Foreword: This post is just chock full of obscenities and unnecessary capitalization. Started to feel bad, thought maybe I should warn you. Enjoy!
“BZZZ, BZZZ, BZZZ!”
“Hrrrm...whuh,” I blearily opened my eyes, disoriented. “Wha’zat?”
“BZZZ, BZZZ, BZZZ!!!”
“Guh. Shut up shut up shut up…”
I rolled out of bed, searching for the buzzing cellphone I’d set on my dresser a scant 4 hours before.
“Erica, it’s time. Come on, get up.”
“Come ON Erica, I,” I yawned, “I don’t wanna be late to the airport again. Get up get up get up or I will poke you without mercy.”
“Can I turn on the light?”
“Mrrrrmble…” I took that as a yes, and flicked the switch. Erica glared over the very edge of the comforter, wishing she had enough energy to kill me and go back to sleep.
Yeah, kinda like that.
I ignored her, and groggily started to pull on my traveling outfit.
Oh, yeah. This was gonna be awesome.
“How…” I said, shaking my head in disbelief, “how did this happen again? How on EARTH did we get lost?!?”
Fucking internet directions. Fucking airport. Fucking Virginia. Fucking coffee. No, wait. I had no beef with the coffee. The coffee could live.
Sometimes, Coffee, I think you’re the only one that gets me.
“I mean, every time! How can this kind of thing happen to us EVERY TIME?”
I tried not to let the panic creep into my voice, but every FREAKING time we try to go on a trip like this, something goes wrong. When we flew to Germany, our travel agent hadn’t scheduled us enough layover time, so we were stuck in the airport area for an additional 24 hours. When we drove to Cologne, we spent the whole train ride back praying we were headed home instead of to France or something, because frankly, our German wasn’t good enough to tell us otherwise. When we flew to Mexico, I got randomly pulled out of our group at the airport to be stuck in a clear, Plexiglass cage that, without warning, turned into a freaking tornado for about 10 seconds. I was later told that the box was used to test for any dangerous trace chemicals on my person. I guess I just have one of those faces, but now I was also a little bit more traumatized.
In each case, everything eventually worked out in the end, but the amount of stress caused by these situations was enough to put some new worry lines in my forehead, and I already know that I am going to be one wrinkly old lady. Basically, I just wanted ONE trip to go according to plan, but it appeared that my hopes were again to be dashed.
“Our flight leaves at 6:20. We’re doomed.”
“We are NOT doomed,” said Erica, trying to be the calm voice in the car. “It’s so early that odds are good we’ll just zoom right through security and everything. It’s going to be fine.
“Inhale….and exhale…,” That was the key. I could survive the stress of one stupid vacation trip. I COULD. “Inhale…”
Surprisingly, airport security was a breeze, and the flight was cramped, but uneventful. By the time we arrived, I had had enough coffee and semi-sleep to conveniently forget my earlier drama attack and congratulate myself on being a very even-keeled, rational adult. Erica just rolled her eyes.
Bridgette picked us up from the airport on schedule, and just like that we Kansas girls were riding along in the balmy, humid air of Norfolk, Virginia, reunited for the first time in a year and a half. After surviving all of our formative years together, Bridgette had gone off to Virginia to join the Navy, go to school, and wait for her assigned ship to be completed.
Also, she would like it noted that she is highly offended to not have been featured in my blog before, and demands that I rectify this lack. “Le SIGH,” she says, dramatically swooning.
Unsurprisingly, she was the head of the drama group back in high school.
Anyways, after we and two of her Navy buddies had eaten lunch, we decided to detour from our planned itinerary to go down to the piers on Norfolk Naval Base and see some of the ships moored there. Erica and I entertained ourselves trying to identify the ships from the Battleship game pieces, and were surprisingly accurate on several of them.
Stupid carrier always got sunk first.
“Hey, can I take pictures?” I asked, giddily rubber-necking it. It had been 5 years since I’d even seen the ocean, much less a large, gun-speckled watercraft.
“Sure!” chirped Bridgette.
“Would you mind taking one through your window, since you’re on the closer side of the car?”
Obliging the tourists, she took my camera and took a couple of good shots, before we realized we could drive around so that I was nearest to the ships. Brilliant! Those pictures would look awesome on Facebook, and all my Kansas people would get the feel of my fun little Spring Break trip. Having received a speedy, compact little digital camera for Christmas (THANKS MOM!), I furiously snapped pictures, half-listening to the technical descriptions from the three Navy personnel in the car. The scope of the capabilities of the ships was thoroughly impressing, and had me appreciating the Navy more than I ever had before.
Pretty darn pleased with the progress of our trip, I settled back into my seat and prepared to soak up some Naval knowledge, when suddenly, a man with fancy-looking designations on his uniform walked over from a nearby guard station, stopping us with a nonchalant hand.
Having been on Air Force bases quite a few time, I wasn’t perturbed when he asked us for our identification. If you must lose everything else, keep ahold of your I.D. on a military base. They check it all the damn time.
