Chowing Down

Whenever I sit down to a meal, be it a quick sandwich or dinner at a nice restaurant, I tend to scarf down my food. People not used to eating with me will often ask, “Why the hell do you eat so fast?” At first, I didn’t have a good answer, “That’s just the way I eat,” I’d reply. Then I sat and pondered it a bit and figured out what was going on. One of those cartoon lightbulbs went off above my head. “Ah, ha…I picked it up in the Army”, I thought. At some point, the Army invades every part of your life.

As I talked to some of my veteran friends over time, they tell me they adopted the same habit, and they find it hard to shake. Here is how it all gets started.

Zero Dark Thirty

Imagine that it’s about 4:30 in the morning, and you got about 3 hours of sleep the night before. You just ran 5 miles or so and are covered with sweat and sand. You are wearing a gray t-shirt, shorts, and sneakers…just like everyone else.

You stand in formation outside an old “chow hall” with peeling white paint. It had to be built back in the WWII days. The year is 1986.

“File from the left, column half left!” is heard loudly in the muggy morning air—time to get in line for breakfast.

“One, two, three, four, five, six!!” The first six people in line are tapped on the shoulder.

“Enter!” The first six people in line disappear quickly into the dining facility.

After only two minutes, your drill Sergeant sounds off, “Next six!!”.