Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Top Ten Manliest Firearms, Evah

Somebody (okay, probably everbody, at some point) came up with their Top Ten firearms list. Their puny example looked like this:

10. SMLE
9. Mosin-Nagant M-44
8. Glock
7. K31
6. AK-47
5. S&W 29
4. AR-15
3. Remington 870
2. Colt 1911A1
1. Barrett M-82

No. Barely 3 for 10 close. (In fact, if it isn't just a catalogue of what he had in his closet that day, plus one cherry on top Dream Item, I miss my guess.)

Having been exposed to other 10 Manliest Firearms Lists, it was time to compose my own.

First, a word on manliness. Any gun you can carry, and not feel the overwhelming need to explain -- is manly. If its presence is one you'd have to justify by saying "I was just plinking/target shooting/quail hunting/acting French/getting in touch with my feminine side" were a fellow shooter to see you with it in your hand, on your hip, or cradled in your arms, it's not manly. 

{Note that there's nothing wrong with any of the above activities, any more than it's wrong to enjoy a tuna salad sandwich rather than a 24 oz. steak medium rare. But in neither case are you, in a primal and unquestionable sense, being manly.}

With that in mind, The List:

10. Martini-Henry Mks I-IV

This is the gun that made British Colonialism famous. It slaughtered...everyone. From India to Africa to Asia to wherever Queen Victoria wanted to plant the Union Jack. Be glad we became independent before the era of the breech-loading rifle. The pores of the stock weep manliness, knowing that somewhere, someone probably used it to stick some heathen right in the breadbasket, or drilled him where he stood, for opposing God, the Queen, and the British East India Company. It was in service from 1871 to 1918. So it even helped kill hordes of Huns, Austrians, and Turks too.

9. HK MP-5

The only acceptable use for the 9mm is to send LOTS of them. This gun is manly because it does so. Accurately. And even, in some versions, darn near silently. The SAS uses them. The FBI uses them. Darn near EVERYBODY ON THE PLANET uses them. There is a reason. This is the gun the 9mm parabellum cartridge was waiting for, for nearly a century. And the only really good excuse for shooting it.

8. SW Model 29

"The world's most powerful handgun, and can blow your head clean off." Okay, the Casulls and some others are now more powerful. Upstarts and rogues. THIS is the gun you want. Not some wussy Walther PPK. Not some crappy launcher of Europellets. But a real Manly Man's sidearm. .44 Magnum in all its ear-splitting, Gun Fearing Wussy pants-wetting, non-politically correct glory. If guns are porn, this revolver is Jenna Jameson.

7. Colt SAA

Every movie and TV cowboy from William S. Hart to John Wayne to Clint Eastwood to McCloud to Walker, Texas Ranger carried one or more of these. And so did an awful lot of real cowboys. Good guys and bad guys, marshals, gunfighters, cavalry troopers, miners, and riverboat gamblers. This gun conquered a continent. If you haven't fired one, or don't own one, or something very like it, you are a shadow of a Manly Man. And you know it, deep down inside.

6. Winchester 1897

I could have named any pump shotgun, but this one is the one that made "trench broom" a reality. It conquered the Philipines, Cuba, France and Belgium. Then went on to beat gangsters, thieves, the Japanese, Germans, North Koreans and Chinese communists, and a good number of North Vietnamese before finally being retired. And I don't want to hear about how the modern versions are made by communists in China. It's not my fault that they're smarter, and know more about a good weapon when they face it in combat, than the pussified twerps in Communist New England.

Buy one, old or new, and hear wussies' knees quake in fear, before you even slam-fire this bad boy.

5. Thompson SMG

"The gun that made the Twenties Roar." It also went from Bataan to Burma to Iwo Jima. Winston Churchill's manliest pose wasn't posing with his two fingered V sign, it was cradling one of these .45 caliber bullet launchers in his manly arms. Sgt. Rock carried a Thompson. Humphrey Bogart carried a Thompson. James Cagney carried a Thompson. There's manly, and then there's MANLY.

4. Colt M1911A1

This is THE only pistol. If ever a handgun deserved an effigy demanding pagan rites and sacrifice, this one does. I saw a picture once of two Marine MPs who stopped sappers trying to bomb the Saigon Embassy. They stopped one guy with 7 shots from a service .45. He'd bled to death, because two of the shots blew his femurs apart, and he couldn't run with no bones in his legs. An Israeli Lt. Colonel, with a fully functional M-48 tank -- with a 105mm cannon, two machineguns, and small arms -- was stopped by a Marine Captain carrying a M1911A1. Guess who won the disagreement?

If the M1911A1 .45 had testicles, you could use them in the PBA to bowl 300 scores.

3. M1 Garand

"The greatest battle implement ever devised."  according to no less a manly man and weapons afficianado  than General George S. Patton. Conquered France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, half of Czechoslovakia (much of it under the aforementioned Gen. Patton), every island in the Pacific, both Koreas, and sent God alone knows how many enemies of America into oblivion with a surprised look on their face and several .30 caliber holes in them. This weapon is designed  to make the buttstrokes (horizontal, vertical, and smash) not just possible, but fun!.

The Army puts an antique musket >ptui!< on its Combat Infantry Badge.

OTOH, the Marines put a pair of crossed M-1s on their Expert Marksmanship badge. And still do pugil stick training and bayonet drills based on the M-1. You figure it out.

2. Browning BAR (not the wussy hunting poseur arm)

This is a MANLY weapon. 20 pounds EMPTY. Fires .30-06 FULL AUTO. Not only used by Bonnie and Clyde, but used by deputies to turn their car into swiss cheese and blow the two of them into dollrags in seconds. They used to assign an ammo bearer to keep up with a guy armed with one of these in combat. REAL Manly Men used to use them to charge pillboxes and machine gun nests and win Silver Stars, DSCs/Navy Crosses and Medals of Honor. This is a gun so Manly that it doesn't NEED a bayonet. This one-man gun was so manly that when we gave it to the South Vietnamese, they made it a CREW-SERVED weapon. WOOF!

1. Barrett M-82

This gun was introduced to American audiences in Navy SEALs: "This is God. I've got him. >>BLAM!!<< (Wall, rooftop, and badguy disappear in a red cloud). Okay, you're clear."

This gun kills VEHICLES. HELICOPTERS. SCUD Missiles. BUILDINGS. From a MILE away, even.

This is the gun that inaugurated the phrase "One shot. One Car Killed."

This is the gun every other gun on this list wants to be when it dies and comes back. The other guns on this list make GunFearingWussies hide in holes. With this gun, there is nothing on a CITY BLOCK you can hide behind, unless it has treads and armor on it. And even then, it'll seriously screw up your day.
That is all.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Take The Long Way Home

Once upon a time, there was a guy.

He was employed to hang around after a movie, in case any of the tear-down crew removing an over 80' height of stacked scaffolding fell off of it, and thus required a sponge and bucket to scoop up what was left of their corporeal selves and present it as an offering to the county coroner, then fill out the requisite reports documenting their unfortunate Failure To Fly.

His crew was diligent though, so mostly, the guy just read books, and answered the seldom-occurring phone calls while working the 6PM-6AM shift, and arose to circulate and check on his wards every couple of hours, both to demonstrate his presence and consciousness, and make any needed housecalls, as well as to verify their continued presence.