However, when the man asked for my camera, I got a bit more nervous. Were we not supposed to be taking pictures? Shit, I was just doing the tourist thing, taking shots of all the big, pretty boats. Had we seen something we shouldn’t?
Quickly flipping through the photos I’d taken, he told us we could keep them and continue on our way, as long as we weren’t photographing any of the guard stations we were passing, as that was a definite security and intel hazard. Since part of me had expected him to throw my camera down and smash it in the name of base security (I only watch DRAMATIC military movies), I was pretty relieved to get the camera back, even if it did come with a mild reprimand.
Whaddya say we ease back on the espionage, hmm?
Well, that was a weird little bump in our trip, but all was well that ended well. I definitely wouldn’t be taking any more pictures of stuff, and I’d be on my best behavior until we got off of the base again. After that, though, I was prepared to get a little CUH-RAZY. It was Spring Break, after all, and I definitely needed to let loose a little.
We continued on down the pier, trying to find our way out of the looping parking lot, which had quite a few temporary cement barriers set up. Bridgette and company told us that the base was doing a drill that day and was under FPCON Charlie, which is apparently worse than FPCON Alpha or Bravo. Still, since it was just a drill, it wasn’t a big deal, as long as we didn’t mind going through more of the I.D. process. Honestly, it kind of added a little spice of danger to the day, and I felt the tiniest bit like a bad ass for being on a base that had actually gone into Charlie. Silly, I know, so shut up. I’m pretty sure we’d only ever been in Alpha or Bravo on the other bases I’d visited. Frankly, I was kind of amazed we civilians had managed to get on the base in the first place using only our Driver’s Licenses.
Anyway, feeling relieved that my little military faux pas hadn’t caused any more trouble, we found the exit and started planning the rest of our day, nonchalantly noticing that a military vehicle was following us out of the parking lot. It became much less nonchalant when a security guard ahead of us waved us over to the side of the road, and the vehicle behind us pulled in too.
“Alright, guys, get your I.D.s out again,” sighed Bridgette. “I swear it’s not usually this ridiculous. Must be the drill.”
We all craned our necks so the military policeman (MP) scanning our I.D.s could see our bright, not-trouble-causing faces smiling enormously out at him.
And just lookit how cute we are!
Considering the drill, it was likely that they were all just getting in a load of practice in their daily jobs, and there was no reason we couldn’t help that.
Then, the MP stopped looking at our cards, and instead stared at us through the windows, his expression cold. Huh.
“Could you all step out of the car?” he said, tone neutral. Well. That was a little different. Still, it wasn’t shocking that we might have to go through a vehicle search. That’s just a military base for you. Being careful is the whole point.
Sitting meekly on the sidewalk, we kept still and quiet as Bridgette went around and opened all the compartments of her car, leaving the keys on the dashboard. Another MP began to search the interior, while the first one came over to loom over us, planting his feet apart and settling his expression into one of strict disapproval. I practiced the calm breathing that I’d adopted so much earlier this morning.
“So, here’s the deal,” he began, giving a particularly severe look to the three Navy people sitting with us. “At this time, the base is under FPCON Charlie, meaning that taking photos of the ships is strictly prohibited--”
“Is it?” Bridgette started, trying to ameliorate what felt like the beginnings of a tense situation. “I didn’t kn—“
“WHICH you three should know,” continued the MP. I could nearly hear Bridgette gulp next to me.
“I didn’t remember that,” she said, shame-faced. “Of course we can’t. We just forgot…“
“Yeah, we see that,” said the MP. He appeared to be immune to the Bridgette Charm. Shifting his weight, he sighed.
“Coincidentally, your card’s on top. Could you come over here with me, Petty Officer ****?”
Bridgette took a deep breath and stood, leaving Erica and I starting to wonder if we were in more trouble than we’d thought. The other MP came over and politely started asking us questions. He was a nice man. That made me feel a little bit better, since I’d always imagined that a cop would be much more angry if I was ever in serious trouble. Still, the boys with us could tell just how tense I was getting.
“This is totally gonna be fine,” said John the airman, giving us a good, reassuring smile. “Trust me, they’re just making a big deal because it’s a drill day.” I desperately hoped he was right.
“Have I gotten Bridgette into serious trouble?” She was being treated as the person in charge, having been Senior Officer in the car and supposed to control the poor, stupid civilians. Shit, I did NOT want to have screwed up things for her when she was finally getting her life on a good track.
“No, no, no,” said John. “Really, it’s going to be fine. What can they do?”
I had no idea, and that didn’t help.
After they’d finished questions us, we sat back down on the sidewalk and waited for the results. The first MP came back over and resumed his judgmental stance. A part of me was quite nervous indeed, while another part of me was instantly ticked that he was trying to physically intimidate us. I quickly quashed that irritation. Military people don’t give a girl a lot of leeway, even if they did start it.
They brought this on themselves when they wouldn’t give me my nose back.
