(a brief excerpt, again...)
Chow was easily the best part of the day before taps. Besides eating, which was one of the few pleasurable things you could do at OCS, you got to see everybody. And everyone got to see you, which could be good or bad or both. More often than not, chow was comedy hour, especially where H class was concerned.
Now, let me amend: I previously said chow was pleasurable. It was, in the barest of senses; you could fill your stomach and thereby not be hungry anymore, which is typically not pleasurable. You could physically taste the food. Marines have not yet figured out how to deactivate taste buds. I believe if they could have, it would have happened a long time ago. Other than that, chow was not pleasurable.
First of all, the candidate would be seated uncomfortably. This would involve sitting on the front third of the seat (This, I heard, was a throwback to days when Drill Instructors would walk along the back of the seats, shoving candidates’ heads into food. Like much of the rumor mill at OCS, this was completely unverified and therefore believed wholeheartedly). Legs together, feet at a 45 and to the left of the table legs. This meant every other man or woman at the table would have a disclocated pelvis by the time the meal was finished. Backs, of course, were straight, and eyes, of course, were staring 1000 yards away. We ate on an eight-count, numbered system. On the first count, the head snaps down. The second count, the left hand comes up from the lap (forget about your right hand completely during any type of activity where it might be useful) and comes to the right side of the plate, where the only utensil permitted was waiting: the mighty war spoon. Three, grasp huge spoon, four, shovel it full of chow. Five, put in mouth. Six, put spoon back and so help you baby Jesus don’t chew or it will be all over. Seven, bring head back up and hand to lap. Eight, chew chew chew. Repeat.
Drinking was much the same, shooting the left hand straight out like a zombie lurching towards brains. Except these brains were two large, large cups of blue powerade and water. (As an aside, approximately 60 ounces of blue powerade consumed daily does interesting things to the old GI tract. More on this later.) You drank as awkwardly as a person could drink, a sad awkward distance-staring robot, finishing all your liquid. So help you baby Jesus if you didn’t.
There were tricks to eating chow, stuff I worked out over long periods of time. The glasses would sweat and scoot, ghostlike across the table once they were empty. I would take the single napkin we were allowed, folded into an inch square, and move the cup, then wipe the table underneath. Precise wiping. Precise movement. I would use my thumb to shove bits of food onto the spoon when staff was distracted. I would keep the fish on my plate longer so I could use it to scoop rice against. If I was sitting in the middle of the table, where nobody could see, I would move my legs wherever I wanted. If a person started laughing uncontrollably, it was best to just keep your head down, as if you were stuck on step 5. And I got stuck on step 5 a lot. Remember, despite all this, chow was the best part of the day before taps. Chow was comedy hour.