There were only a few problems with this idyllic existence.

First of all, the location was a huge white dome, next to a harbor breakwater. The breakwater was the mooring location for a large hotel curiously sharing the same name as a famous ocean liner, and the dome was the empty former home of a large wooden airplane whose name rhymes with "Spruce Goose".

The problem with both these locations, was firstly, the number of independently and documented reliable reports over the years of certain manifestations of things like former billionaires and unfortunately-squished-to-death-in-watertight-doors-engineers roaming the premises daily for the past 40 years, and as recently as the week before our tale occurs.

Secondly, was the glee with which the security personnel at the hotel/former ocean liner regaled anyone not able to run faster with tales of these reported manifestations. Usually after 1 in the morning, on their nightly rounds. Because they could.

Thirdly, was the fact that on a few occasions, the diligent crew, having gotten their work accomplished another 10 feet closer to the ground early, by skipping lunch and breaks, would occasionally finish, and retire to their rooms on the hotel/ocean liner, except after forgetting to tell the guy in our story they were done and gone.

And lastly, but by no means leastly, by the presence of large 2' open holes near the ground, for the multitude of power cables to transit this dome, allowing a galaxy of lights necessary to film, in this instance, one of a series of movies centering around the crime-fighting exploits of a large human dressed, in the translated German version of the title, as a Flying Mouse. Which, in a cruel twist of irony vis-a-vis large flying rodent crimefighters, allowed any number of feral felines normally sheltering among the rocks on the breakwater, and dining on a bounty of crustaceans and nautical birds, to seek shelter inside the decidedly safer and somewhat warmer environment that was the location of this cinematic rodent's well-known lair.

All of these unfortunate but pertinent negatives engaged in a multi-vehicle pileup one morning about 3AM, when our guy, having noted the dearth of the normal clanging, hooting, and so on related to human activity, went to investigate the premises.

And found himself well and truly all alone, inside one of the most allegedly haunted premises in the greater Southern California environs, at 3AM, on a dark and foggy night, inside a dark and barely lit building, and needing to proceed homeward with his traps and trinkets and lock up shop until the morrow.

And left with two routes out of his predicament: one, all the long long way around said enormous dark dome, hugging the wall between detritus in various stages of removal; or the other, and shortest route, straight through the lowest, fully-enclosed, inkiest blackness in existence, right through the subterranean heart of the actual 100 yard long, steel and concrete wonder known to countless fans and moviegoers as The Bat Cave. The mouth of which emerged a scant 20 feet from our guy's exit, the very exit closest to his vehicle's nightly parking space mere yards away in the brightly lit parking area.

And so, with the occasional mournful low moan of a distant foghorn and buoy bell, and absent any sign of human existence within even a lengthy sprint, our guy relied on his decent night vision, land navigation skills, and a firm disbelief in ghosts, to push his squeaky-wheeled cart of medical wonders, accompanied by the echoing footfalls of his own feet, through the cave direct, the quicker to depart the cheery atmosphere of a cold, dark, haunted, and thoroughly deserted building at 3AM.

Alas, just as things were looking their darkest, and dreading each step deeper into the maw of Stygian darkness, our guy was not to be left alone. Because unbeknownst to him, mere feet ahead of him, lay something waiting in the dark, pale-colored, barely visible, poised, and possessed of a singular ability to terrify mortal man.

Thus when the front wheels of the cart ran over kitty's tail, the white little furball levitated from the ground to eyeball height in nano-seconds, and communicating, undoubtedly, what it intended as a feline version of "Excuse me, chap, but that's my ass you're rolling over, would you mind not doing that please?" but which came out sounding a whole lot more like

I know because I heard every syllable, and there are some sounds no one ever forgets.
I don't remember if I climbed down off the 15' high concrete painted-rock and steel ceiling, or if I fainted, fell, and awoke standing bolt upright. I don't remember if I stopped to squeeze the crap and urine out of my underwear, or if the shock diamonds of Mach 3 travel squeezed it out of my garments through centrifugal force. But I do recall the stench of burning rubber, the chattering shower of concrete chips and steel-on-steel sparks, and the unmistakable sound of tennis shoes slapping the floor at the approximate cyclic rate of an A-10 Warthog's 30mm Gatling gun, from the midpoint of the cave to its exit, with the cart close on the frantically gyrating limbs of a rapidly moving pale cat-like blur, as a sound equal parts thundering herd of scared poop-free cattle and wagons competed with the staccato sound of trapped cat in a blender until the two blurs parted company at the cave's mouth, one headed toward the small cable portal, and the other moving over various flotsam and jetsam tragically left between the cave and sweet, blessed light and heavenly freedom of the outside world.

As the clatter slowed down, and the sounds left by the larger blur in its supersonic wake rejoined each other, there was someone's voice yelling over and over "I DO believe in spooks! I DO believe in spooks! I Do I Do I DO I DO!", which was only drowned out by the thunderous boom of the exit door slamming against the outside of the vile, despised concrete Tomb Of Death that had so nearly claimed another life.

Somewhere, on a monitor, some security supervisor might possibly have noticed the blur moving across the parking lot, and suppressed tears and rib pain at the sight of the Frankenstein-on-crack tableau of getting to the car, fumbling for keys, loading the car, getting inside, and driving out the gate hell for leather in a cloud of exhaust and tire rubber. Somewhere, someone doubtless made a notation on a clipboard of "Dome exit found open, no one found inside, closed and locked door. Will notify coordinator in AM." And somewhere, there are half a dozen guys who were soundly asleep in their paid for beds in luxurious accommodation, who may, in the morning, have fleetingly wondered whether they'd forgotten to let some guy know they were leaving for the night so they could let him out and lock up before they left for bed.

But there is one certainty in all of this:
If I ever run across those bastards, I'm going to kill them, slowly and cruelly, savoring every moment; and if I die first, I'm going to haunt them until they have eye-bulging vein-popping heart attacks.
And they'll be re-incarnated as feral cats in Long Beach.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Come To Jesus Full Disclosure

There are two types of military veterans:
The ones who have screwed up, and the ones who lie.

Anyone who says they were in the military, and never screwed up, is lying about something.
So lest anyone wonder about me, or think that any number of times I've gilded the lily with any of my recollections, let the record show that I have, in fact, screwed up.

Let the record also show that due to my phenomenal military abilities, and the Marine Corps' incredible perspicacity in noticing them, my progression up the ranks was rather abbreviated. Astonishingly so to any number of career E3 shitbirds in my unit, but I had the stripes, and they didn't, so f--- 'em.

And I was in a field artillery battery, in an MOS where regular promotions were frozen in perpetuity, and everyone was holding down a billet multiple grades above his pay.

Consequently, for my sins, I was given my very own truck and howitzer section as a lowly corporal, whereas the TO and E said I was doing a staff sergeant's job. Screw the honor, I'd druther have had the E6 pay. Fat chance.

