I am deeply indebted to the USAF for the many useful life skills I
developed whilst serving. Learning to shine floors with a big commercial power buffer
has proven invaluable for the last 28 years, as too has knowing how to properly clean
tables and floors at the officer’s mess hall (I was enlisted – the engineering degree
came later). Pulling barracks guard duty would have been the perfect introduction to
a career as a shopping mall security guard, had my life taken me in that direction after
separation. OK, I’m just jiving about them being useful.
One of the most valuable
lessons I learned – truly - is what I have dubbed “Kirt’s Coffee Drinkability Rule.”
Here is how it works, and how it came to be.
Everyone knows that military coffee
is some of the worst in the world. The people who are responsible for the stuff know
that you will drink almost anything they give you just to get yourself through the day.
In the enlisted member chow halls, coffee usually was dispensed from large cafeteria-style
stainless steel vats. I do not think they are ever cleaned or even have the old coffee
flushed out between brewings. No bacteria could survive that environment, so why bother?
The milk for the coffee was delivered in the same manner.
Anyway, the daily routine
involved standing in line for runny eggs and burnt bacon, then shifting along to the
drink dispensers. That is where Kirt’s Rule was developed – quite simple, really.
Like most other enlisted grunts, I learned to drink the provided coffee under most
circumstances, but it had to pass one crucial criterion. When I placed the cup-o-java
under the milk dispenser vat and lifted the lever to send the stream of milk shooting
down into the coffee, if it disappeared into the bottom of the cup and never showed
any sign of actually mixing with the coffee, the line had been crossed. I figured if
the coffee was so dense that even the force of the milk would not budge it, then it
was truly unfit for human consumption.
Once it became clear that no one, not
even the most desperate airman, could drink it, there was only one option left for its
proper dispositioning. You guessed it – ship it to the Marine Corps base across town.