In an effort to keep this blog more interesting and to keep a record of some of my past experiences, I’ve decided to share some of my stories. After all, it’s not all swim, bike, run in life, right? Growing up my family, mainly my mother, coined me “Sensational Jessica.” However, I’ve come to realize some of this stuff you just can’t make up and need little embellishment. This is the good, the bad, and the often ugly of Jessica. I don’t know why, but this story came to mind this morning…. “Jones, you look like butt.” 1996, first semester plebe year. I made it through Beast Barracks, the West Point equivalent of basic training. Back then (wow, that makes me feel old, I’m an “old grad” reminiscing about how tough the Corps used to be) the women still cut their hair to two inches above the collar. We were not allowed to use any sort of hair ties or clips, nor could we “make an adjustment” without the permission of an upperclassman. In other words, if your hair got in your face, which it inevitably did, you couldn’t just use your hand to brush it behind your ear. We also still wore our socks up to our knees, and of course our shirts tucked in tightly, also called a dress off, into our shorts or pants. West Point is located about an hour from New York City and none of the barracks had air conditioning. As you can imagine, it got pretty warm, especially with the bodies constantly hustling and bustling about. Later as an upperclassman I would realize just how badly plebes smelt. They are constantly sweaty, and I swear the sweat coupled with their anxiety and general unhappiness produced the worst musk known to man. Any cadet knows what I’m talking about–probably it’s at its worst after the march back from Lake Frederick. However, that day is truly deserving of its own post. Back to the story at hand….so I’m 18 years old. I’m of similar height and weight as I am now, despite most claiming how much weight you would lose during Beast. I’d been assigned to company I-1, The Fighting Irish, with the motto, “Get Lucky!!!” During beast I had lived on the 5th floor of Eisenhower Barracks. There are 6 floors total, and I pitied the new cadets that lived on the top floor. It was bad enough constantly racing up & down 5 flights, not only because of the physical demand, but also because of the chances of encountering more upperclassmen. The faster you could get to your room and out of the critical eye of these disapproving upperclassmen the better. Imagine my surprise when I was assigned to my new academic company that I would move up to the 6th floor for the next two years. Great. How about them odds? I, along with every plebe or cadet for that matter, had a rigorous academic schedule. One of the many things that make West Point tough is that there is just not enough time in the day. Time management is essential. This semester I had classes most of the morning, formation and lunch with the rest of the Corps, a class after lunch. I would rush back from my last class, change into my cross country uniform, and rush to Arvin Gym for practice. Being late was simply not an option. There was no, “Sorry, I was a little behind.” There is strict accountability and tardiness was met with demerits, walking hours on the area, and enough of these could mean expulsion. Bottom-line, you just don’t show up late. So I’ve been trying to set the stage for this particular day. The month was August and it was still quite warm. I finished my last class of the day and I was racing back to my room to change for practice. Our first football game of the year was against Miami of Ohio. We would greet upperclassmen not in our company with, “Beat Miami of Ohio, Sir!!” or “Beast Miami of Ohio, Ma’am!!” Yeah, trying saying that a few times! I raced up the 6 flight of stairs. I’m sweaty and frazzled, my hair is in my face, and I have to pee like a race horse. I dropped my books in my room and took off pinging down the hallway (pinging is how plebes walk, imagine a race walker but with elbows locked out–pretty much like an idiot) to the “latrine.” Ahhh yes, on the toilet now, upperclass can’t get me here. I use this opportunity to push my hair behind my ears and wipe the sweat from my brow. I finish my business and go to tuck my shirt back in, making sure I dress it off correctly–which means a straight line with my buttons and belt, flat in the front and folded back. Here’s the thing about West Point–you adapt quickly. You learn to move quickly and think on your feet while in constant chaos. It seems so ridiculous at the time, but you learn attention to detail and how to rise above stress. And if you don’t learn to do this, along with many other rigors, then you don’t make it. It’s that simple. I think quickly if I have done everything to make it the 50 feet back to my room without being hazed. I have. I take off down the hallway and see one upperclassman. Cadet Rodriguez. Ugh. He’s a cow, or a junior, and probably the meanest in the company. And I really get the feeling he doesn’t like me much. But no worries, I’m squared away. I’ll greet him with and a loud and thunderous, “Go Fighting Irish!!” and we will both go about our merry ways. I do just that and make it 4 steps past him just short of my room when I hear, “Cadet Jones, halt!!!” Crap. Crap!!! What did I do? I keep going over in my head and I know I’m squared away. I quickly about face, and he’s walking towards me with a look of general disgust on his face. Maybe he’s going to quiz me on knowledge. Boy I hope he doesn’t ask me “The Days”…maybe it will be to recite the newspaper. Or it could be tomorrow’s lunch. Plebes must know the next three meals on board at all times. Just go with pizza pockets and congo bar, Jess. Or perhaps he will ask Schofield’s Definition of Discipline. Oh, I hope it’s that. I’m actually good at that one. He gets closer, his lipped curled up as if my general presence was offensive. “Jones, what is that in your pocket.” My mind starts racing. We only have back pockets. I wasn’t sure if I sat on something, rendering my uniform anything less than impeccable, thus unacceptable. I stuck to one of my four responses, “Sir, I do not understand.” Rodriquez moves closer, now we are face to face, probably 6 inches separating his nose from mine while I stand at attention. “No really, Jones. What the hell is in your pocket?!” So I tell him the truth. “Sir, I do not know.” Rodriguez is officially annoyed, “So use your hand and feel!!!” Keep in mind, he has to give me permission to move out of attention. I reach back and realize it’s a pen. As I pinged (or is it pung?) from the bathroom it must have shimmied out of my pocket and about a half inch of the white top peeked out, of course at the precise moment I would encounter the meanest upperclassman in my company. “Sir, it is a pen.” “Well, Jones, then fix it!!!” “Yes, sir.” He moves in closer, head cocked and lip snarled even further. He raises his eyebrow and he looks even more disgusted with me. He’s about an inch from my face and I’m bracing myself for him to lay into me. He opens his mouth and I’m surprised by flat and calm tone, as if he’s letting me in on a secret that the entire Corps knows and he’s annoyed that he has to take the 3 seconds of his precious to let me in on the punch line. “Jones, you look like butt. Now get out of here.” That’s it? He’s not going to yell at me for awhile? Or rip me a new one? Or ask how I even got into this place? Or how I’ll never make it? Or that I better get my “sh!t” together? Or that’ll he be waiting for me after practice so get ready? “Yes, sir!” I quickly acknowledge him. I about face and move out as fast as I can to my room. I get inside and can’t help but smile. My hair is everywhere. I’m pimply. I’m sweaty. Yep, I look like butt. That would have hurt my feelings a few months ago. Now I’ll go on to tell my teammates and we will laugh about it all afternoon. I still look in the mirror in the morning and when I look rough, like this morning and smile. “Jones, you look like butt.” Thank you, Cadet Rodriquez.

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1 Comment

KP · May 1, 2013 at 10:32 pm

That is an amazing story. You are top shelf.

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