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Archive for the ‘Skippy’s Silly Stories’ Category

The Pants Are Not Optional

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

More years ago than I like to admit I was stationed in Sarajevo, Bosnia. While I was there we lived in what had originally been some sort of office building, but had now been converted into a barracks.
Overall as housing during a deployment goes we had it pretty good. There was a cafeteria built into the building, which meant that we got hot food served to us three times a day. We had heat and AC. There was a television room with a VCR, pool tables, and it even had a bar.  It sure beat the hell out of living in a tent.

Of course, this place did have the occasional water problems, which have been discussed earlier.  One of the other problems was that there was generally enough hot water for maybe three people to take a shower in the morning.  Which meant that you got to take a lot of cold showers.

Now at this time people who haven’t been in the military are probably going “No hot water?  That sucks!”.  People who have been in the military, especially those who have been deployed to the Middle East over the past several years are probably going: “You had a bar and you are complaining about the water?  You can just fuck right off Skippy.”

(more…)

A Cinderella Story

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

So the other night I was in Wal-Mart to pick up some supplies.  I’m not bragging, just setting the scene.

While heading towards the back of the store I find myself getting close to the women’s shoe department and what appeared to be an epic argument between a customer and an employee.

You know how sometimes you can tell a lot about a conversation from just the visual cues, without ever hearing a word that’s being spoken?

The customer was an enormous angry sweaty woman, wearing a tank top and the worlds most ironic pair of biker shorts ever.  She was shaking a shoebox, and pointing furiously.  With every gesture she set of waves of secondary tectonic shifting.  It was like watching angry jello.

The employee was this tiny little woman, whose expression and body language just read defeat.  She would periodically offer up a short phrase, which would only inspire the customer to greater peaks of wobbly rage.

I could tell that the problem was probably beyond the employee’s ability to fix and was probably not her fault in the first place.  Anyone who has any sort of customer service job has seen this fight dozens of times.

As I got closer I was able to hear the details.  The angry lady evidently wears a size 8 shoe.  And the shoes she was holding were apparently labeled size 8.  But they hadn’t fit.  Clearly Wal-Mart had labeled the shoes wrong in a deliberate attempt to humiliate her and now everything was ruined forever.  And naturally this was the employee’s fault.

Just as I started to pass them the poor employee suggested, “Maybe if you tried an eight wide it would fit better?”

“And eight wide?  Do I look like I wear an eight wide?!”

You know how sometimes you have those moments where your mouth just turns itself on with no input from your brain?  Well I had one of those moments.

“Lady, everything everything you wear looks wide!”

Every person for about three aisles stopped talking.  The cranky one dropped her shoebox, and everybody looked at me.

“I just said that out loud, didn’t I?”

The employee slowly nodded.

And with that I left, before I could be knocked down, trampled, and ultimately devoured,

The Fart Sack

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

My national guard unit, 139th ROC, North Carolina NG, was sent to Slavonski Brod, Croatia to staff the Task Force Pershing HQ for SFOR in Bosnia.  We were a glorified truck stop for the units moving between Germany and Bosnia.

As an E-5 – Buck Sergeant for the civilians – I ended up being the ranking enlisted man in the Intel section.  One of my guys was Aaron.  Aaron never stopped whining.  “It’s too hot,” “It’s too cold,” “It always rains.”  Waah, waah, waah.  And he worked in an office that heat and AC, plus, being the Intel section for a brigade we had a TV in our room with cable so that we could “monitor the news.”  Cough, cough, ESPN, cough, cough.

I was counseled by my captain for calling Aaron “my bitch” and “Jennifer” because he whined like he had PMS all of the time.  I also couldn’t mention PMS in any context.

I worked a night shift.  I slept during the day – duh.  My cot was near the entrance of our GP medium tent – about the size of the hospital tent in MASH.  We were able to spread out since only six of us slept in it, and since the tent was draped over a wooden frame, we had a door to keep out the weather.

My cot was by the door.  The door had a spring on it so that it would stay shut, but this meant that it would slam shut when opened.  One day Aaron woke me up with his slamming and banging as he switched out his sleeping bag for a freshly cleaned one.  A few minutes later, after he had gone back to work, the door began slamming and banging at a furious rate.

