Sunday, December 10, 2006


Obviously, whoever belonged to the voice, didn’t pay attention during first aid training, I thought.

Apply direct pressure to the wound, as I recalled.
I got up unsteadily and grabbed a towel that had been drying at the foot of my rack, and pressed it on the back of my head.

The compartment was spinning, so I sat back down on the deck, where it continued to spin, only slower.

My head felt numb, but began pulsing with pain. My vision was blurry.
I felt… detached… like I was watching myself in a surreal setting. Maybe this is a dream, I mused.

The lights turned from a dim red to a bright white.
Too bright! I thought, squinting my eyes. It actually hurt! Do not go into the light, I warned myself, as I covered my eyes with my hand.

“What the hell?!” I heard a voice say.

“It’s f#ckin’ 0315! Turn the mother#8%$^@ lights off!” Yelled another voice.

Apparently no one else likes the bright light either, I thought.

“Shut your yaps and go back to sleep!” Said a closer voice.
“Conrad? Conrad! Look at me! How many fingers am I holding up?” Said a very close voice.

“What? I can't even see you," I said. “Turn the light off, I wanna sleep,” I continued, suddenly very tired.

“Sorry pal, no can do! You have to stay awake, do you hear me?” Said the voice as it grabbed my arm.
“Give me a hand and help me get him to the infirmary,” said the annoying voice.

Someone grabbed my other arm and I resisted. I had heard the annoying voice but I couldn't make sense of what it said.

“Leave me alone!” I warned.

“Conrad!” Shouted someone close.

"Geez, will you hold it down?" I asked, well past annoyed and irritated. "I gotta headache."

I saw a blurry face appear, but I couldn’t make it out. It hurt to try so I stopped trying. It was difficult, keeping my eyes open, and it was impossible to focus my vision and my thoughts.

“I’m petty officer Mendoza. I’m a Hospital Corpsman, and you will follow orders! Is that clear?” Said the blurry face with authority.

"No, it's not clear," I muttered. Why would a Corpsman order me around? I wondered.

“Anderson and Smitty will help you get to the infirmary, and you will cooperate!” blurry Doc said.

“Ok, but I’m not sure if I can help you, Doc,” I said, feeling groggy. I was certain he could find someone in better shape to cooperate with him.

“I’m counting on you Conrad, so stay awake!” He said.

Well, if you put it that way, I thought, curious as to exactly what the Corpsman was counting on me for.

“You can count on me, Doc!” I slurred, straightening up. Ugh. I felt a wave of nausea.

“Good! Now follow me,” he said.

I started to walk towards the blur, and lost my balance. Fortunately Smitty and Anderson were there to catch me, and lift me back to my feet.

The damn deck won't stop moving! I thought. What in tarnation is going on around here?
Several bruises later I finally made it to the infirmary.

“Thanks guys, I can handle it from here,” said the Doc.
“Conrad, what day is it?,” he asked.

“Saturday?” I ventured.

“Who is the President?” Doc asked.

“You don’t know?” I countered. This guy is dense, I thought.

“Just answer my questions,” he said, sounding annoyed.

“President Reagan,” I said. “He used to be an actor,” I added.

“Good. Can you see how many fingers I’m holding up now?” Doc asked.

“Two…no, three?” I guessed, trying to squint through the haze. Truth be told I couldn't even see any fingers.

Just then, I recoiled in pain as the doc flicked on a searing bright light...right into my eyes!
I tried to cover my eyes with my arm, but Doc yelled at me again. It would've been helpful if he had given a warning, I thought.
I endured the searing light torture without talking, and then my interrogater moved on to plan b.

“Alright, lower the towel so I can see the wound,” Doc said.
“Damn, you gashed it good. That’ll take six or seven stitches at least,” he said.

I didn’t gash it! I thought. The deck did.

“I’m going to clean the wound so it may hurt, a little,” said Doc.

I felt something cold and wet, and a burning sensation, as the Doc cleaned the wound.
At that moment, I started feeling cold, then I realized that all I had on was underwear. Needless to say I didnt exactly feel dignified.
This is embarassing, I thought.

“This may sting a bit,” said Doc, holding a long-ass blurry needle and moving it towards my head!

“Where are you poking that thing?” I asked, apprehensibly.

“I have to numb your wound, so I can stitch it up,” Doc explained.

Now, I was never afraid of shots but I couldn't help noticing, blurry as it was that the needle was huge! It looked like a marlin spike!