But I wasn't given any section. It wasn't like the 19th century frontier cavalry, where the sloppiest horseman got the sharpest mount, to even things out. Oh no. I, with the threads on my NCO stripes still cooling from the air friction of my rush to the base tailor to have them installed, was given the dubious honor of an entire section of the bootiest boot raw newbs ever foisted onto one section. I had one salty short-timer lance corporal to drive the truck, and 9 PFCs and even slick-sleeved privates, virtually as rare as white tigers in the Marines. The kids I got had been three places: the recruiter's office, MCRD, and newly accomplished, to the US Army Field Artillery School at Ft. Sill OK, for the Official Approved Class on "pull string, make gun go boom". Until only moments before, we had trained our own boots, at our own division, but some pencil-pushing geek decided we might be missing something by not hearing the Approved Methodology. (The fact that we were still calculating shell plots with slide rules instead of computers, and using the Army's hand-me-down 25-year-old tech as if it were state-of-the-art was evidently not on the briefing for Col. Pencilpusher, somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon.) As to what FA School might have slipped up on, I'll leave for a bit further along, but keep your thumb in that spot.

So, with my dutifully constituted Cub Scout pack of eager young would-be Chesty Pullers, loaded up not with dip or tattoos, but with comic books and bubble gum (I swear to Buddha it's true!) we set out for one of the far-too-frequent field training trips to work out the kinks in how we did our primary job, i.e. blowing stuff up on command.

We had the M-198 155mm howitzer (predecessor to today's M777), adopted because someone figured the Marines needed an Army hand-me-down towed howitzer that was too long to maneuver, too heavy to helo-lift, too bulky for amphibious landings, and twice as manpower and ammunition intensive as the 105mm howitzers we'd had,

Compare and contrast this feisty little guy with the behemoth in the above picture.

the latter complete with rebarrel marking accomplished, by my reckoning, just after Guadalcanal, again just after the Frozen Chosin, and one last time just after Tet and Khe Sanh. Yes, looking at that breech was kind of like strapping into a F4U Corsair, or a B-17, but at least you knew the thing'd work. But instead we had the new-fangled meatgrinders, whose range was so superb that in Grenada, they'd left the damned things on the ship, because they'd fire clear across the island and into the Caribbean, and simply reorganized our gunbunnies into provisional rifle companies instead. (Incidentally, exactly as they've done in Iraq and Afghanistan to this day.)

But that was far in the future. All it meant to us was it took 10 men to fire the thing, at least 6 of whom had to be really sharp, on the ball, and experienced. In other words, the polar opposite of privates and brand new PFCs straight from school. Briefly, to fire the gun, one guy cranks on direction (deflection), another guy cranks on elevation, one guy puts the right fuze on the right projectile, and he and two other guys ram it onto the barrel breech, while another guy brings the correct powder charge, based on the directions given to the talker on the headset who wrote all this down, and the guy who helped load the shell but didn't fuze it loads a small .410 shotgun sized brass primer into place, hooks up the string, and on command, we erase a spot the size of 1 bedroom house from the face of the earth, all diligently supervised and overseen like a headless chicken on crack by your writer.

I had, even in my brief rise through the ranks, performed every job on the gun to that point, including gunner and recorder/talker, the two most challenging, as well as being a safety NCO for other batteries in the field multiple times. (Which came about at Swamp Lejeune after some unfortunate dope put on the sights was incorrectly set by some dope operating the sights, which resulted in some colonel's wife getting a tragic and gruesome 155mm haircut on the main base road while driving the family sedan that would've cut down to about her collarbone. To preclude such a thing ever happening again, enter the 11th Guy who had to check everything before anyone could fire, in perpetuity.) So it isn't like I couldn't do any of the job.

But all my experience presupposed certain basic minimums of competency, which was the one thing I didn't have with the crew from Fraggle Rock. My recorder spazzed under pressure - his whole job is under pressure. My asst. gunner, whose job is to crank the howitzer up and down rapidly, made Peewee Herman look like the Hulk, and so on around my happy band of Cub Scout cutthroats. What they lacked in proficiency they made up for in enthusiasm, in proper USMC fashion. They might have been slow, sloppy, and bumbling, but they were loud, enthusiastic, and motivated about it, and I really did admire the effort, even as I sought to bring their talents up to par with their enthusiasm.

But I didn't realize quite how tenuous a grasp they had on actually doing their jobs until during one fire mission, while trying to coax the recorder to deliver the right numbers to us without stuttering or blowing a gasket on his mangina, I was forced to listen to the crew call out the other steps, and heard all the right words, but without actually seeing every single step.

So when we got "Standby...FIRE!", Gun Number 1 issued not an earth-shattering KaBOOM, but instead, a single "Phutt!"

The primer had detonated, but not set off the powder charge. Misfire. Shit.
Which meant a) yelling "Misfire!" so as to publicly scream "Mea culpa! We're screwups!" to the rest of the battery, b) get everyone to evacuate what could be a slow-smoldering powder charge, in case it went off randomly as someone was behind the recoiling barrel, and c) get the Battery Gunnery Sgt. to come check on what the exact problem was while we waited the approved portion of time before cracking the breech to see what happened, or failed to.

So as I got my little class of kids to form up and head for the far corner of the playground for the fire drill, my Number One Man, the guy who takes the charge from the powder monkey, examines it, and loudly and enthusiastically yells out "Charge X White bag, I see red!" (because the back of the powder bag, where the ignition pad is, is a bright crimson, which notifies all and sundry that he hasn't put the charge in assbackwards). Then he closes the breech, inserts the primer, and hooks up the bang-string and waits for "Fire!"

And the little buttwipe had, most distinctly, yelled that exact phrase out before closing the breech this time, and hooking up to fire. I heard it, clear as a bell.

So now, as the other minions in my day camp trooped out from under our camo net, and the large silhouette of the fast-approaching Battery Guns is looming larger by the second, Pvt. McIlhenny* lets slip that, "uh, well, in all the excitement, I, uh, I may not have actually put the, uh, y'know, POWDER CHARGE into the gun before I closed the, uh, the breech."

Which is how Battery Guns came to find me beating Pvt. McIlhenny to death with his own kevlar helmet, cursing a blue streak in a fury of blind rage as I swung again and again.

And now, clued in to the cause of the problem, the guilty party, the powder bag in question over on the powder pallet where it wasn't supposed to be, and visions of being relieved, demoted, laughed at, and shat upon from a great height by a malevolent Fate, I was spurred to feats of speed and fraud I didn't know I possessed. It's truly amazing how clearly you can think with your own golf cleats firmly embedded in your manly bits.

"McIlhenny, I'll deal with you later. STFU about this, and fall out with the others. Got that?!?"
"Aye aye, corporal.!" Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full, sir.
And he double-timed towards Guns, happy to leave me, quite literally, holding the bag.
The unfired, never-placed-into-the-breech powder bag.
Which gave me, with adrenaline and the nerves of a cat-burglar, just barely enough time to grab the forgotten bag of powder, step smartly to the breech, and shove it waaaaaay too far up inside, compared to where it ought to have been. Then quietly close the breech, just in time to re-open it as Battery Guns stepped around the truck to see me reach waaaaay up too far and pull it back out.
In violation of about five specific safety rules, and at risk of my life, IF ONLY THE G**D***** POWDER BAG HAD BEEN THERE WHERE IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

So in fact, at zero risk of any ignition, and frankly quasi-looking forward to the simple escape of being immolated had a smoldering powder bag actually been inside, I was simply covering my own ass.