I sat up ready to tear some ass, only to see a line of Specialists and Sergeants formed up and taking turns sitting on Aaron’s fart sack.  Each guy would sit down and then rip a nasty, wet sounding fart, courtesy of nutritious Army chow, then make room for the next guy.

Before I could say, “What the hell?”  One of my specialists, as he was sitting down said, “We do this every time he turns in his fart sack.”  To emphasize his statement, he reached into his butt crack and pulled out some butt fuzz, which he stuffed deep down into the fart sack.

I then got an earful of how Aaron had become a dick after he made Sergeant.  I commiserated with the guys, because it was all true.  I then went back to sleep, but first I took my turn in line.

A few days later as Aaron was hitting the sack and I was getting ready to go to work, Aaron said, “I don’t get it, I just turned in my old sleeping bag and this one already smells like ass.”

I bet it did.  About 20 asses.

Staff Sergeant Figurine

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

One day, back when I was still enlisted, I returned from leave to discover a new NCO in our office. For purposes of this site, I will call him SSG Figurine.

The first thing I noticed is about him is that he sat apart from all of the other soldiers in the room, and just kind of watched us. Is was kind of disconcerting. Occasionally, he would jot something down in a notebook. But even when he was writing, his attention would remain on us as we went about our work.

It was like he was the Jane Goodall of PSYOP troopers. Which, when you consider,the mentality of the average soldier, is a surprisingly good analogy.

So after a few days of this, I started asking questions. What’s the deal with the new guy? Does he actually do anything? Why is he taking notes on us?

Nobody had any real idea. Officially, he was a new senior illustrator for the Product Development Detachment that I worked in. But no-one ever saw him go near a computer, or draw anything. Rumors where beginning to circulate that he was a CID plant. (For non-Army that’s Criminal Investigation. Internal affairs for the Army. Speculation began to spread about who he was investigating, and for what.

If anyone attempted to speak directly with SSG Figurine he would be polite, but would pretty evade or ignore any questions about his previous units, or anything related to our job. And no one was allowed anywhere near his notebook.

After about a week of this he took to wandering around the office. He’d look over your shoulder while you were working, and ask odd questions. Sometimes he’d take notes off of what you told him.

“What are you working on today Specialist?”

“I’m making a poster for the anti-mine campaign in Mozambique.”

“I see.” scribble “And why are you using that photograph?”

“Ummm…because it’s a picture of the kind of landmine that is being used over there.”

“I see” scribble scribble “So what do you think about SGT German?”

“What? The guy in Headquarters?”

“Yeah him.” scribble

“Ummm he’s okay I guess. Why are you writing this down?”

“No reason. Just mind your own business Specialist.” scribble scribble

So as you can imagine after about a month everybody was really skitish about him. Some people were downright terrified of him.

And right when everybody was at their most paranoid, there was some kind of meeting with all of the E-5’s on up, at company headquarters. And SSG Figurines strange conduct was brought up, along the idea that he was a CID plant.

“Oh, I’m not CID” he revealed. “I was just bored, and had a notebook.”

A shamless plug, and a funny story.

Friday, April 11th, 2008

So, I have one of the coolest web hosts on the planet. Long-time readers may remember what happened last year when my site got nailed by Digg. She does a really great job making sure everyone can read my opinions on video games, military leadership, and vampire survival. Which is great because I feel that the whole world is entitled to my opinions, and you will all thank me when the vampires come for you. (Oh yes, you will.)

Well not only does Jen do a superb job in letting all of you read the babble that spills out of my brain, she also finds to time to work with charities. Not only is she working with a charity, but she picked the first recipient for her help in honor of me. This is great for two reasons. One, she’s helping to feed my ego. Which is pretty close to the most wonderful thing a person can do. (Sing my praises! SING, DAMN YOU!) Also, by honoring me in this way she pretty much obligates me to write about it, which should hopefully drive some attention to her cause. Which just goes to show that she is exactly the kind of smart and canny individual that you want helping your charity. Or being your web host for that matter.

Here’s another fun fact about Jen. Last August she and her son Jacob got to meet Stephen Colbert. And there is an interesting story there.

