Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

It Was All Uphill From Here

by Don Heide

It was day three in our lives as new "smacks". I had already passed out in a stairwell earlier in the day (it was also day three at altitude for a boy who grew up at sea level), and been thoroughly reamed out for showing up in ranks unshaven. Silly me, I had read the catalogue they had sent us, and thought I could simply drop by the Cadet Store during some free time on day one and pick up the toiletries I needed. This, of course, did not happen. As I can best recollect, we enjoyed ten minutes in the Cadet Store sometime in August as a major reward for winning some Wing-wide competition. And, to completely put me behind the eight-ball, I ended up rooming with Phil Glenn. Great guy, but I think he only shaved once while at the Academy, for graduation ceremonies, just for the hell of it!

Somehow (wasn't that the operative mode those days?) I finally made it to the shower formation. The end was in sight, or so I thought. Decked out splendidly in my skivvies and shower clogs, soap dish in hand and towel draped jauntily over my left arm, I marched into the fray. After about 20 minutes and several hundred push-ups, sit-ups, and other diabolical gyrations the appointed Red Tag Bastards came up with to torment us that evening, it was finally my turn to collect my belongings from the sweat-soaked floor and march to the shower.

Once there, I took a leisurely 10 second twirl under the water and hastily dried myself. All the while an overly energetic, red-faced upperclassmen berated my every move, as well as my family tree. But this too, finally passed. I had only one more bridge to cross before I could lay my head on the pillow, stare at the ceiling and ask myself, "What the hell have I gotten into?"

All that remained was for me to demonstrate the razor-sharp salute that I had mastered (hey, I wasn't just another pretty face!), and render my required report to the cadet who would release me to my room. The report was supposed to go, "Sir, Basic Cadet Heide, 2408K. I have showered, dried, checked my feet for blisters and had a bowel movement in the last 24 hours!!!" I came really close. My actual report was, "Sir, Basic Cadet Heide, 2408K. I have showered, dried, checked my feet for blisters and not had a bowel movement in the last 24 hours!!!" I completed the salute and smartly marched toward the door. Alas, one step from escape, the upperclassman told me to halt, and with his best parade- ground voice inquired, "WHEN was the last time you had a bowel movement, Scumbag!" Since it was day three, I quickly assumed the "scumbag" he was referring to was me. I majestically replied, "Sir, I have never had a bowel movement at the United States Air Force Academy!!!" Without a moment's hesitation, my tormentor was in my face big-time, and pointing to the toilet door next to us he ordered, "You get in there and have a bowel movement! Now!"

For about a nanosecond, an impulse from my former life suggested a reply something like, "Hey, appreciate the concern, but I really don't feel a need to go right now. Might have something to do with the fact that I haven't eaten at the United States Air Force Academy, either!" But, as you all know without me even saying it, the only reply that would ensure my survival was, "Yes, Sir!" As I entered my toilet of choice and prepared to meet my fate, another command rang through the air, "And don't flush! I want to see it!" As if I was going to fake it, for crying out loud! This was day three. We knew the honor code. I was not about to get dismissed for a false turd. Imagine explaining that one to your family and friends.

I dropped my skivvies and got to work. It was day three. I knew failure was not an option. Talk about focus. Talk about squeezing every muscle to the breaking point. Talk about techniques that have never been tried before perched on a toilet seat. Talk about trying to push out the walls of my prison. Talk about abject failure! It was hopeless. After ten minutes of the most excruciating effort of my life, there was no hint that my prayers would be answered (Yes, I even tried that! But, this was day three, remember, and by that time most of us were quite sure He was nowhere near C. Springs!).

And then, from virtually fourth down and 99 yards to go, a miracle! An ever so slight inkling that something amazing was about to happen! I ramped-up my effort for one final, Herculean push! PLINK! Only the most wonderful sound I have ever heard in my life! I whirled off the toilet seat to view my accomplishment. It was about the size of a sunflower seed (shelled). It wasn't much, but it was all mine! Mine!!! I started to relax and let the warm feeling of victory flow through my exhausted body.

And then, just to remind me what an insignificant bug I had become (this was day three), the next crisis was suddenly upon me. It brought with it potentially tragic consequences. My creation was drifting to the bottom and threatening to disappear! I screamed, "Sir, may I make a statement?" The reply, "What do you want, maggot?" floated over the door. "Sir, I have made a bowel movement, but it is starting to disappear!" quickly shot from my mouth. The door flew open and smashed me into the wall. I quickly recovered and stood at rigid attention beside the toilet with my skivvies around my ankles so that he could view my piece de resistance. He was not impressed. He got right in my grill and barked, "You call THAT a bowel movement?!" There is, or course, no answer to such a question. After several moments of trembling silence from me, he disgustedly said, "Get out of my face you useless Waste of Skin!" Hmm, it was day three, and I hadn't heard that one before. I humbly pulled up my shorts, gathered my belongings, and scuttled off to my room. It was only much later that I was to appreciate that this moment represented the nadir of my doolie year. But, seriously, did it have to be that low?

There is, of course, a silver lining. And it's one that every single one of us realized later in our lives, no matter what kind of a career we pursued. When I would be sitting in our Executive Committee meetings, or in some other high pressure situation, people were forever perplexed by their inability to ruffle my feathers regardless of how personal or nasty their attack became. I just smiled, waited for my turn, and ripped them a new one! What amateurs!
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