When McCurry arrived on the Hill to begin his midnight shift, he was in no mood to deal with any more treads. That afternoon, he had pulled into the Andrews parking lot to visit the PX for some personal items he needed. It was a beautiful day. McCurry, in a good mood, thought he might take a stroll through the neighborhood surrounding the Andrews compound after his visit to the PX. He missed the long walks he had often taken before recently purchasing his Volkswagen microbus with the brightly colored flowers he had added to cover the rust spots.
As he was about to head over to the PX, he noticed a second lieutenant from the military police approaching him. Uh oh, he thought, this doesn’t look good.
“What’s your name, soldier?” the lieutenant asked.
“Mike McCurry,” McCurry responded.
“Mike McCurry, sir,” the military policeman barked.
“Mike McCurry, sir,” McCurry said, thinking, Okay, I’ll play your game.
“Is that your vehicle?” he asked, pointing at the VW.
“What the fuck is wrong with you? Don’t you have any respect for the military, driving something like that?”
“I’m trying to get by on an enlisted man’s salary, sir. What kind of car would you expect me to have?” McCurry responded.
“I’m not talking about what kind of vehicle it is, moron. I’m talking about those flowers painted all over it. It’s an affront to the military.”
“Flowers. An affront to the military?”
“Fucking A. Nothing but some goddamned hippie would do something like that to their automobile and we don’t need no hippies in the Army. If you were in my unit, I’d have you busted for something like that.”
“Well, sir, I guess it’s a good thing I’m not in your unit.”
“What unit are you in, soldier? I think I need to speak with your commander.”
“I’m not permitted to say what unit I’m in,” McCurry said. “All I can tell you is my name and rank.”
“Are you trying to piss me off? You realize, if I want, I can arrest you right now for being out of uniform.”
“How am I out of uniform?” McCurry asked.
“You don’t have any unit patch, for one thing.”
“Now, sir, I know the Army can get a little twisted in its reasoning sometimes. But, if I’m not permitted to say what unit I’m in, why in the world would I be permitted to wear a patch that identified that unit?”
McCurry could feel that the lieutenant was beginning to realize he should never have initiated this confrontation. Although sometimes it seemed too easy, he enjoyed tying these treads up in knots. Often they couldn’t even remember what had started the encounter. It wasn’t difficult to undermine their self-confidence by raising the specter of stepping on the wrong toes. McCurry decided that this skirmish had already lasted too long.
“Sir, if you will just write down your name, rank and how you can be reached, I will be happy to have my commanding officer contact you,” McCurry said.
“That won’t be necessary soldier. Carry on then.” The lieutenant turned and beat a quick retreat.