The dynamics of any change bring a fair amount of stress to life. I was being tossed to and fro by the winds of change and felt a great deal of stress and anxiety. In the fall of 1985 I had enlisted in the United States Navy and was scheduled to ship out to San Diego for boot camp within a few short weeks. I quit my job and sold my 1969 Dodge Dart. In fact, I sold or gave away just about everything I owned. I am not sure what was going on in my mind but it would be interesting study to find out if people going into the military experience suicidal tendencies. I know I did. I guess my logic going into the military went something like this:
What is the worst thing that can happen? . . . .I could die . . . So I considered myself dead . . . I did not know it at the time but it has been my continued experience in life, once the “death” issue is addressed, real living can begin. We may revisit this theme another time as it is ripe with theological and philosophical fruits!
Before I signed my first contract with the government and swore to defend the US constitution I understood there were risks involved. So while I did not specifically talk about dying, I did come to grips with the possibility. I also found myself separating from my friends, some who thought I was making a mistake by going into the military. It is quite possible that it might have had more to do with the absence of money since I quit my job and the absence of a car which left me without transportation.
It is interesting to note that during this time of my life, because I was ‘stuck’ at home during the day, I watched a lot of television with my mom. I probably bonded with my mom more during the fall of 1985 than any other period of time since I was a toddler. We watched “Days of Our Lives” together every day and that certainly was a unique experience. We also watched a ton of cooking shows on PBS. Our favorite was Jeff Smith, “The Frugal Gourmet”. We would watch him cook with wine and do the most wonderful things with ordinary foods we could buy locally. We experimented in the kitchen almost daily! We were so pleased with our accomplishments and our ‘Shop-N-Save’ cuisine! My brother, my sister and my dad . . .not so much . . . so it was not uncommon for us to make two separate meal’s, especially if we were going to use mushrooms!
Once I qualified and was accepted in the Naval Nuclear Power program, however, everything that was planned came un-done. Instead of going to San Diego in late September, I was given new orders to ship to Orlando, Florida in February of 1986. While my mom and I were getting along just fine for those few weeks it did not take long for my desire for age equivalent socialization to manifest. I missed hanging out with my friends. There was also the need for insurance so I needed money, wheels, and a job.
In 30 years I have never seen a town with more used car lots then Imperial, Missouri. There are not nearly as many now but they are still there in large number. I remember my mom and dad loaned me $600 so I could buy an old 1967 Pontiac Tempest. I was also able to get a job at Radio Shack. This would be the first time I would actually get a job based upon my technical knowledge. Unfortunately, I was not a natural salesman and the people I worked with had no desire for competition on the floor so all I was taught was how to use the time clock and the cash register. While I did not get a very good hourly wage, I did get commissions. So did my manager. So did the other employees. It was not a very friendly place to work to say the least. The Tandy 1000 was a popular and cheaper IBM PC clone and had barely been out for a year when I started working there. The commission from one PC sale was significant. I found out rather quickly, as the ‘new hire’ I did not get the chance to sell many. I remember loosing many customers to the store manager who would come out of nowhere to single me out to ring out a customer at the register. I would also be required to ask for names and addresses to complete the sale and we were always mandated to push batteries every chance we could. Some things never change. While I did not sell many computers, I was there for the holiday season and was able to do real well selling radios, telephones and remote control cars. I did so well, in fact, that three of my friends and I decided to go on a farewell cruise to the Bahamas after the first of the year.
We went through a local travel agency and received a very good deal on a four day/3 night cruise to the Bahamas. I had been to the Bahamas for my senior trip in high school. Had I really already been out of high school four years? This would be my friend’s first time out of the country. We flew down to Miami and boarded our Carnival cruise ship. Any hope of having an exotically fun time drinking and dancing the nights away with women our own age aboard ship was quickly dampened by the banner going across the gangway . . . “WELCOME GRANDMA’S & GRANDPA’S” . . . I am speaking the truth, God as my witness, we had been booked on a senior citizen cruise.