. He was a metal fan, his favorite band being a toss-up between Slipknot and Pantera. He started joking with the driver about it, asking the driver if he was a metal fan. The driver shook his head, but he opened up a little more after that. The two of them seemed to recognize something in common with each other. It was clear they came from similar worlds. He asked the driver if he ever took the van to any local strip clubs.

“Once,” the driver said. “And they haven’t stopped giving me grief about it since.”

Meanwhile, the other would-be solider remained passed out on the floor, occasionally turning over, and asking how much further it was.

On the most remote leg of the trip, we lost the rock station. The driver started playing around with the console, looking for a new source of music, but the scan just kept hitting static. He finally landed one, the sound of an electric guitar came through. There was hope. A vocalist joined in. The word ‘God’ came out and both driver and the soldier groaned in unison. The driver shut the radio off and we drove in silence until we were in range of the Saint Louis stations.

“Hate that shit,” the guy muttered.

It was a sentiment I’d hear again and again over the next four years of my enlistment. There’s seems to be this myth about the heartland of America, that it’s God’s Country. Like people hear it once, take it as true, and never seem to question that there might be more to it. The Bible thumpers get attention because they’re coordinated and they’re loud. And they fight for the spotlight with other groups who are also coordinated and loud. It’s easy to miss these whole tracts of rural Americans who are something entirely different. The Evangelicals are aging out. And their kids just don’t want to act like that. But they’re not flipping over into metropolitan liberals either.

Instead, there’s this whole other subculture growing across the country. And it never gets identified because it’s not a clear voting bloc or advertising demographic. It’s too random to get a solid hold of unless you’ve seen it. It’s different from the older generations. For starters, it’s definitively in favor of legal weed. More about MMA than pro-wrestling. Those who belong tend to have an affinity for gory horror movies. It’s far prudish, god-fearing, or sober. Politically, it’s all over the place. But the characteristic that tends to be present across all these differences is a certain attitude, that no one within it is going to shift their beliefs for fear of public ridicule. That’s what tends to separate them from the more urbane hipster types. There’s no fear, or risk taken, in making an ass of themselves on social media. There’s no imperative to protect an online reputation. They’re not going to lose any kind of freelance, laptop-based work. So you’ll see someone like this online, one day linking to some abrasive anti-cop page, and the next day; having an argument with a random person about immigration, and after that; sharing a raunchy video, and after that; linking to a pro-cop page. It’s all much more up for grabs than anyone realizes. But because it doesn’t function like a consumer group, all the algorithms and market research simply miss it.

We got to Saint Louis. The DOD had a bunch of floors on permanent reserve at one of the big-name hotels. I stayed there for the night. Reveille went at some early hour, around four or so. Then it was off to the federal building where I lost track of the guy I had been speaking to. The first thing they do at MEPS is print out a sticker with barcode on it and slap it across your chest. It’s funny if you have the right sense of humor. You go around to the different testing stations and proctors don’t even really talk to you. Some don’t even ask you name, they just scan your barcode sticker and explain how to complete the station’s task.  

At the end of the day, I sat in the lobby and waited my turn to go onto the office and formally sign the contract. It was early in the afternoon, but felt much later because of the predawn start. Most of us were watching this one kid go through the full range of startled emotions as he anticipated his turn. Obnoxious, would be the best word to describe it. His girlfriend was present, he was trying to make a big show to her of how he felt. Civilians and military officials alike kept telling him to shut up, but he couldn’t restrain himself for more than couple minutes. It’s the flip side to that same earnestness I’d seen earlier on the van ride in. The trade-off to having people in the world unaffected by what’s trendy means that some subsection of that crowd is also going to be unmoved by more general expectations. The mess comes from trying to figure out where the line is drawn.

Ten minutes went by and the kid was called into the office. When he came out, he announced that he’d signed an Open Contract, then he got down on his knee and proposed to his girlfriend.

Dumbass,” the guy next to me hissed. He looked at me and shook his head.

