I never realized it during the journey, but my life has passed through a series of open gates. Although “open” the gates were guarded and required the right password or document for me to gain entry. Each gate led to a larger more sophisticated gate and outside the gate the environment became increasingly more foreign and hostile. As I conquered the gates my interest in what was “outside” the gates gained momentum, which will be addressed in future messages. But, of all the gates I have traveled through the first gate was surely the oddest…
<featured photo by retiredindelaware.blogspot.com
U.S. Army Induction | June 1969
In a high school electronics class I had learned a definition of induction:
“The process by which an electrical conductor becomes electrified when near a charged body, by which a magnetizable body becomes magnetized when in a magnetic field or in the magnetic flux set up by a magnetomotive force, or by which an electromotive force is produced in a circuit by varying the magnetic field linked with the circuit.” [Merriam-Webster.com]
In 1969, the U.S. Army’s definition of induction took precedence in my young life. Their definition meant “taking in.” I had accompanied my buddy Scott to the recruitment center in Lomita, CA weeks before for moral support. The recruiter explained to my buddy that he would be going to school in New Jersey for sixteen weeks, after basic training. When Scott got cold feet I said to the recruiter, “Can I go in his place?”
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the recruiter’s immediate confirmation was akin to answering the question, “Does a bear shit in the woods?”
In a depressing café near the US Army induction center in downtown Los Angeles I said goodbye to my folks.
The Definition of Induction Applied
Getting back to the definition of “induction,” I was the “electrical conductor” that became electrified when I got near the charged body (the induction center). Perhaps petrified was a better adjective—let me explain.
My life had just changed course dramatically. I was caught up in the flux of an unknown circuit and there was no going back.
I found my body trudging around in a huge room full of similarly naked men. The line curved around to different stations. Like the Hooks & Ladders board game, throw the dice and see where you end up (whoops, the needle broke—you go back to the beginning of the line).
Besides vaccinations, they checked blood pressure, weight, height, sight, hearing, and heart rate. The whole idea was to go through the various stations until the final U.S. Army rubber stamp of approval—the last station where the doctor stuck his plastic gloved finger up your rear end (and do you think he really replaced that plastic glove every time for all 500 some inductees?). I wasn’t sure about the reasoning for this test.
As I neared the final induction hurdle (my ass was about to become magnetized within the magnetic flux set up by the magnetomotive force of the Doctor’s finger), I became apprehensive. The line stopped moving.
Did this mean that I was no longer being inducted? Had I been freed of the electro-magnetic force? I imagined the doors swooping open to a decorated officer’s prodigious gait. “All right men,” he would pronounce. “Due to technical problems with the magnetomotive force device, you can all return to civilian life. Don’t forget to get your hand stamped on the way out.”
I heard chuckles from the heavy set inductee in front of me, the same rear end I had been forced to view for the last hour and a half.
The Strangest Thing I Had Ever Seen
A small commotion had the doctor conferring with a man in uniform while an inductee stood, bent over in front of the doctor.
The man in the uniform pointed at the inductee’s posterior and said, “What the hell is that?” to the doctor.
I craned my neck further to gaze beyond the large inductee in front of me. The odd scene became clearer. There was definitely something protruding from the inductee’s posterior. It was long and thin, perhaps a rare skin deformity.
It was the strangest thing I had ever witnessed. The inductee rotated his upper body in front of the good doctor and the uniformed man without moving his torso.
The inductee grinned at the doctor and the man in uniform and said, “That’s my mouse.”
The three words reverberated throughout the room, like dominos falling.
What was I thinking? Joining up with the U.S. Army had been a huge mistake. The doctor tossed a gown over the inductee and escorted him and his mouse behind the uniformed guy and into the doctor’s room. The inductee, willing to go to any length to avoid Viet Nam, wore a crazed smile all the while.
With all that electrical energy suddenly depleted, I felt a cold chill. Not to worry, the doctor’s replacement wearing the same blue smock and with a box of rubber gloves came rushing through the door—the war must go on.
Somehow, I survived the magnetomotive force. A faint voice echoed…
YOU’RE IN THE ARMY NOW.