Jacob has a fairly serious problem with his heart. He has needed multiple surgeries and tons of other kinds of medical treatment. One of the few silver linings of cases like this is that he got to make use of the Make-A-Wish foundation. And through the two of them I got to learn a few things about how it works.

First of all, I learned that George Lucas will not meet with Make-A-Wish kids. He will let them go to Skywalker Ranch. But he won’t meet them. This puzzled me until I thought about it. If I had mangled a beloved science fiction franchise as badly as he had, I might be leery about letting a nerd with a life threatening illness near me. Some kid is going to show up with a dynamite vest screaming, "This is for Jar-Jar you bastard!"

So Jacob decided to meet with a classy celebrity. And thus he got to go visit the Colbert Report. He got to hang out backstage, meet Stephen. His mother even mentioned to my wife and me that they hung out with a journalist who was a guest on the show that day. I didn’t think much of that until I watched that episode later. It turns out the journalist was Tom Ricks. (And this was not long after that incident.)

And I mourned a lost opportunity. I could have gotten Jacob to give him grief. Jacob would make the perfect agent to antagonize Tom. No matter what he said, Mr. Ricks would have to take it. I mean, who’s going to be mean to a Make-A-Wish kid? It would have been awesome.

Of course, it has been pointed out that it would be really messed up to try to subvert some kids special Wish-Day into an attempt for petty revenge for a minor disagreement. "Now jacob, I know that this is your special day and all, but I need you to be mean to the reporter, can you do that for me buddy?" Yeah I’m a horrible person. But I’m funny, so it’s all okay.

Reindeer Games

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

It’s Wednesday, prostate and I’ve decided to update on Wednesdays from now on, site whether I want to or not.

And since it is the also the day after Christmas, and I have no other ideas running around in my head, I’m going to relate the story that I have taken to calling “Worst Christmas Ever”.

For a while I worked with a soldier, who I will refer to as PFC Kringle.  He was always a little “off” (And yes I realize that means something different when I say it.)  Shortly before the holidays one year he told me the following story from his childhood.

His step-father was a ranger. The kind that works in a national park.  Not the kind that stormed the beaches of Normandy.  One of the tasks his step-father had to take care of was road kill.

Well one morning, a few days before Christmas Eve, when PFC Kringle was a little boy, his step-father came across a small deer that had been run over by a car.  Instead of doing, well, whatever the heck it is that park rangers normally do with a dead deer, he came up with a clever idea.

(Side note: What the heck do they do with dead deer? Is there a road kill graveyard somewhere?  Do they use the meat to feed the homeless or something?  Perhaps there is a special deer furnace for burning them?  The furnace seems the most likely, but it does seem like a bizarre and somewhat creepy career choice.)

So he brought the deer home, and made an improvised harness for it out of some leather straps.

Then he spent all Christmas Eve yelling about how much he hated Santa Claus.  “That red-suited bastard had better not show his face around here this year!  If he does, I’ll kill him and all those darn reindeer.”

Eventually PFC Kringle and his little brother were sent to bed.  And that’s when daddy-dearest hauled the deer up onto the roof, and attached one end of his new dead deer harness to the chimney.  He then pushed the deer off of the roof.  There was now a dead deer in a harness, swinging past his children’s window.

Next he went down to the yard, and fired a shotgun into the ground several times, while yelling, “I got him! I got him!”

The kids, of course, open the curtains just in time to see Rudolf go sailing past.

So at this point the unit decided that a little off or not he was remarkably well-adjusted, all things considered.

Baaaah humbug.

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

So I promised that I would write about something funny this weekend. I really tried to, unfortunately I also got sick this weekend. This means that between the general “can’t think ’cause my head is stuffed up” and the effects of “non-drowsy” cold medication my writing quickly became the wrong kind of funny. Instead of funny “ha ha” we got funny “stoned guy with access to a blog”.

So here’s the story I promised.

One day, shortly after I returned to the states from Bosnia, my unit got a brand new barracks. This was a big deal because our previous barracks could be politely described as “a cesspool”. Soldiers had doors that couldn’t be shut or locked. Rooms had exposed wiring. One room had a hole into the next room. Some of the common areas had missing windows.

So we get these shiny new barracks. My Battalion moves in and lives happily ever after, right?