We started talking. He was yet another ex-soldier trying to get back into the army. Motor-T. Did a tour in Iraq, but didn’t see any action. Nor did he want to, just wanted a job. He asked me about a tattoo I have on my arm, a hula girl that was a few years old by then. He showed me his forearm. A demon face was semi-present. The rest had rubbed away, like how those temporary tattoo stickers out of the gumball machine get. He said he’d gotten it a few weeks back but went afterwards and got blackout drunk. He passed out in a bar with the open tattoo in a puddle of liquor and when he woke up, most of the ink had washed away. He didn’t seem too bitter about it though. He could get it redone, he was just pissed that he’d have to pay for it twice.

“All the more reason for reupping,” I joked.

He nodded in agreement.

The white van took me back to Carbondale. Another tour through all the places in between. I got back to the office in the early evening and handed a copy of my contract over to my recruiter. My ship-out date was set for the end of October.

I walked home that day, stopping at a gas station to buy two tallboys of Steel Reserve 211. I looked around the neighborhood. A few months earlier, a SWAT team raided the house across the street. My own place had been broken into on a few occasions. The last time it happened, all the intruders could find worth stealing were a pair of boxing gloves and some well-used hand wraps. I had a party once where two guys got into a fistfight on the front lawn, a cop drove by, slowed down, shook his head, and kept going. The toilet seat had broken off a while back and the landlord never replaced it, using it from then on involved a precarious balancing act. I thought I was seeing something new on that trip to MEPS. Looking back, I was. It was a reflection of my own life at the time.

I didn’t have some great reason for joining. Ten years after the fact, it’s way too easy to retrofit whatever narrative meets the needs of the moment. I offer this with the hint that it’s perhaps a behavior we all take part in, but more often it seems to be taken as an invitation to start firing away with the personal opinions, so I’ve mostly stopped bothering with it. I always had this subtle belief that I wind up in the military. I loved living in that town, but I needed a way out.


II

After bootcamp comes SOI, the School of Infantry, where the next phase of training begins. More generally, it’s a buffer zone between bootcamp and the regular fleet forces. One that the overwhelming majority of Marines benefit from, despite many claims to the contrary. For me, it took place at Camp Pendleton, between San Diego and Los Angeles. On average, a Marine fresh out of bootcamp—also known as a ‘boot’—is in their late teens, maybe early twenties. There’s a distinct chance that prior to enlisting, they may have never left the county they were born in. Now, after three months of intensive endurance training, they’re suddenly in an unknown city with an entirely disposable paycheck. Training goes from Monday to Friday, but on the weekends, SOI releases its students. They go out and blitz themselves into whatever they can lose money on and are fine so long as they can make it back to base by Sunday afternoon.

Although the week is filled with an endless series of weapon courses and field maneuvers, any foreboding sense of war itself is absent. You’re busy all day and there’s just not enough time to dwell on it. You sit behind a new weapon and fire it again and again until you’re as proficient at it as you are bored. Then you eat MRE’s and wait for bedtime. Friday comes and you head back to the barracks and cut for the weekend and when that starts, the whole military recedes into the background of your thoughts.

I still maintain that Friday evenings in an SOI squad bay are one of the most bizarre sights a person can ever witness. It starts with three immense platoons marching in from the field, over a hundred guys in all, and turning in their rifles. After a short speech from an officer, they cut to hit the showers. But for the last five days, these same hundred guys have been subsisting solely off rations that have a tendency to leave the consumer backed up—but not permanently. After dismissal, all hundred guys make an immediate rush for the bathroom, where only about twenty toilets are standing in relief. That’s how the weekend starts, somewhere in a line of one to five guys, impatiently waiting for a can to open. Meanwhile, you experience the rotating smells of twenty different MRE-and-gut-concoctions working their way free. And because it only happens once a week, there no normalization to it. It’s just as foul on last day of SOI as it was on the first. Showers come next, weekend liberty proceeds from there. A shuttle service, the Sea Breeze, goes from Pendleton to some nearby cities. The vans depart in waves from a parking lot near the barracks. Everyone gathers there, usually dressed in all their awful Tap-Out style clothing and carrying the same digicam tote bag while they wait for an open spot.  

