Riding in fine 70’s style, and driving Dad’s green Datsun B210, I spotted the flags waving outside the recruitment complex in downtown Sacramento. The trip had taken forty minutes. About to miss the parking garage, I yanked the car into a sharp left turn from the far-right lane narrowly missing the front end of a cop car.
The flashing lights were no surprise.
“Young lady,” the Officer said, as I handed over my license from cow town “what brings you to the capital?”
“I’m here to enlist.”
His smile broadened as he passed back my id, and I swear I saw tooth marks in his lower lip. “Enjoy your day.” He tapped the roof of the car and stepped back. “Maybe start with the Marines, you’d make their day.”
My smile faltered but I knew a hall pass when I was handed one. “Yes sir.”
I’d worn my favorite outfit because, let’s face it, it isn’t every day you start a new adventure.
College had been an adventure. For most of a semester I’d driven over in Mom’s yellow station wagon with the perpetual engine whine before veering off to the local movie-plex. It’s hard to get a shy kid to walk into class when no one’s keeping score. Instead, I’d buy a ticket and slide into the dark where a different set of no one’s either didn’t notice or didn’t care if I sat through three showings of Herbie the Love Bug.
But back to my join the military duds.
I was styling in a form fitting pink shirt to accentuate my late-blooming curves and faded denim overalls to hide them. Shoes took more thought. Though I finally opted for a pair of platforms – orange leather sandals on top of five-inch cork soles with rolling bottoms. Square sun glasses, tinted pale green, held back Farrah Fawcett waves. Hey, she was an icon so I kept a stash of hairspray under the bathroom sink.
Trying on bravery – like an ill-fitting space blanket, I bypassed the marines and strode into Navy recruitment.
“You won’t like it.” Said one.
“The Navy’s not for you.” A second sailor with a greasy buzz cut ogled my shoes.
They were right, the Navy wasn’t for me.
Neither was the Army. I waved as I passed their office.
The Coast Guard, I told myself, was perfect. I liked boats. I sailed, I rowed. And I had my first kiss on a friend’s Chris Craft. What could go wrong with the Coast Guard?
“Of course, you can join.” The recruiter was Dad’s age. I trusted my dad. I trusted this stranger.
“Thing is.” He stroked his chin. “The Coast Guard might not be what you’re looking for.”
My head bobbled on my neck. No. No. This is perfect.
“How about you enlist in the reserves. You like boats?”
“Then join the reserves. They’ll send you to Boatswains School right after boot camp. You like it, you can switch over to the regulars. If not, no harm, no foul.”
Excitement blossomed as I listened. Seaman waited years to train for their ratings. I’d be a Bosun in six months.
Twisting an ankle, I reached for a pen.