Of course not.

In the Army, much like in the regular world, if you get something new, people you work with will stop by to look at it. In the regular world this is called “looking at the new stuff”. In the Army this is called “inspection”.

Anyone who has been in the military is familiar with this particular unpleasantness. For everyone else, imagine this:

After a long week at work, your boss announces that Friday will be a half day. Everybody starts to cheer. Then your boss announces that to go along with this half day, he and his friends are going to come to your house. Then they are going to check to see how clean and organized it is. Your shoes need to be lined up under your bed, and places like the top of your refrigerator and curtains need to be dusted. If you fail to keep any portion of your living space less than perfectly clean and tidy, instead of a half day off you get to work unpaid overtime.

So naturally enough, inspection is not a popular event with people that live in the barracks.

Well, because we had new barracks, pretty much every step in our chain of command felt the need to have their own inspection, starting with our 1st Sergeant and going all the way up to Group Commander. For nearly two months, we had weekly inspections.

As I have stated before, this was shortly after returning from Bosnia. Coming home from a deployment is an interesting time for a young soldier, economically speaking. Due to your location, and the various restrictions placed on your behavior, you typically have much more limited access to money spending opportunities than normal. Even if you were able to go out on the town, things were dirt cheap, this being Eastern Europe.

Long story short, when young, single soldiers come home from a deployment, they frequently have a large reserve of unspent cash.

This means that you soon have a bunch of young men, with more money than common sense, released into the local economy.

Which just naturally enough leads to my roommate and me, standing in a novelty shop, discovering that there is such a thing as an Inflatable Sheep.

And we thought about the upcoming inspection.

And we looked at the display of inflatable sheep.

So of course we purchased a small pile of these.

That Friday we had another inspection. Our Sgt Major entered the room, looked at our new flock, muttered a quiet “Oh hell no” did an about face, and walked out. Inspection over.

We pulled this routine over several inspections, eventually adding costume pieces to several. I had a Catholic Priest sheep, and my roommate was on his way to getting a full set of Village People Sheep. We’d arrange them differently for each inspection.

The strange thing was that for most of this time our chain of command refused to acknowledge that they were there. They’d spend the entire inspection trying to ignore them and keep a straight face, give us whatever comments our room needed, and then leave.

It turns out that in military circles, having a room full of inflatable sheep is practically a superpower.

Eventually one officer broke down halfway through the inspection and asked, “Why do you have so many inflatable sheep in your room?”. I love this question because it implies that the strange part is the amount of rubber sheep.

My roommate, at the position of attention, and with a perfectly straight face, responded, “Sir, it is my understanding that you are no longer allowed to ask me questions of this nature”.

The officer considered this for a second, said, “Right”, walked out, and started laughing as soon as he hit the hallway. Inspection passed.

PS:
And before anyone mentions it, yes I know that my roommate quoted from that “SGT BILKO” movie. It was still funny.

SGT Generic Part 1

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

One experience I’ve found to be nearly universal to all military personnel, ed and also anyone who has ever had a job, is the stupid boss.

There are plenty of people who are not exceptionally bright. In fact by definition, one half of the population is of lower than normal intelligence. Most of the time, this doesn’t make any difference in their everyday life, any more than being able to lift a little less, or running a little bit slower.

But true stupidity goes beyond simply being under average intelligence. To be truly stupid you need to have the magic combination of poor reasoning skills, a deficit of useful information, and an absolutely iron-clad conviction that you are a frigging genius.

We’ve all dealt with it at some point or another. What made this particular case so special is the circumstances.

PSYOP is one of those rare military units that encourages creativity, careful thought, and empathy. Our job was to interact with foreign nationals and try to get them to behave in a way consistent with U.S. policy. Naturally this means we needed to understand the various cultures from around the world that we needed to interact with.

This brings us to SGT Generic. I am calling her that for two reasons. The first is that, as much as I want to tell my funny stories, I don’t see any need to antagonize someone for a mistake they made five or six years ago. The second reason is that I can’t remember what her name was. I worked for SGT Generic for one month, while I was assigned to EOC detail. For anyone familiar with EOC, you know what that particular hell is like. For anyone who never had the pleasure, it’s basically being a combination receptionist, gofer, and lawn care specialist all at the same time and without the prestige.