Small ships don’t have doctors, most of the time, but they do have Navy Corpsmen.

“Ow!” I said. “A little sting my ass!" I winced as he poked the marlin spike into my head in several places.

“Sorry, but it should be numb soon,” Doc said.

Indeed, it was. A strange experience, to say the least.

“Now I need you to hold still, and not move,” the Doc instructed.

“Um, may I get my pants?” I asked, feeling self concious in my skivvies...and cold.

“Sure. Right after I finish stitching you up,” the Doc said.

Seven stitches later, the Doc handed me a light blue hospital gown with ties on the back.

“I’d really rather wear my pants,” I said, indignantly.

“Sorry, but I can’t take the chance you might fall down again,” said Doc.

He didn’t look sorry, I noted.

“You will have to stay here until you can see clearly, and maintain your balance,” he said.

Is this guy serious? I wondered, trying to get the stupid gown to cover my butt, so I could somehow tie it behind my back.

“Here, let me get that,” said Doc, tying my gown too tight.

I laid back on the cold, stainless steel examination table. Brrr.

“No! I told you Conrad, you can’t go to sleep!” Doc firmly said.

“Who can sleep on this thing?” I asked. “I’m just resting.”

“Sit up anyway,” the Doc ordered, folding his arms.

“Can I at least have a cup of coffee?” I asked, with the best pitiful look I could muster.

“We’ll see. Maybe in awhile,” Doc said.

We’ll see? Of course we will! I thought. I just wanted a yes or no answer.

“I got work to do, so I’ll be right over here at my desk, if you need anything,” the Doc said, sitting down.

He turned on what looked like a stereo.
Oh great! Music! I thought, feeling more upbeat.
My jaw dropped. What is that? Polka? No way!
Yep, it was polka alright. Was this a joke? A cruel twisted joke?

An hour later, I concluded it wasn’t a joke. This was torture!

“Uhh…excuse me,” I said, trying to get Doc’s attention.
No response.
“Excuse me, Doc?!” I shouted, over the mind-destroying, never-ending polka.

“Eh? What?” he said, turning the ‘music’ down.

“How about that coffee?” I asked, hopefully.

“Yeah, ok. You wait here and I’ll be right back. Don’t move!” He stressed.
“Sugar? Cream?” He asked.

“No thanks. No frills,” I said.

“Gotcha! Now remember, don’t move,” Doc said, pointing his finger at me.

I was able to see more clearly now. My eyes settled on the boom box.
It crossed my mind more than once, to damage Doc’s stereo, or smash the polka tapes to smithereens. Was it possible to make it look like an accident?
Somehow, I resisted the temptation, but it wasn't easy.
Doc returned a few minutes later, and handed me my coffee.

“Thanks Doc,” I said, gratefully.

“Your welcome. How do you feel now?” Doc asked, grabbing the bright light thingy to fry my retina’s with.

"I see better, but I have a pounding headache,” I said, not adding that it was the polka that started it.

“Here, take this aspirin,” he said.

Somehow, I didn’t think that aspirin would be enough as Doc put in another polka tape. I looked on in horror. The second torture session had begun.

“This band is my favorite!” Doc shouted.

Sounds the same as the last band, I thought. How could anyone tell the difference?
Dear Lord, I prayed in desperation. Please smite Doc’s stereo!
I’m begging you Lord God!

Finally, at 0600, Doc turned the evil polka music off.
My mind was oatmeal. Or perhaps more like fried grits. I had undergone a polkabotomy.
I felt like drooling.

Doc checked me out again, making me walk a straight line, while touching my nose…basically a sobriety test.
I almost cried when he said I could go, giving directions to see him tomorrow, and if my vision got blurry, or dizziness returned, to see him ASAP.
Fat chance of that! I thought.
Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!

But my freedom was fleeting.
I was just about to hit my rack when Eltee showed up, looking for me.
Gee, I wonder why? I panned, to myself.
Too late to hide, I thought. He already saw me.

“Conrad! Are you Ok?” Asked Eltee.
“You fell out of your rack? That must have hurt!”
“Look, I know the Doc excused you from work, today, but that reservist guy is sick as a dog! Can you tough out breakfast?” Eltee asked, followed by a “Please?”

Oh hell, I thought. Better grab some more java.

“Aye aye, Sir, but do I have to shave?” I asked.

“No time! We have to move!” Said the Supply Officer, looking distressed.

“Then let’s move Sir!” I said, with more gusto than I felt, which was -5 on a scale of 1-10.

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