"What happened?"

I couldn't lie to the Battery Gunnery Sergeant, because a) he'd kill me in 0.2 seconds, when he inevitably detected the lie, b) I'd disappoint him, which would have been a betrayal beyond the pale of even self-preservation, and c) I'm not that much of a total shit.

So I simply told the truth, but with a measure of economy.

"Charge was way too far from the primer, Gunny." Well yes. About 20 FEET too far from the primer, but I'll deal with that and Pvt. Brainfart McIlhenny later on.

"You shouldn't have opened that breech so soon, shoulda waited five minutes. Coulda back-flashed on ya."

"I know Gunny, but I had a feeling my Number One was a little sloppy in placing it correctly."
Yeah, his Death Row confession sort of made that one a no-brainer too.
"I'll see to it it won't happen again." Oh, you can damn betcha on THAT score...

"Okay, fall out to the rear, you know the drill. We'll count to 5 minutes, and refire it. Here's a fresh primer."

Left foot, right foot, breathe slo-o-o-o-o-w-l-y. Keep walking, act casual, try not to have a stroke.
And as he rounds third and heads towards the plate, the throw from centerfield is.....NOT in time!

I nodded at Pvt Brainfart, and we stepped aside while I explained the facts of life.
"Pvt. Brainfart, relax. I'm not going to kill you today, and the Plt. Cmdr. isn't going to kill me either, or relieve either of us. You won't be digging any tank traps during your free time with a spoon or an e-tool either, but you will be doing two things.
You will hold every powder charge up high until I indicate to you that I have visually verified its location and strength, and you will then insert it into the breech, and then and only then may you close the breech, give your speech, and stand by to fire.
And you will take all details of your sordid involvement in this little mishap with you TO YOUR GRAVE, without ever mentioning it to another living soul, so help you God. Or I'll kill you, and me, and then haunt you for eternity. Are we on the same page now?"

"Oh yes we are corporal. I swear it'll never happen again. Because...because it didn't happen,...did it?"

It's a Marine tradition that the scarlet red "blood stripes" of Marine NCO and officer's dress blue trousers are there to commemorate the bloody toll of battle leaders at Chapultepec. But the reality, I'm realizing in about 5 seconds after assuming the mantle, is that they resulted from countless generations, probably going back to the very first sergeant on a fledgling American frigate in 1775, experiencing a torrent of blood pouring from his ears as the men in his charge not only came up with ways to make his head explode he hadn't thought of, but came up with ways to do it he hadn't even imagined were humanly possible.

Once you allow for that, and stuff some cotton balls in your ears to staunch the blood flow, this NCO leadership supervision stuff isn't that hard.

*No, not his actual name.

Monday, March 25, 2013

That's What Friends Are For

In the period between high school graduation, and getting a life, I had several guy friends I hung out with, pretty much like everyone else back to when cavemen had teenaged offspring.

We liked to sample the local restaurants, both to give Mom's cooking a break, give our fledgling wings of independence a little stretch, and the most important reason of all for 20-something males, to check out waitresses.

One member of our little whitebread posse was, however, shy to the point of painfulness. He would happily check women out with abandon, but was more tongue-tied than Dr. Koothrapali on "Big Bang Theory" when actually in their presence.

But he was a decent guy, and we figured he ought to get a chance to replicate his DNA at some point before senility, so we decided to jump-start a romantic component to the best years of his life. So we had some helpful hints printed up. We came upon two foolproof means of delivering them.

The first was, the next time the weekly youth group newsletter was being sorted for mailing, we volunteered to help out. After carefully stapling our little hints into all the issues being sent to the women in the group.

Phase Two was vastly more simple: my other friends and I made it a point to collect the funds for the check on our field trips into various dining establishments, and just leave one of our little gems along with the tab and tip.

And they were blisteringly simple and straightforward:

Dan Brackett
Eligible Bachelor
(123) 456-7890

It took about four days for the local mail, and we made sure to enjoy a number of nights out on the town, but within about 5 days, Dan had a vague feelilng something was up. On about our fourth dinner out in as many days, he let us know.

"I'm getting's freaking me out. I don't know why..."

"Whaddya mean, "calls"?

"You know, phone calls. From women. Women I've never heard of."

"Just a second...lemme get the bill sorted out. Everyone kick in."

And we ambled outside to the parking lot, having just hooked Dan up again.

"So, Dan, what's the problem? Don't you like girls?"

"Of course. But my dad answers the phone most times, and he's...a little weird. And I don't know any of these girls."

"Well Dan, we were going to just write your phone number on the check, with "Call me", but we wanted to hook you up with something classier. Take a look."

We pointed Dan to the dining room just as the cute waitress who'd been our server bussed the table. Then noted her looking at our handiwork, followed by running to the server station, and gathering 3-4 other waitresses around to look at what they'd found.

"I don't understand." said Dan.

So we pulled out one of the cards and handed it to Dan.

Panic stricken, he started to lose it.

"Guys! This isn't funny guys! You can't do this to me! You have to stop doing this! I mean it!"

"Well Dan, that's gonna be a problem. Y'see, we put out at least 50 of these in the youth newsletter, so every college age girl in the group got one yesterday or today.


"Sorry, but yes. And we've been dropping a couple of these off with the cash at every restaurant this week too, which probably explains the phone calls. Some of those waitresses were pretty cute, Dan."

"NOOOOOOOOOOOO! You guys better stop. You HAVE to stop! I really mean it!"

"Actually, Dan, you need to consider the fact that we've only used up about 100 cards so far, and we have another 400 left. So if I were you, I'd start thinking of ways to not make us come up with new places to distribute them. Like at the mall, or maybe on the quad at the local university."

We didn't have any more dinners out with Dan for a couple of months. It seems his social calendar got kind of busy, and he had a couple of new girlfriends for a while.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Some Things You Should Know About The Military

Thinking about entering (or already in) the .mil?
Here are a few choice random important recollections, in no particular order:

1. Your recruiter lied to you. Probably twice. First when he lied to you, and second when he lied about lying to you. At least press gangs were honest. When you saw Jack Tar with a rope, and his petty officer with a belaying pin in his belt, you knew they weren't out collecting for Navy Relief. And they didn't give you some fairytale about college tuition money and great training for civilian jobs.  Unless your recruiter told you you were going to get shit on daily, sometimes literally, spend most of your time cold, hungry, lonely, and far from anything looking like civilization, and that you'd nevertheless love it, he lied. You could tell, because his lips were moving. So consider this your Official Warning Notice.

2. You didn't know it at the time, but kindergarten was great training for the military. In both cases, you will eat, sleep, learn, play, and sing together, under the supervision of someone else, who's slightly off, a little scary, frequently loud, perenially frustrated with the class, very much taken with teaching you manners, and rather freakishly interested with how you tie your shoes and button your clothes. This will continue pretty much non-stop until you graduate something. The blankets are just about exactly the same size. Your classmates will be just about as smart, many times. The lesson plans are eerily similar, many times. And bitching, crybabying, and tattle-tales go over just about as well in the military as they did in kindergarten. Except in the military, recess retribution hurts more, the monkeybars are higher, and there's no milk and cookies. And in both cases, your parents tend to fawn all over you afterwards.