Me, SGT Generic, and a few other lower enlisted were all tasked to EOC at the same time. Which meant that she was in charge. Which basically meant that she sat on her butt and watched CNN and yelled at us for not doing enough to help her.

Examples of things we did wrong:

“The floor is a mess over here! I shouldn’t have to tell you to vacuum this up! What’s wrong with you?” – Referring to the popcorn she had just spilled.

“If you’re not doing something else, you should be helping me look up the answers to this.” – Referring to the correspondence course she wanted my help cheating on.

“You stink! What the hell is wrong with you?” Talking to a soldier who is drenched in sweat having just mowed the lawn at one in the afternoon, in North Carolina, in the summer.

So basically she’s your typical useless low-level leader.

One of the few perks you get while working on EOC is that you are allowed to watch the news during the day. During a slow period was a story that vaguely touched upon India and some issues involving the Hindu faith. SGT Generic became loudly confused after viewing this.

At first myself, and the other soldiers present just figured that her knowledge of this particular culture was incomplete. No problem, we gave her a brief rundown on the highlights of that particular belief system, purely layman level stuff.

“There’s no way people in India believe that!”

We assure her, that yes, that is what most of the people in India believe.

I just want to take a moment to remind you that the participants in this conversation are part of a military unit specializing in cross-cultural understanding. And that SGT Generic was in charge of several of us.

“Why would they believe in reincarnation? It isn’t in the Bible, anywhere!”

“They don’t follow the Bible. Hindu’s have their own holy books.”

And then she adopted the tone. The one you use when you are trying to explain a very simple concept to a small, and possibly slow child.

“But everyone follows the Bible. Even Jews use the Bible, they just don’t use the whole thing.”

And as one, the various soldiers who worked for this very special lady, allowed our heads to smack onto our desks, and contemplated the fact that she was the one in charge.

Cephalopod Surprise

Monday, July 9th, 2007

This story is specifically why people I know thought I should keep writing stuff. It never made it to my list, seek because I never received any orders governing it.

Early on in my military career, way back when I was a PFC, my Battalion would occasionally have “Fun Runs”. A Fun Run is just like running for several miles. Except that it’s fun. Because people that outrank you say so.

This is pretty much the Army equivalent to declaring “Our office is so much fun! On Friday we get to wear Hawaiian shirts!” It’s awesome if you happen to love Hawaiian shirts, but just kinda sucks if you have taste.

One of the features of the Fun Run was that afterward the Battalion would gather together and hold a pie auction. The point of the pie auction was that if you bought a pie, you could pick any soldier who was present, and hit them with the pie. So as you can imagine, an awful lot of repressed rage got transferred into pie kinetics after these runs. The important thing to know here is that by tradition, the first pie always got thrown at the Battalion Commander.

This whole exercise was to raise money for the Battalion Family Support Group. In theory, this was an organization that would help the families of deployed soldiers manage during the long separations that military life often inflicts. But in reality, FSG was more like a cross between the homeowners association from a sit-com, and a social club for unemployable wives of military officers. And when I say social club, imagine the kind that gets taken down a peg by a scrappy band of misfits in an 80’s comedy movie.

To sum this up: the Family Support Group was not very popular with most of the soldiers.

The night before one of these delightful Fun Runs, I received special instructions.

“Bring in a pie for the auction.”

I’m not sure how much the pay has gone up, but back in those days if a Private First Class had a child he automatically qualified for food stamps. So I didn’t have much money. And most of what I did have was generally earmarked for important things, like strippers and alcohol, and more strippers.

A pie doesn’t cost that much I guess. But it was the principle that bothered me. The Army has billions of dollars and I have barely any. And now they want me to buy stuff for them.

Now technically, it wasn’t an order. It would be against regulations for my supervisor to *order* me to spend my own money on the Family Support Group. It was just, technically, a suggestion. And it’s just peachy to make suggestions. And if soldiers choose not to follow the suggestions, well, someone has to be assigned to that toilet cleaning detail.

So that night, I went out and I bought a premade pie crust. And a tub of Cool Whip. And then I stopped by a Korean grocery store and purchased a whole, frozen squid. And sprinkles.

