Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sir, We're Not All The Same.

So for the first time since fourth grade, I'm attending a co-ed school. The ratio is pretty unbalanced (7:1), based on the fact that this is a military institution where half the students are engineering majors. But the ratio is better than in my high school, and especially than my middle school, where we were cloistered save for a trip to an occassional preppy mixer. Sure, some of the guys in high school had girlfriends. Senior prom, there were some steady dates. They meet their classmates' sisters while putting on musicals and plays,and at family functions like the athletic banquet. They also met girls at church, and in their neighborhood, and at late-night 'social gatherings' (house parties) in Bethesda, Rockville, Captiol Hill, New Alexandria, or University Park.

USMMA's Co-ed decks (but some decks only) are a natural means of mingling. What a difference living with potential dates make. All-boy high school had nowhere near the rumor mill that coed school makes. Furthermore, it's a bigger deal about who's dating who at a school where you recognize all your schoolmates' names.

But who gets friendship and who doesn't? It seems as if varsity athletes are too much, too brute to handle. Ditto the football team. Exceptions are the sailing and crew teams, and certain "adorable" members of the injury list. Certain girls fall for boys in running suits and crutches. Academic difficulty? Women don't want to be with a sinking ship. The Academy's mission is to appoint the 'best and brightest'. (During Indoc, the Drill Instructors made a deal about it: America's Best and it takes you a whole 30 seconds to arrange yourselves in height order??) But, at least to the girls, some Academy boys are 'better and brighter' than others. The boys with the best success tend to be sweet talkers with fluid voices, section leaders, 19 or 20 (rather than merely 18), able to party responsibly (able to get to Penn Station and board the 119 am or 319am train without assistance), have a GPA above 2.6, and are recreational athletes. Yes; I've heard this about recreational athletes at every college: they get dates. So it comes through the pipeline that a plebe boy and a plebe girl had a whole night of fun together in the City. Well, I was going into the pool one evening, and I saw their two names in the logbook. Flip back through the log, and there those two are: always swimming for fun together! If you do pay a visit to another gender's room, the door has to pop open 89 degrees, and the boy better have a shirt on. That last rule doesn't apply in athletic areas. Doesn't studness pays off?

And it progresses. After first meeting, a boy and a girl will first come to sit together in the dining hall. Then the boy will go to the girl's room for help on homework. Then they'll go out together on liberty. Next thing, they're exercising together, and then, they'll go to each other's rooms just to talk. I've seen it progress like that more than once.

For everyone else, there's a whole world waiting for young men in officers' uniform.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Outside the Fence

Last year, as an associate editor of the school paper, I learned the adage:Old news is crud news. I wrote this expose on the surprise liberty the Regiment got the weekend before Labor Day weekend for Hurricane Irene, but, that was like, 2 months ago now! I'll find some way to post it so that I don't appear cras. But on that note, it was a welcome surprise to be tromping around a weekend before we were "supposed" to. Now that we're "Accepted" into the Navy and we got our eagles, we look at our former selves in blank-chested summer whites with a smile of amusement.

I'm not sure how prevalent automatically-graded online homework assignments are these days, but, looking back on my soon-to-conclude first trimester, I had a lot of homework. Sure, it reinforced concepts, but my notion of college as a free-for-all where you do homework for your own understanding and not necessariy for a grade, was smashed. Oh- that and sleeping in class. Acceptable at regular colleges, but not at an Academy. I guess it's the taxpayers who would rather have us learning in class than sleeping through it. But since we got caffeine privileges on Acceptance Day, sleepiness- in class or during evening study hours- hasn't been a problem for me. My fix- cafeteria coffee. Once or twice a day. Two-thirds of a mug, no nonsense, maybe sometimes with one packet of sugar and a bit of half and half. I treat it with care: I didn't drink it in high school, but in college, it keeps me working as late as I need to. I understand it's addictive, but I haven't built up a tolerance or physiological attraction yet.

Maybe I don't need the coffee anyhow. The upperclassmen say that first trimester is the hardest, because plebes aren't used a "working adult's sleep schedule". Wake up at 0600, regimental life to 0745, carry on about the school day, sports and homework and dinner, rack-in at soonest time possible (as in 2200/ 10pm if you're lucky; most nights closer to 11pm). So maybe I'm adjusting.

Power Squadron weekend trips for the two weekends before Columbus Day Weekend. First trip was on the YP 679, the Liberator, a true-blue-and white ex-Navy working ship. 108 feet in length and three decks, with a nice galley and mess, and a good rear quarterdeck for grilling and chilling-- and working the lines. Yes; a lot of what us plebes (or rookies, as we are called on the waterfront) learn while working and being underway on a boat is what we'll learn on paper in the classroom. It's good to have a leg up.

So we took the YP out to search for an anchor the sailing team lost the week before. Underway at 0600 on Saturday, first overnight trip: very exciting. We located the anchor, but found out that our equipment wasn't right for lifting the anchor. So we headed into Port Jefferson, NY, and had an evening on the town before retiring to the quarterdeck and shooting the breeze. It was a great time being out in the field, learning on the job and getting to know classmates and friends a bit better than before. A nice break from campus life.

So the plebes back on campus had liberty that Saturday the eleven of us plebes were out on the YP. Well, college kids do what college kids do; and we're held to higher standards than the average college student. And since most everything at the Academy is about teamwork, we sort of let the team down when we let a handful of our classmates, "our own", take liberty with too much liberty. For that, our Midshipman Training Officer promised us a "fun" weekend. So when the opportunity to get underway again came available, I sprung at the chance to go out to Greenport, NY, by Shelter Island near the tip of Long Island.

This time, we would take the trip in our regular Power Squad boat, a 46 foot Grand Banks known as Maximon. A fine yacht, with plush leather seats and good berthing areas. A smaller vessel, there were three plebes (rookies) and three upperclassmen, as well as the Waterfront Director (most comfortable boat, perhaps?), on board. Got underway Friday afternoon, rendezvous for BBQ with the other boats, as well as the Liberator, which also came, with a different and smaller crew. Some of the plebes from the last trip were present; others were back on campus. Studying, I reckoned. I had done most of my homework on Friday before heading out; and I brought some with me. I told my skipper, "as long as I can get my homework done on board, I could leave campus every weekend". We stood watch for 4 hours at a time, rotating with an upperclassman between handling navigation and taking the helm. Crusing through the night, we arrived bright and early in town. Each of the vessels made a day activity: one boat went fishing, another testing out the sonar, and the Maximon went for a crusie around Shelter Island. Good pizza lunch at an Italian place in town,and dinner at Claudio's Crab Shack. A nice clean evening as the town was pretty much closing up for the season. Port Jeff., in comparison, is an year-round town. "Good Morning Viet Nam! played on the TV VHS while getting ready to snooze. Underway for the Academy on Sunday.

I just wanted to cut a post, so that my readers know that I'm about and well.
I'll write to you all soon.