3. The first few days of basic training may teach you in a vivid, experiential sense, that the phrase "scared shitless" isn't just an expression, but a physiological reality.

4. You may meet liars and thieves in the military. They are rare, but they exist. Shun them socially without remorse, and professionally whenever possible. But remember their names. You may be an in charge some day, and need someone to walk point through the minefield, or burn barrels full of $#!^. There's no sense wasting that sort of job on a good troop.

5. It's a bad idea to sight your rifle in on friendly helicopters anytime. It's an extremely bad idea when it's the CG's bird landing on the parade field. But when you're doing it and your DI catches you at it, you'll wish you had one live round to end your misery to come.

6. In the movie Hamburger Hill, in one scene, the Doc tells a cherry who's screwing up "If you want to walk out of this place, you will listen to people who know!"
Hollywood gets about 2% of the military right, since the first film ever made to today's date. That line is at the top of the 2% they got right.

7. You don't have to like it. But you have to do it.

8. Group punishment is the stupidest thing ever devised by the mind of man, but that fact alone isn't going to get the tradition changed.

9. If you're the tallest one in your platoon, it's probably a good idea to learn to STFU, at all times you're supposed to, no matter what, since you can be seen from every direction. Astonishment at getting spotted every freaking time is a poor strategy.

10. For that matter, I can't recall a single person I ever saw get in trouble for keeping their mouth closed except when eating.

11. Everyone in the military bitches about something. Don't be the first, or the most frequent, nor the loudest. And don't bitch about everything. It's okay to jump in once in awhile, but you'll never get a reputation as a crybaby if you simply skip the exercise.

12. It's never a good idea to get drunk on base. It's worse when the cat you bent over to pet on your way back to the barracks turned out to be a skunk.

13. There are showers available in garrison. If you wake up one morning in your bunk, out on the company lawn, with your wall locker next to you, trust me when I tell you that you haven't visited your shower facilities often enough, and that the next intervention level usually involves scrub brushes and firehoses, in a rather painful group therapy session.

14. It's poor judgement on armory guard to open fire on the woods at 2 AM because you were bored. And it's never as funny in front of the colonel as it may have seemed at the time.

15. When you're running people through fam-fire on a .50cal, and you get a misfire, follow the procedures. Opening the cover early because your time is too precious to wait, and prying the round out from a hot barrel with a screwdriver just means they have to dig that out of your arm along with the brass case, and some poor schmuck has to spend all day getting all your blood off the turret.

16. An actual buffalo weighs around a ton. Shooting at one that wanders onto the firing range with a paltry 5.56 is liable to piss it off. Don't be that guy.

17. AWOL has no statute of limitations. When you see a scraggly 38 year old who hoofed it over a decade ago get frog-marched in after getting popped at a traffic stop in Petticoat Junction, get his head shaved, and get taken to the post stockade in baggy cammies with a big "P" painted on them for his 2 year process of shovelling $#!^ while awaiting his court martial and discharge, this lesson will come alive for you in an entirely new way.

18. Fun is where you find it. For instance, when assigned to pick up an entire base, saving those mortar fins you found, and pounding them into a muddy back road so they look like embedded duds provides good training for EOD. Eventually.

19. Foreign beers in places like Germany and Australia may be 4 or more times stronger in alcohol content than American beers. Of course you aren't drunk, but you may notice that your walk home bears a striking resemblance to the night infiltration course in basic, and the ground can sneak right up on you sometimes, and usually more than once.

20. Depot level maintenance has a hard job, and it's difficult to remember all those nitpicky steps (and who reads those boring manuals anyways?), so be aware that they'll try to kill you every chance they get. For instance, it's much funnier to show them the picture of the gun tube blown 4 feet into the dirt if you weren't standing right behind it the first time you fired it after their tender ministrations to the recoil system.

21. Never sing "God Bless America" in the back of a 5-ton with 20 other troops while driving through California's Imperial Valley on a Sunday afternoon. I'm not sure if this is because the local Barney Fife is just a total fucktard, or because for his whole life he thinks, based on demographics, that the national anthem is "La Cucharacha", but either way, it gets them on edge thereabouts.

22. When someone on the ground is yelling up towards you with a bullhorn, and saying "Pull your reserve! Pull your reserve!" please make certain he's not addressing you personally. Rather rapidly, if you please.

23. When you're practicing urban ops door-kicking, it's Kick-Grenade-Bang-Enter, not Kick-Grenade-Enter-Bang.

24. CS isn't always a bad thing. Throwing it into the Bn COs tent one night when you're the OPFOR may be worth the next two weeks' worth of 0200 night repositionings; and loading a cigarette with hoarded CS powder, and leaving it burning in the Sgt. Major's ashtray, then stepping outside to use the facilities, may be a spiffy way to get those long-winded waste-of-time Friday 1600 NCO meetings cancelled permanently.

25. When moving around on ship near the rail during Darken Ship, remember, it's always darkest just before you hit the water.

26. Don't panic when your helo "ride" is a reserve unit. A unit of older-looking captains and majors probably has 5 or 10 times the flight experience of some active unit with fresh 1st Lts and captains. If you're wondering about this, see who flys the planes at Delta.

27. For road convoys in CONUS, the Book and the CO probably says no live ammo, which keeps you and your men from hurting yourselves. Just remember that the highways are filled with douchebags who DO carry live ammo, and who, when your truck breaks down in the middle of nowehere on a road trip, would happily relieve you of an M2, an M240, and three M-4s, all unloaded, with nothing more than their own fully-loaded .22 pistol, and if you're really lucky afterwards, they'll just drive away laughing instead of killing all the witnesses.
Or you may decide to grab a box of white box FMJ at the local sporting goods store and pass out 5 round mags to your crew on the deep QT. The trick in playing You Bet Your Stripes is knowing when you should play, and not getting caught. But there are definitely times to play. Just ask the guy who watched the truck drive into the Marine Barracks in Lebanon in 1983 because he was ordered not to insert a loaded magazine on guard duty.

28. A P-38 metal can opener, wrenched in and wedged tightly between the fuze and projectile of a 155mm howitzer round, makes a helluva scream as it comes in over the FOs to the impact area. Or so I'm told.

29. Learning to make credible wild pig noises can provide hours of entertainment in the field at no monetary cost, from California to Germany, especially when your teammates are answering the call of nature in the woods after dark.

30. Be aware that NCIS only has Mark Harmon and a crew of dedicated professional crimefighters on TV. In real life, they generally exist to make the BATFE and TSA look competent by comparison. They may occasionally get their man and solve a crime, but generally only after they've exhausted all other options.

31. If, after months of being short-handed, you one day notice that your unit is manned up at 120% of TO and E strength, and 35% of them are native Spanish-speakers, check the newspaper, and see which country in Central or South America has been pissing us off, because we're probably going to invade it.

32. If the ship you're on is homeward bound, and you notice on your last port call they're taking on traincarloads of fresh fruit just before the homeward leg, check CNN, and see which country in the world has been pissing us off, because that's where you're going.