SOI Marines live under their own tacitly understood norms. Revved from training, they tend to be more hotheaded than the average person, but they still all exist at the same tier. Boot Marines are fairly interchangeable, doing interchangeable things. Bunkmates get swapped. Platoon leadership is frequently altered. Top dog as you may be on any given day, you might suddenly find yourself suddenly needing the good graces of an old adversary on the next. It might be something left over from our primate days, but whatever it is, most of them understand it’s not worth it to make enemies for no reason. The general rule is quick to anger, quick to forgive.

But there was one ride towards the end of SOI where it hadn’t gone that way. It was a Sunday, return to Pendleton, when the Sea Breeze picked up two Fleet Marines along with the rest of us. This was unusual. The shuttle dropped off at the SOI barracks. How this became their last resort for getting back to base was a mystery and they didn’t seem too eager to explain any of it. Immediately, one of them told a boot to switch seats with him so he could have the window. It’s custom to default to the senior rank, but this was beyond the norm. The boot protested a little, but the senior Marine made it clear he wasn’t letting it go. The boot changed over and the senior Marine climbed across him. Both senior guys put earbuds in and passed out as the shuttle got underway.

Somewhere out on Interstate 5, the senior Marine who’d forced the seat change woke up and pulled his earbuds out. He stashed his phone away then turned to the younger guy and asked him if he knew what unit he was heading to. The kid said he didn’t know. Unit assignments weren’t going to be announced for another week or so.

“You scared?” the fleet Marine asked.

“About what?”

“About going to the fleet.”

God knows what the kid was supposed to say. Neither option was good. He gave the greenest answer possible: A little, but he was eager to get to his unit and start training. The fleet Marine laughed. He started talking out loud, to the boot, but fully knowing everyone else in the van could hear him. He said that he’d been terrified when he first got to his own unit, that the first thing his own seniors had told him was to prepare for a shitshow of hazing. His first night, he said the senior guys walked up and down the catwalks of the barracks, banging on the new guy’s doors and screaming their names. He said he’d been so scared that he shut off all the lights in his room and pissed into canteen rather than risk walking to the communal bathroom. The stories got more aggressive from there. Then he offered some advice: don’t fight back until someone physically puts hands on you, and once that happens, go in and go hard. No one in the upper ranks was going to defend a senior Marine if they struck first, and they certainly weren’t going to do anything if he got his ass kicked. This went on until the shuttle arrived at Pendleton. As if they’d been chummy the entire time, the fleet Marine turned to the boot and wished him the best of the luck, and in a cheerful voice, added he’d hazed the living hell out of him if he came to his unit.

I sat quietly in back, listening to the whole exchange. My first thought was that the guy was an asshole. And he was. But it struck me then that there really wasn’t anything I could do about it. Nor did I have any idea of how I was supposed to react. I’d been at SOI for about six weeks. I thought I was just getting the hang of it. But in another two, I’d be right back at zero.

That’s a weird thing to go through, that yo-yo effect of self-assurance. You go into the recruiter’s station and it’s nothing but anxiety. Then you sign the contract and it’s a high. You go out for dinner and everyone congratulates you. You feel good. Then you show up at bootcamp. They shave your head and micromanage the order in which you dress yourself. Your nose runs for weeks on end. You have ongoing bouts of pinkeye and ring worm. In the midst of the confusion, it’s not unusual to end up accidentally swapping tooth brushes with another recruit. You’re as low as it can get. But time progresses forward and a new class begins as yours is ending. You look at them and think, god, how foul. You graduate and it’s a high. There’s another dinner. You show up somewhere in uniform and make an ass out of yourself, then spend a few weeks on your parent’s couch, binge eating without gaining a pound. But then it’s back to the military, to SOI, and it’s a low. Back to communal bathrooms. Back to watching two guys in whitey-tighties get into a fistfight about some snide remark made in the chow line. But you go through it, complete that phase, and it’s yet another a high. You get your fleet assignment…and it’s right back to the bottom again. From there, it’s even more cycles of ups and downs. New officers and SNCOs come through every so often, they always have these weird plans for training, usually under the guise of ‘getting back to the basics,’ but really you just get treated like an asshole. But it eases up, eventually, it always does. The leaders get complacent. Life gets easier—until they get rotated out and the whole cycle starts again.