I got back to the barracks, and started the preparations for the morning. Which pretty much just means I started thawing the squid in a shower stall. My roommate was a bit surprised when he got back.

“Is that a squid in our shower?”
“Yep.”
“What’s it doing in there.”
“Thawing.”
“Goodnight.”

The next morning I packed it all in a cooler, and set out for the Fun Run. After about three miles of fun the Battalion gathered for the auction. I quickly assembled the secret weapon, and added it to the pie table. I then notified the auctioneer about my special pie. Of course she selected my pie for the first auction.

The bidding started fairly briskly, as many people wanted to hit our Commander with a pie. But soon enough bidding started to peter out, and that’s when the auctioneer let everyone in on the secret.
“This is a special pie.”
“What’s so special about it?” called someone in the crowd.
“It’s a squid pie.”
“I beg your pardon?” said the Commander
“I said it’s a squid pie sir.”
“There’s no such thing.”

So she reached in, pulled out a tentacle, and waved at the Commander with it.
“WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?” asked the Commander with, all things considered, a reasonable tone of voice.
“It’s a tentacle sir.”
“PIE DOESN’T HAVE TENTACLES!”
“Normally you’d be correct. But this is a squid pie sir.”

And the bidding immediately picked up again. My pie raised close to five hundred dollars, which was a new record for the pie auction. I didn’t get into any trouble because nobody wanted to look like a bad sport. And I got to watch my CO take a high velocity mollusk to the kisser, which is a good morning no matter what branch of the military you are in.

3-12-08 Update: T-shirts are now available.

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The Washington Post Rick Head

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Several fans of my website saw this article.
Tom Ricks’s Inbox June 17 2007

Many of them took the time to write to Mr. Ricks to attempt to correct him. He was directed to my site, where it mentions the misconception that I am a woman. Mr. Ricks typically responded to people by saying that “Just because I make a web-site and claim I’m Santa Claus doesn’t mean people should believe it.” And at one point he told somone that the person who forwarded my list to him had stated that I was a woman.

So at this stage we have, incorrect information about me, my copyrighted material being reproduced without my persmision, and a member of the fourth estate publically challenging my copyright. All of this based on the airtight “Some guy on the internet told me” defense. Naturally I was annoyed at his arrogance and at his stubborn resistance to correction.

Now to be perfectly fair, I’m sure he didn’t intend any harm, and it’s even arguable whether or not any serious harm was done. His column wasn’t intended to be investigative journalism, it was just a lighthearted fluff piece. I was a tad concerned that at some point in the future I would hear “Well the Washington Post said a woman wrote it, so you’re a liar!”. Now from his point of view, I’m guessing that it is an official *BIG DEAL* to admit that you printed incorrect information. And to be fair, nearly anyone in the world could have emailed him claiming to be me. So I can understand his skepticism.
So I contacted Mr. Ricks myself, and explained why this relatively small piece of mis-information could cause me some issues down the road, and how reproducing copyrighted information without permission can be bad. I asked that he print a correction in a future column. His brief response was to demand proof that I actually wrote it.

I wrote him again, demonstrating evidence that I did in fact own the material, and that I was the only Specialist Schwarz enlisted during the correct time period, and that I even had witnesses to some of the events on the list transpiring. While I was writing this he responded. He told me my story checked out. This conjured to my mind an image of him using his military correspondent powers to track down Army personel I have served with and grilling them about me until he had enough details to know I was telling the truth. But in reality, he probably just made an underling look up my copyright in the Library of Congress database.

Since “My story checked out” he offered to run a correction in the very next column he wrote. Perfect. Win for the good guys, I get exactly what I asked for. (Granted he could have, I dunno, apologized or something but hey, who am I to correct his manners.)

Well he was true to his word as we can see here:

Tom Ricks’s Inbox June 24

And furthermore he wrote me back to say (Quoted directly from the email)

“I am glad it worked out for you. For accuracy’s sake, that wasn’t a correction, it was a clarification.
Best,
Tom Ricks”

Now I can understand not wanting to admit when you are wrong but this kind of silly semantics argument is really unbecoming on anyone who isn’t either a five year old or a politician. But hey, free publicity is free publicty.