33. If you see a number of busses on a weekend loaded with troops (or you're on them), and headed from Ft. Bragg to Pope AFB, see #31 and # 32.

34. On a night compass course, never fasten your helmet chinstrap. That way, if a spider rappels down over the brim an inch in front of your face at oh-dark-thirty, taking your helmet off is much preferred to running through the woods of Ft. Knox screaming "Aaaaaaagh!" and running into trees, which annoys your partner for the course and sometimes involves medics. But it may entertain other travelling pairs nearby for days.

35. While generally, almost all second lieutenants are idiots in some notable way, make sure you see the 2d Lt. in question in his dress uniform before you make this assumption. If you notice a Good Conduct Medal and a couple rows of fruit salad on his ribbon rack, re-appraise your assumptions carefully. If you notice any individual awards for gallantry, along with the Good Conduct Medal, abandon the assumption entirely.

36. If you show the same respect and courtesy to Navy Chief Petty Officers you'd grant to your regimental Sgt. Major, you'll never go wrong.

37. Take a black sharpie, and write this on your hand:
Take Care Of Your Medic. Never Piss Him Off.
Unless you're bulletproof, and like shots. Lots and lots of shots.

38. Take note of the fact that the Army mostly makes Warrant Officers at Aviation School, by the busload, whereas the Marines make them out of Sergeants and above, one at a time.
Behave accordingly.

39. When in the field, tracked vehicles always have the right of way. Doubt this at your peril. (Just for enlightenment, ask the treadsters why they refer to pedestrians as "crunchies".)

40. Know that a certain small percentage of officers and NCOs will deliberately try and get you killed deader than canned tuna, even in peacetime and in CONUS. Another much larger percentage will get the enemy killed, given half a chance. Observe carefully until you can decide which type you're dealing with, then bet your chips accordingly.

41. When you're on a large naval craft, and you're not a sailor, the correct terminology for you is "supercargo", and you will be treated as such. Accept this as gospel, try not to take it personally, but make every preparation to get the hell off as soon as you're offered the option officially. Describing ships as like prison, with the opportunity of being drowned, is probably an insult to prisons, even if the food is better.

42. Helicopters always land. Frequently not in the fashion intended by their manufacturers. Bear this fact in mind anytime you're in, under, or around them.

43. If someone carelessly left a volleyball net right in the middle of the volleyball court you were crossing while returning to your barracks intoxicated, it's somewhat understandable if you feel the need to go a few rounds with it to let it know who's the boss. Try not to do so while the Duty Sgt. of the unit who owns the volleyball court watches you.

44. Every time you are made to feel exactly like a criminal by being handed a cup to pee into before morning PT, don't dwell on the feeling. Just channel it for the rest of your life, every time some genius suggests legalizing drugs.

45. Nobody loves peace as much as the guys who'll be holding the bayonets when there's a war. If anybody in the civilian world can't grasp that fundamental truth, it's acceptable, educational, and nearly mandatory, to beat the ever-loving stuffing out of them. Not to demonstrate your peace-loving demeanor, but to demonstrate the truth of the opening premise, because nothing proves a truth like putting skin in the game. In this case, theirs. be continued as the mood strikes...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Cask Of Amontillado

Don was a nice guy, but he liked to taunt people, he thought he knew everything, and he was a freshman. Which is a fatal trifecta in college life.

I forget what started our little go-around, but for whatever reason, Don got on my list.
Not in a malicious, time to go into witness protection way, just sort of a watch your back sort of thing.

And unfortunately for Don, I was not only a fan of Edgar Allan Poe (whence the title reference) but also of Walt Disney; in this case, Cinderella.

Revenge is a dish best served cold. So some weeks later, come Halloween, Don went to a big costume party. And being Don, he did what he usually did, which was drop his keys into the big glass bowl at the front door. Which is why experienced spymasters tell people that predictability can get you killed. Or, in Don's case, worse.

After he dropped off his keys, my wingman kept lookout, and I moved Don's car about three blocks over, then hoofed it back. When I returned, the cones went out, and Don's little orange VW bug got...transmogrified.

Then I dropped the keys back where they'd been, and we rejoined the party, to await the after-party we knew was coming.

Don, of course, was having a great time.
I, dressed up as a magician, complete with stuffed white rabbit in my top hat, at one point told Don he'd been bad. Very, very bad. I took out my Official Magician Magic Wand, told Don to think on his deeds, and said "Poof!"

"Nothing" said Don. "Just like always. You never do anything."
And Don laughed, and went back to his fun.

But, just like in Cinderella, all parties have to end.

So, when it was time to fo home, as usual, Don grabbed his car keys, and headed across the street to drive home.

My friend had his watch on stopwatch mode.

Exactly forty-seven seconds elapsed before Don, breathless, flushed, and diaphoretic, came running back inside.

"My car's gone!"

"Gone?" said everyone. "How?" "Why?" "Who'd touch your piece of crap beetle?" And best of all, "Where did you park it?"

"Right over there!" whined Don.

"Let's go look for it!" said everyone.

And in a matter on moments, they found Don's car.
Except where had been a beat-up 1960s orange VW bug, was now a 1980s large orange pumpkin. With 4 large plastic toy car wheels, just like Don's custom rims. And 4 white plastic horses, attached by leather shoelace reins, and driven by a small white cat toy mouse. With a coach whip and a little paper top hat.

Stacy saw it, and bent down to examine the pumpkin. "What's your license, Don?"

Don repeated his license plate number.

"They match" said Stacy.

"Why Don," I said, "it appears that somehow, your car has magically been turned into a pumpkin."

"That's not funny!" he protested.

"Oh yes it is!" said someone in the crowd.
"You shouldn't have stayed past midnight." said one of the other girls.
"Your fairy godmother's going to be pretty pissed at you." said one of Don's friends.

This was going even better than I'd hoped.

"Seriously, dudes, where's my car??" begged now-frantic Don.

"Why Don, I was at the party all night. And you know me. I never do anything, right?"

"Okay, well...maybe I was...mistaken."

"Maybe? Don, you should know never to mess with magic powers beyond your understanding. Bad things can happen."

"Now let's go inside, and see what we can do about finding your car."

And, once again, Don dropped his keys into the glass dish in the hall.
Whereupon wingman scooped them up unobtrusively, retrieved the car, re-parked it, and hid the pumpkin and accessories.

He got back just as Don was finishing his phone call to his parents, explaining he couldn't find his car. It was hard to look sad along with him without laughing out loud.

"Don, I think you've learned your lesson. So I'm going to do you a favor. I'm going to tell you how to find your car."

Don was a broken almost-man now.

"Close your eyes. Click your heels together three times, and say "There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home."

"That's stupid! Where's my car?!"

"Don, haven't you learned yet? Don't mess with the magic. Just do it."

Click. Click. Click. "There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home."

"See how easy that was? Good night, Don."

And Don went outside, and found his car magically restored, right where it was supposed to be.

And he ran to his car, and almost hugged it. Then he drove home.
For the rest of college, whenever Don would get too full of himself, all we had to do was flash him a postcard picture of a fat little pumpkin and 4 plastic horses. Thank you, Dr. Pavlov.