There were months on end when a normal day would start at seven. The platoon would meet at the gym. Everyone was on the honor system to stay there for at least an hour. No one did. We’d regroup after breakfast, hang out for a few hours, then be cut for the day by eleven a.m. And other months; up at four a.m. for a regimen of mind-numbing, high-impact calisthenics without any clear benefit, thirty minutes scramble back to the barracks, take turns in the shower, scramble for the chow hall to get something to eat before the line comes out the door, then head into the platoon work space and do absolutely nothing for two hours. Just before lunch, an order for a working party would come through and no one would get a chance to eat. In the afternoon, another two straight hours of nothing. And at what should be the end of the day, something would come up out of the blue. Maybe a gear inspection or an online class that needs to be completed immediately. That goes ‘til eight p.m., but you sit there until ten because the Marine in charge of dismissing everyone already left without telling anyone. And for four years, life is just of worked itself up and down between those extremes, no real rhyme or reason to it.

As for hazing in general, I think the issue is overblown. The problem isn’t hazing in general, the problem is a few and far dispersed number of genuine sadists who know what they’re doing is wrong and have the forethought to come up with passing alibis. The book ends up getting thrown at some otherwise stellar guy because he made two new guys grapple with each other over who has to stand an extra hour of watch. There will never be a perfect that system that divides up what should and shouldn’t be allowed because much of it comes down to the context of the moment. The general rule of thumb I always followed was to question whether an activity is going to leave the participant with a shot sense of confidence. Growth is optional because mindless tedium is just part of the job, but at the very least, nothing in the military should be purposefully undermining anyone’s trust in anything other than government efficiency.

For me, it will always be summed up by a day about halfway through my enlistment. I was tasked for a working party and was peeved about it because I thought it was below what corporals should have been doing. Twenty guys were sent to load up an immense pile of scrap metal into the back of a truck. I showed up hoping to just get it over with. I grabbed my first handful. A buddy from another platoon told me to stop. Two boots had just checked into the fleet that day. It was implied that the whole task should be done by them.

“That’s stupid,” I said, “If we all help out, we can be done in a half hour.”

Nope. Instead, eighteen of us sat there in the hot-ass sun for several hours, sweating our asses off, because picking up scrap metal was boot work. Even if one or two other guys had helped out, we could have been done much earlier. But no one did. Nor did it even cross my mind to help.

Moving scrap metal was boot work.


III

Gunny Adams (not his actual name) was an angry man. And he loved rules. He was like some kind of anti-bodhisattva, a being of pure anger who only continued to reside here on earth into order to enforce standards while his own physiology seemed to be totally exempt from the laws of nature. He slept in shifts of two to three hours throughout the day. Despite being around two-hundred-and-fifty pounds, he would regularly commit himself to these long, grueling runs alone in the Mojave Desert without food or water. His eating habits were peckish. And yet, he never lagged in energy. His volatile temper was infamous across the battalion and understandably so; in spite of all aphorisms to the contrary, he really was able to solve the majority of his problems with anger. It made field operations particularly memorable.  

It's often taken for granted that field operations exist for the purpose exposing those who are destined for the frontlines to some controllable level of stress. That’s only partially true. Really, it’s the logistics that are being tested. You get into fight—of any kind—you basically have two options, keep fighting or run away. But that kind of mindset isn’t applicable to logistical problems. A fighting spirit isn’t going to fill up an empty water jug or fix a broken radio. It might allow you work around the problem, for a while, but eventually the problem itself is going to have to be addressed, and that takes a different kind of thinking. Or, at least, it should.

There was a day during our big, pre-deployment field-op where I was tasked as a duty driver, designated to stand by with a Humvee and run members of the upper echelon out to wherever they needed to go. Sort of like an uber. And on that day, the entire logistical support element suddenly imploded. I never found out what happened exactly, seemed like a hundred different minor things went wrong and there just weren’t enough people around to knock them all out. But somewhere in the midst of this, Gunny Adams decided he was going to try and fix it all himself. And I wound up driving for him.

