Islanders And Pride

Recently I was reading an article on Rubber Slippers in Italy that reminded me of some fun times I had in the Army regarding people from island nations.

Ribbing, teasing or joking is not uncommon in the Army.  In some respects, being in the Army was like being in an extension of high school, except with ranks, and not always in a good way.

Still, there were good times (at least from our perspective).

There was a guy that worked in my office, when I first got to my unit at my last duty station, that was from Micronesia.  Well, with “Micro” in the name of his country, and the fact that the islands looked so small on the map, it led to him getting messed with a LOT.  Not to mention his first name is Hitler.  That was a double fail.

The jokes typically leaned towards making fun of how small the islands are.  I can’t remember the joke exactly, but we asked how the recruiters managed to find his village up in the jungle, and whether or not he wore leaves or had clothes.  We asked him if he had ever heard of  telephone before leaving his island.

Ya, we really got going on him.  Usually it would be a group of us in the office and he would be trying to work and we would start talking about Micronesia.  As soon as he heard the name of his island he would turn and look at us and start to get pissed off.

We didn’t hate the guy.  It’s just that when the days were long and we were bored out of our minds, we wanted some entertainment, and this guy always provided it without fail.

Oh, and because the guy’s first name was Hitler, when he would ask one of us to do something or to help him out, we would give the old fashioned German salute and march off, with him yelling and screaming.

Ya, the guy always flipped out.  Typically our taunting would end with him throwing books and manuals at us and all of us running out into the maintenance bays to laugh and talk about how mad he got.

Months later, I would find myself in another unit with a guy from Guam.  He too had that overblown sense of pride, and somehow it drew us to tease him about it.

Some of my favorites:

WalMart in Guam:

Guy 1: So, [Guam Guy], is there a Walmart on Guam?

Me 2 (butting in): Oh come on.  You know there’s no WalMart on Guam!  There isn’t even enough room for a WalMart parking lot there!

Guam guy: [insert long string of expletives and threats of violence here]

Driving Around Guam:

Guam Guy: Ya, man. I miss my car. I used to go on long drives around the island just to chill and listen to music.

Me: 15 minutes isn’t a long drive.

Guam Guy: What you mean man?

Me: You said a long drive. We all know you can’t take a long drive around Guam. I mean, come on.  It takes longer to take a good shit than it does for a person to drive around Guam.

Guam Guy: You know what? Fuck you man.

Showering in Guam:

When we wound up in Kuwait, we were on a camp that (thank God) had showering facilities.

Guam Guy was the fastest man in the camp with taking a shower, or so it seemed.

We would all be sitting on our bunks in the morning, after doing physical training, and he would walk past with his towel, wearing slippers and say he was heading for the shower.  We would stretch and talk for about five minutes or so and then grab our stuff and start walking to the showers.

The showers were located about a quarter of a kilometer away (I think.  I’m not too good with kilometers yet) and would take about three or four minutes to walk to, at a leisurely pace.

So, we would come out of the building we lived in and start walking up the dirt path to the showers and, about halfway down, we would see Guam Guy walking briskly back toward the building.

The first few times it happened I just sort of looked at my watch and thought, ‘WTF?’  But… when he kept doing it we started talking about.

Finally, one day I stopped him as we were heading to the showers and he was heading back.

Me: So, uh, you’re done showering already?

Guam Guy: Ya.

Me: Do you… uhhh… use soap?  It’s ok to use soap you know.

Guam Guy: What the fuck are you talking about man?

Me: Dude, you just left the building like 7 minutes ago.  I know Guam is small and all, and there are only like 3 showers for the whole island, but here you can take your time and use soap.  You can do more than let the water tickle your ass and jump out.

Guam Guy: [Insert long string of expletives and threats of violence here]

Everyone Else: [Insert laughing here]

I don’t know what it is about islanders, compared to people from the mainland US, but they do seem to be more sensitive about ribbing when it comes to their islands.  Is it common I wonder?  Or maybe soldiers are just less sensitive about jokes about where they’re from because after a while, and after so many duty stations, you start to disassociate yourself with your hometown?  That might be even more true of soldiers who are the sons or daughters of military personnel, who have never lived somewhere more than five years or so at a time.

By the way, don’t get the wrong idea.  Messing with each other like this is common in the Army, and I wasn’t free and clear of being a victim of it either.  Everyone has to take their turn being the target I guess.  Plus, we were all close.  If something happened and either of these islanders had a problem, we’d definitely have backed them up.

(At least it’s better than in the Navy, where you have to take your turn in the barrel).