And Don was always good, and never questioned the Magic again.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Toto, We're Not in Kansas Anymore

One lovely day, working the Glamor side of the entertainment business, i.e. in close proximity to the actual Skid Row, brought me in close contact with one of the finer examples of homo sapiens kansiensis hypercredulous, or as they're known on sets, P.A.s.

In healthcare, a P.A. is a Physician's Assistant, a highly-skilled Master's level graduate of an accredited university trained to do high-level assessment, treatment, and write prescriptions for patients under the supervision of a licensed M.D. They make roughly between $70-90K/year hereabouts.

But in Hollywoodland, a P.A. is a Production Assistant, a virtually unskilled, untrained graduate of getting off the bus from Kansas (also Alaska, Alabama, or Arkansas to Wyoming, plus 9 territories and 180 other independent countries worldwide), running directly to the nearest studio, and getting abused as traffic cones with legs, sandbags with legs, runners, shushers, doormen, doorstops, idiot wranglers, and pretty much anything else not covered by a collective bargaining agreement with a specific union local, under the direct supervision of the 1st and 2nd Assistant Directors. They make roughly between $100-300/day hereabouts, usually divided by 20+ hours per working day. Really. They're generally enthusiastic, eager, frequently rather intelligent and educated, always under-appreciated and thoroughly battered, and occasionally, in a street sense, dumber than a truckful of bags of hammers.

The nearest military equivalent is the guy they hand a pointy stick to and send into a minefield to clear it, hang over the side of a ship en route at the end of a rope with a paintbrush and rust scraper, the kid with a potato peeler and 10 tons of unpeeled potatoes in the back of the mess hall, or the guy out behind the CP on some lonely mountaintop burning half a drum of $#!^ every day to keep the disease and vermin down.

So I feel for them, root for them, help them a bit when I can, and try to keep a close eye on them so they don't hurt themselves until they learn a thing or three.

Thus, standing on a suitably deserted street bordering on Skid Row, with its plethora of homeless humanity flotsam and jetsam, found P.A. Butch outside with me. I, enjoying the warmth of the sun on a Santa Ana wind day before our day turned into a long night in Pissville. Butch running to and fro with each new update over the radio, fecthing this, carrying that, and generally building leg muscles while wearing out an already well-worn set of Nikes. But at least he's working in show business.

And Butch was actually (I swear it's true, I'm not picking on Jayhawks) from Kansas, having arrived some two weeks earlier, in his hand-me-down beater car, and with visions of someday thanking the Academy for recognizing his latest blockbuster masterpiece of cinematic art one day.

But at the moment, Butch, like most diligent and dutiful P.A.s, was trying to do the 14 things he was asked/ordered/commanded to do simultaneously, and sailing into the wind in heavy seas.

His particular bugaboo at the moment was doing the other things, while carrying a sheaf of call sheets, script side excerpts, start paperwork for new folks, a wiring diagram for the Space Shuttle, a Manhattan telephone book, detailed lunch orders for half a dozen prima donnas, and random scraps of paper from the 1st AD, 2nd AD, director, and various other folks.

Which, on this blustery day, was no small impediment. So Butch, realizing the obvious solution, carefully picked a less urine-smelling patch of Skid Row pavement, and set everything down very meticulously. Then between gusts, set about to find a suitable weight to hold his arm-carried office in place until he should next have the chance to retrieve it.

Something about his behavior got my other eye towards him, and as it happened, just in time.

Butch was reaching for Just The Thing to hold his papers in place, when I used my seldom-deployed Command Voice, and told him rather urgently to "FREEZE!"

Heel. Roll Over. Play Dead. Good Doggie.

Which Butch did, although not without wondering WTF, as evidenced by the mixture of annoyance and shock on his normally cherubic little newby face.

So as I approached him, I asked him nonchalantly, "Butch, what're you doing, exactly?"

"I'm going to get something to hold down my papers before the winds pick up again."

Sigh. "Okay. What were you going to use?"

"One of those dirt clods right there."

Sigh. Smirk. "Butch, work with me for a minute. Look around here. Do you see any vacant lots in any direction, for blocks?"

Head shake "No."

"And do you see any rocks, trees, or anything organic and natural at all within sight that isn't concrete, brick, or steel, pretty much everywhere around?"

Another headshake "No."

"And have you noticed all those smelly, dirty, and generally horrific-looking folks who live all around us, under, behind, or inside of dumpsters, cardboard boxes, and inside plastic garbage bags?"

Headnod "Yes."

"Okay. So here's the tricky parts: Other than our own crew's portajohns on that trailer yonder, do you see anything within a mile that looks like a bathroom?"

"No, but what does that have to do with...?"

"Work with me just a moment longer. So Butch, what makes you think those lumps all up and down the street are dirt clods??"

And then puzzlement, followed by the slow dawnlike rising of understanding, and then the thoroughly puckered visage of pure disgust, crept across Butch's sadder, but now much, much wiser, face.

"You mean...?!? Right on the sidewalk?!?!?"

Headnod "YES."


Exit Butch, stage left, to retrieve all but the bottom-most and now sacrificial paper from his stack, never to be set down in this neighborhood again.

And swear to Buddha, Butch tiptoed everywhere he went, from then until we wrapped for the night, and left.
Poor kid probably burned his shoes too.

But he'll never pick up another "dirt clod" from east of Broadway for the rest of his days.

Ah well, another life spared, another soul tragically scarred, and a little more gilding rubbed off the luster of Tinseltown.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Equipping the Disaster Clinic: The Basic Stuff

Stocking the room comes next. This is mainly a simple list, thin on explanation, just for information. Mentally, I'm going around the prototypical room, and the ER, to cover what a practitioner would expect to find ready to hand in most cases, but in any case somewhere.

Nota bene that quantities are blank. I don't know how big your group is, or your facility, or how many people you're expecting to treat daily, nor for how many days/months/years.
When X  is the number of items to stock, given the formula  A x B x C x D x E x F x G = X, and no values for the variables, there's no way for me to give you that answer. Work it out for yourselves, or do further planning and consultation. I can tell you that having approximately 10 of almost everything was generally enough to see the average room in a 50+ bed ER through 8-12 patients a day in the busiest ERs in the country. But obviously, if you have less than 50 rooms, more patients, and more days, (or one horrendous disaster/battle/whatever) you'd obviously need more stuff. The ultimate question is how deep you want to go, and for how long. My last hospital had two on-site stockrooms and a 10,000 ft2 warehouse just for ER supply overstock, refilled with any number of items daily, for reference. Knock yourselves out.

The Basic Stuff:
You're going to need a set of cables (and ideally, at least 1 set of spares) for whatever monitor you organize for your treatment room. You'll need single-use sticky leads for the end of the EKG leads; lots of them. You'll need an assortment of BP cuffs size infant through adult thigh size, and several different styles of pulse-ox monitor clip: fingertip, stick-on, ear clip.

Also a thermometer that covers the hypothermia range down to the high 80s, and both oral and rectal probe attachments. Otoscope and opthalmoscope with a supply of speculums.

For delivering 02, you'll need nasal cannulae, face masks with and without reservoir bags, and bag-valve masks. Adult and pediatric sizes depending on your needs assessment.
OP and NP airways.