He yelled. For an hour straight, he yelled. He yelled into the radio, then called back to the battalion headquarters on his personal cell phone and yelled over that, then got back on the radio and yelled some more. He cursed out people of all ranks. He threatened ass kickings and professional remediation. And as it occurred, I drove on, as silent and still as I could. Then I clipped a sign post while trying to navigate through a narrow backroad. He didn’t miss a beat, somehow managing to scream at both myself and the Marine he was on the phone with. He hung up and it was then my turn to receive a full-bore dose of it. If nothing else, I was impressed with his memory. It was much more than a flow of invectives. Although we only interacted a few times a week, he had compiled a long grudge-list of my shortcomings; my hair was too long, I was too fidgety with my hands when trying to explain something, I said ‘uhh’ too much when speaking into the radio. It went on. Even after we made it to the other camp, he continued to sit there for a while longer to chew me out. After exiting the Humvee, he slammed the door and stormed off.

Gunny Adams came back a few minutes later, reentered the Humvee, and we started driving back to the camp we’d departed from. Nothing of the situation had changed, but he was suddenly more accepting of it all. He ended up just groaning the word ‘whatever’ and sliding back in his seat. Out of the blue, he asked me where I was from. I told him, a suburb outside of Chicago. He asked if I were going back there for the next leave-bloc and I said yes. He laughed in a way that rumbled in his chest and told me he used to have a lot of fun in Chicago. He named a few of the Marine Corps bars he went to whenever he was in town. I told him I’d check them out sometime and he agreed. He asked if I had any plans with what I was going to do with the money I’d make on deployment. I said I’d probably just put it in the bank, maybe get another tattoo or something. He nodded, and for a few minutes, we just talked about different tattoo ideas. There was nothing conciliatory about the way he spoke, nothing that even hinted at admitting he might have gone overboard. The usual flow is that when someone tries to correct for a misaligned temper, they either come out of it slowly, or compensate by trying to completely flip their demeanor. Gunny Adams did neither. He just went back to relative normal, as if the last hour had simply not occurred. Like a switch had been thrown.

Strange as he was, outlying personalities like that were far from rare. After a four-year enlistment, the number of firm parameters I would set around human possibilities are much smaller than what I started with. Prior to joining, I don’t think I would have believed it if someone they told me they’d witnessed a hundred-twenty pound, nineteen-year-old kid drink a bottle of Jack Daniels on his own, throw it up, pass out, wake up two hours later and run an eighteen-minute 5k. And yet, I’ve watched this happen several times. So now it always throws me off when I hear people, particularly other vets, try to make the claim that such-and-such experience can’t exist. Whether it’s the claim about sexual expression, or neurological makeup, or viable economic arrangements; the term ‘normal behavior’ carries very little weight.

It’s been interesting to watch this sudden blossom of previously unheard narratives come to the surface of public perception, as well as the ensuing turbulence it’s caused. But I believe this is only the start of something much greater. When you see a conflict of identities in the media, it’s always been two groups with a coherent message and a platform for expressing themselves. I see no reason not to believe that there’s much, much more out there that goes unheard for either lack of exposure or the inability to describe exactly what’s going on. Even when you see some documentary on VICE or Netflix—people who talk to elves via meth use or have sex with mummies or whatever it is—those are still whole groups. And more than that, they’re willing to open up about it. My guess is there’s much more people like that out there whose lives transcend the normal, but for whatever reason, they’ve either adverse or disinterested in talking about it. But that’s changing.

And as it changes, the framework for those interactions is going to change as well. It’s easy to point to things on a screen and say, oh wow, that’s crazy, I like that; or, wow, that’s bullshit, I hate it. The immediate reaction itself is the problem because it’s tailored for looking at things from afar. That distance is disappearing. The most important lesson I took away from the military didn’t have anything to do with being in combat. Rather, it dealt with how you handle a long car ride with someone bringing in something totally unexpected, eccentric, or abrasive. My advice, stop asking what you think about it, start asking what you can get out of it.  



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