“Petty Officers, front and center,” snapped the MP, and Bridgette and Eric jumped to their feet, following him over to a fancy, shiny SUV with an angry-looking man behind the wheel. John, an airman, stayed with us.
I had a bad feeling about this.
General rule of thumb: the prettier it is, the more influential the person driving it. And the harder you’re about to fail.
Bridgette and Eric came back eventually, and the MP came with them,
“So, basically what we have here is a case of seriously bad timing,” he began. He tried for a smile, but his eyes weren’t in it. “Now, if you’d all come on base at a different time, probably nothing woulda happened. But as I said before, we’re in the middle of FPCON Charlie right now, and that changes things a bit.”
He turned first to me and Erica.
“I know this was probably a little scary for you both, but there’s quite a bit of difference in how we’ll treat this side of the sidewalk,” he gestured to me and Erica, “And this side,” he gestured to the others.
“What we’re looking at right now is that maybe nothing will happen to you ladies,” he turned back to us, “but maybe, if that guy over there decides to make it happen, you all will be banned from federal property for the duration of one year.” My eyes got huge at that. I don’t think I’d ever been banned from anywhere before, except maybe the boy’s clubhouse when I was little. I didn’t think I really spent much time on federal property, but still. Damn.
I…was in trouble with the government.
Yeah…I’m kind of a badass.
“Now, that’s with the exception of post offices and the IRS and stuff, not that you’d want to go to the IRS” Whew, I had COMPLETELY forgotten those were federal government places, “and it might not happen at all, but it’s a definite possibility.”
Well, that’s not so bad. This is basically just the makings of a really good blog po—
“Mind you, if we’d been in Delta, this would be a whole different story. We’d be talking to you in the building across the street.”
“…What’s the building across the street?”
At this point, he basically told us that we would have been thrown into the military pokey, which had a much fancier name with a complicated acronym that I don’t remember because I think I might have blacked out for a moment.
“…but if it had been a different day, you know…Gah, I lost my train of thought,” continued the MP.
“Umm…jail?!?” I squeaked.
“No, no, not that,” he said, waving it off nonchalantly. You know. NBD. “Anyway, basically what just happened was that these two Petty Officers got to talk to the ASecO, the Assistant to the Security Officer of the base. He can pretty much do almost anything he wants to with this situation. The Petty Officers could be taken to court for espionage, and then be court martialed or be sent to jail.”
“He…seemed pretty nice,” Bridgette squeaked, giving him her best don’t-slaughter-me smile.
“That would be, well, a serious misconception on your part, Petty Officer,” said the MP. Bridgette almost seemed to curl in on herself in her attempt to stop being noticeable. It would probably have helped if she stopped talking.
“He,” the MP continued, gesturing to John, “could lose any chance of making 3rd.” I didn’t know what “3rd” meant, but I was almost positive that being court martialed was bad. Holy shit. I’d pretty much just lost any Karma points I’d ever managed to accrue, getting everyone into such a mess. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck…
“Remember, you all do not have to be here today, and you three should contact your superiors to let them know they might be getting a call. Better to let them know ahead of time.” As our militant companions explained that that basically meant we should get the hell off the base, we scurried back to the car and drove away, following every driving law we could think of to the freaking letter.
We decided it would be best to crash in Eric’s apartment for the day as opposed to actually getting out and doing fun things, so we resigned ourselves to sweating in the Virginia heat and thinking about what we had done wrong. Not exactly how we’d planned to do things, but hell, at least we weren’t in freaking PRISON.
I skyped Mom and let her know what had happened, and then texted my father the details, as he happens to be a Major in the Air Force. Everybody acted like I was making too big a deal of what had happened, until he texted me back saying that he had ALREADY GOTTEN A REPORT ON THE SITUATION.
THEY CALLED MY FREAKING FATHER.
AND THEN HE MOCKED ME. FOR COMMITTING A FEDERAL OFFENSE.
I’m going to have to skip Christmas family time altogether this year.
Anyways, Bridgette was determined to show us a better time than we’d had so far, so she started making noises about renting a hotel room off-base and hitting the beach. The fancy Navy Lodge was just a short way out of the base, so we made our way there, relieved to be doing something besides perspiring. However, when we were at Bridgette’s room, packing her an overnight bag, Bridgette got a heads-up that the base was going to go into Delta soon, and that if we wanted to get out, we had best do it while the getting was good. We dashed for the car, feeling even more like criminals than we already did, and fled for the border/unimposing base fence.
Feeling the heady rush of liberation, we arrived triumphantly at the Navy Lodge, where we were greeted by YET ANOTHER FREAKING IDENTIFICATION STATION. Surprise! The Navy Lodge may not be on base, but it is affiliated with the Naval base and thus subject to FPCON Charlie. Thankfully, we hadn’t been banned from federal property yet, or at least the guard didn’t know about it, so we got in without a fuss.
Later, we went and partied at a couple of clubs, and I got hit in the shin by a flying cue ball.
And it all actually started to seem funny.
Yeah, this kind of funny. Frodo understands.
Stay tuned for Part II! Remember, that was only the first day.