Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Touché, détente, then quid pro quo
(Annapolis Practical Jokes)

The graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1993.

Last night I had dinner with a buddy who went to Marine Corps OCS but decided that military life wasn't for him so he DOR'd before graduating. Even though he only spent a few months on active duty he still had a taste of military life. We started talking about practical jokes from The Great Santini so I shared a few experiences from my time in the military.

Beat Army!
At the Naval Academy, the week leading up to the last regular season football game – which is against our rival, West Point – is appropriately referred to as Army/Navy Week. It was, and still is, a week of little sleep and practical jokes. Exchange students from West Point received the brunt of the horseplay, but that didn't stop the rest of us from playing jokes on each other in the spirit of "beating Army."

One tradition, during Army/Navy Week, was to "Beat Army" an exam. This simply entailed writing "Beat Army" on your test and handing it in without answering any questions. After all, what could show more spirit than sacrificing your grade, and getting a zero on your exam, in the spirit beating Army?

In practice, I only recall this happening to me once. It was a de facto rule that professors avoided giving exams or quizzes during Army/Navy Week since the following week was final exams week. But, one time, the conditions were just right when my math professor handed out a pop-quiz and then walked out of the classroom. Walking out of the room isn't a big deal since cheating wasn't an issue. But someone joked that we should write "Beat Army" on the quiz and turn it in. It took less than thirty seconds for all of us to agree.

When the professor returned twenty minutes later he noticed what we had done as he collected the quizzes. He was a Marine officer. Mutiny like this would never fly in the "real military" and even though he wasn't a graduate of the Naval Academy, he was well aware of the tradition of the stunt we had just pulled. He was not happy since we had just challenged his authority. But he didn't say anything about it. I suspect that he sought advice from other professors as he debated whether to give us all a zero for the quiz or allow us to retake it the following week. Lucky for us, he chose the latter with clear instructions that the grade for the retest would stand.

Practical Jokes
Casey trying to fit in on the opening day of boating season.
Casey Garwood was my roommate all four years at the Academy, from Plebe Summer until graduation. My Youngster (sophomore) year at the Academy I played a joke on Casey by setting his alarm clock ahead four hours after he'd gone to sleep. I told my other roommate, Kevin, what I had done so he was in on the joke. At 2:00 AM, Casey's alarm went off. Since it was early December we were used to waking up well before sunrise. When Casey woke up Kevin and I, we told him that we were both standing duty which meant that we'd get to sleep in since we had a later muster to attend.

As Casey followed his morning routine of shaving and showering I left the room to tell some fellow Midshipmen what was happening. Even though it was 2 AM, students were still awake, studying. They helped out by performing a mock chow call outside our dorm room to make the morning routine seem more realistic.

Thirty minutes after Casey awoke he stepped outside into the hallway to go to, what he thought, was 6:30 AM muster. Instead, he found a bunch of us laughing as I pointed out, on the wall clock, that it was only 2:30 AM. He was a great sport and laughed. I got him good. But I should have known he wouldn't let this pass without some sort of retaliation. I began to realize that, when I least expected it, my time would come.

Casey slept on a single bed and I slept in a bottom bunk bed while Kevin slept in the top bunk. My bunk was surrounded by walls on the head, foot, and one side. In the middle of the night, a few days after pulling off my 2:00 AM alarm clock joke, Casey carried out his revenge. He removed his bed springs rack and used socks to tie it, vertically, to the side of my bed. When I woke up the next morning, I was caged into my bunk. Touché.

Casey, seated second from the right, wearing
a 'Hug Me' shirt with a teddy bear otter.
At times, the practical jokes between Casey and I were a tad more sophomoric and slightly disgusting. I had clipped off a hunk of my big toenail and placed it on the speaker near the head of Casey's bed, next to his alarm clock, while he slept. There was no way he could miss it when he woke up. I had forgotten about it until later in the day when I noticed it was gone. I presumed that Casey had seen it and thrown it away; and I didn't ask him about it.

The next morning, as I brushed my teeth, I noticed something that felt like glue in my toothbrush. I pulled the toothbrush out of my mouth but it seemed fine as I glanced at the foamy bristles. When I resumed brushing my teeth I realized that there was something very wrong with my toothbrush so I reexamined it in detail by sticking my fingers into the bristles and discovered where my toenail clipping had ended up. Once again, touché

All Grown Up
To this day, Casey and I still play practical jokes on each other. Last December, he invited me to a party at his house and told me it was French themed. I spent several hours running around town looking for a beret to wear for no reason since no one would attend in costume. And the goofy photos of Casey, in this blog post, is yet another joke that I'm playing on him. One day, months or years from now, he'll google his name and find what I wrote here. Of course, all kidding aside, I couldn't have asked for a better roommate since I can be a pain to live with and he is one of the most easy-going guys I know.

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