Suction tips, tubing, and canister(s) for the blood, fluids, or yecch! you suck out.

A cart or cabinet(s) for treatment supplies. Craftsman tool cabinets and equivalent work great, and so do a lot of other things.

Instruments like trauma shears, bandage and operating scissors, hemostats, needle holders, and forceps. Ring cutter and spare blades.

Scalpels in a variety of sizes, and suture material in a plethora of varieties.

Clean gauze squares by the tube, along with sterile 2x2s, 3x3s, 4x4s, and abdominal dressings.
Gauze rolls 1", 2", 3", 4", 6".
Both clean and sterile cotton swabs. Wooden tongue blades. Cotton balls.
Tape rolls 1" and 2", paper, plastic, silk, and waterproof.
Assorted bandaids. Eye bandages, pads, and hard eyeshields. Steri strips.
Tegaderm equivalent clear bandage.
Betadine, Benzalkonium chloride, chloroprep applicators, sterile saline for irrigation.
Double and triple antibiotic ointment.
Hydrocortisone 1% cream.
NuSkin or liquid bandage spray.
Iodoform gauze packing. Penrose surgical drains.
Casting materials, splint padding, SAM and wire splints.
Hare and Sager leg splints, etc.
ACE wraps 2", 3", 4", 6": lots and lots.
Wrist, ankle, knee, elbow braces. Leg immobilizers, post-op shoes, slings, crutches.
Burn sheets, at least one whole body set incl. face sheet, and multiple small, medium, and large covers. Waterjel ointment.
Chux bedliners:a truckload.
Gynie speculum w/light. Maternity pads.
Soft and hard restraints.
Patient slider board and vinyl carry litter/draw sheet.
Transport litter(s): standard, folding, Stokes, etc. with security straps.
Cervival collars, hard backboards.

Bedpans, urinals, barf basins/bags/buckets, washbasins, water/ice pitchers.
Sheets, gowns, pillowcases, blanket(s), pillows, towels, washcloths.

AFAIK, all of this is commercially available, and generally without Rx.
It constitutes the bulk of what's used day in and day out in any major emergency room or urgent care clinic, 24/7/365. While you could get yourself into trouble with this, you'd really have to work at it. Some people could get into trouble with a kid's plastic pretend doctor kit from the toy store, so I can't help that some people should be tied up in a padded room for their own safety. Just don't be that guy.

You could also do a lot of good with it, provided you had (or are) a practitioner with the training, licensure, and skills to take proper advantage of it in rugged times.

In another post, I'll cover the Rx meds and items, and eventually the dreamlist stuff. Probably not all in a row, but we'll see.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Equipping The Disaster Clinic: The Space

Getting back to business for awhile, I've mentioned in post responses on other blogs, and here, that it would be possible to recreate an ER on a budget. Much like automobiles, many people have been in one, but not as many have built one. So, if you were going to do it, what would it take?

Let's imagine the bare minimum one-room clinic treatment room. Because you can work with more, but not less.

It's been successfully accomplished in barns, woodsheds, GP tents, WWI trenchline dugouts, heliborne pods, submarine messhalls, and hollowed out underground tunnels and caves, from dirt-floored to SAC Doomsday variety. Some of these work better than others.

Number one, a dedicated space. Doing it in your living room, for obvious reasons, won't cut it.
So what are the requirements?
The space should be large enough to do what needs doing. Bigger is better, but the smallest functional space would be 8' or so wide and 10' long. In other words, half of a 20' long conex box, or the equivalent. 16' x 20' would be ideal. Anything in between can work.
It needs light (overall, and one movable spot for detaile work)
 climate control (heat, cooling, humidity, and air filtration/purification - think more HEPA than CBRN) 
running water in and out (handwashing sink),
and the ability to clean/decon/sterilize the space at will, ceiling to floor.
A stable floor, impervious to fluids, and easy to clean.
Also the ability to make it dark, quiet, and private, as necessary.
And depending on the situation, possibly the ability to make it blend in or be invisible to the outside world.

Number two, you need something to place the patient on, to work on them, and or allow them to rest.
At the low end, two sawhorses and a pole litter.
At the top end, a height- and angle-adjustable gurney or surgical table, wheeled for easy patient movement.
Rails, straps, restraints, and/or whatever, to prevent patient movement/falls while being moved, unconscious, sedated, combative, or all three.
The ability, like the room, to clean/decon/sterilize it between patients, top to bottom, with a minimum of effort.

A sink connected to that running water supply, and drain away whatever goes in it. Probably a floor drain as well. Both drains should be regarded as blackwater/hazmat drainage. So this isn't going into grey water recycling, because you won't like what plagues that'll create.
Ability to do both eye and whole-body rinse for decon from chemicals, critters, or just from being dirty and funky either in room, or close-by.

A place to organize and store handily the necessary supplies, both for treatment, and for basic patient care like linens, potty breaks, and such.

A vital signs monitor. There is a rainbow of abilities, but the ability to monitor heart rate, respirations, oxygen saturation, and blood pressure are both current standard-of-care, and the least you should aim for. Note I said monitor, not measure. You can calculate spot vital signs with a stethoscope, a BP cuff, a drugstore fingertip pulse ox, and a watch. You might even manage to dedicate someone to repeating the process every minute or five. But that's a waste of them as a resource. It's also not very practical if things are changing fast, and your treatment area is loud. So you want an actual monitor to do this, just like you'll see in 50-90% of ER treatment rooms now, and in 100% of trauma rooms. It's the difference between using a radar gun, and using a speedometer. It's also the difference between having instruments to fly the plane, in this case a patient, rather than just looking at a snapshot of where the plane was 30 seconds ago taken every few minutes. Which would you like your pilot to use if you were on that plane?

A source of supplemental oxygen. Currently, small oxygen concentrators for home use peak out at a delivery of about 6L/minute. You'll need to be able to get to 15L, ergo you'd need either three concentrators dumping into the same supply, or a means of bringing in cylinders of 100% medical oxygen from purified and filtered compressors, and a regulator that'd deliver up to 15L/min. Nota bene oxygen is oxygen, but welding oxygen hasn't had those FDA-approved filters applied to make it jump through the hoop to being medical grade. If you can access oxygen cylinders at all, make the extra effort for a patient to get the right grade. The standard exists for a reason.

A means to suction blood, fluids, and whatever, is handy and frequently necessary.

A place to dispose of simple trash and garbage, and contaminated medical waste. The trash bags and red waste bags in patient rooms is only the front end of that. A means to incinerate those bags and bury the ashes is the necessary back-end. You can't skip either end of that process.

Patient care supplies: gowns, linens, urinals, bedpans, bedside commode. Nearby full bath (sink, toilet, shower/tub) if you can manage it. And a means to wash and decontaminate the linens, and bedpans and urinals, as disposables only work if you've got a warehouse full of them, and a way to keep getting them. If you're envisioning provision only for a small group, a dedicated set per person, plus spares for breakage and wear and tear is sufficient. If you're envisioning care for random victims in a disaster/third world/grid-down situation, rather more will be required.

Treatment supplies: from bandaids on up, which I'll cover in future posts.

That's every room I've ever worked in, in a nutshell. The more you provide, the easier the task of medical care gets. The reverse is also true.