I was reading something about the established new trend for college students to take what they call a gap year . Rest up . Grow up . Decide this or that about themselves before they continue their education .Plan a worthwhile experience for the year . Gap year .
I was having a beer with my pool buddies tonight over at a place called Hook . They serve a good hamburger there . We drown our sorrows there nowadays , so far , with a beer and a burger at Hook , ever since the pool place closed down suddenly a few months ago .
My friend Bill was telling about his gap year . Well , he slacked off and flunked out of whatever college he had been attending . Not a good time to do that , he admits , it being the height of the Vietnam War and all that . All that , meaning active draft boards needing more and more bodies every month for the Army quotas to fight the Commies and to defend democracy .
Bill and a buddy hitched up to Oregon to try desperately to join the Coast Guard to avoid combat duty . Bill said , when the recruiting officer asked him if he had any health issues , he mentioned his trick elbow , but said it didn’t bother him .
” Next ! “, he heard .
Bill still wonders why he couldn’t just have kept his big mouth shut ; but , such is life . Reminds me of another friend who joined the Navy at that time , also to avoid the infantry . When the Captain asked him if he knew anything about engines , my friend bragged a bit about working on cars , so he spent his Navy years down in the belly of a hot oily engine room , sweating and wondering why he couldn’t simply have kept his mouth shut .
I decided , about this same time in history , to quit school . I had finished one year at UCLA . I turned off the evening news one night to tell my dad my idea . You have to understand that , in those days , the evening news was a big deal , and my dad was glued to the tv , same time every night . Turning off the tv during the evening news was………………….. well, it just wasn’t done . But , my rude action emphasized the significance of my decision to quit school that I’d have to confront him with .
My dad had served eleven years in the Navy . He signed up during WWII and was on board a ship that took Marines out to battles like Guadalcanal , and took wounded Marines back to San Diego or San Francisco. When I told Dad I was quitting school we talked the Vietnam draft for a few minutes . I had my 1A draft card sitting in my pocket . To his credit , my father didn’t call me an idiot . We had a heated
argument discussion about the war and the draft and the military and such .
My friend Bill ended up going to Thailand with the American Army to build roads after he was drafted . When he got home he went back to school and earned his engineering degree . His gap year was spent in Thailand using high explosives to blow up trees , and grading roadways . ” Nineteen years old and in charge of unlimited boxes of dynamite , ” he says , ” Can you imagine that ! ”
I went back east , to Philadelphia , with my friend Jim , whom I had just sold my car to for $100 . Jim had been accepted to University there , and I intended to wander up the east coast and to look around . The car was a 1960 Opel on its last legs and I told Jim that the old rust bucket would never make it back to Pennsylvania , but he was determined to drive it back there , and he asked me if I wanted a ride . We made it all the way .
It broke down only once , several dry miles outside of Winslow , Arizona . Jim told me to hitch into town and find help . When I asked why me ? , Jim said ,” It’s my car ! ” Yeah , and it had been his car for about a week . By chance , a soldier who happened to work in the base motor pool stopped to help and he quickly got us fixed up . No one was picking me up , anyway , when I tried hitching , and we might have been out there in that desert for days had the guy not stopped .
I hadn’t known that my year break from UCLA was actually a gap year . It was , wasn’t it ? Who’d ‘a thunk it ! Gap year . I could’ve told my dad : ” Hey , it’s just a gap year ” ; but I didn’t know . I thought I was just quitting school to find myself , if possible , because I was directionless .
Anyway , after a few months I decided that I’d better git myself back into school, and so I did . Point of this story being , of course ( in case you suspect that there is no point ) that this “gap year” thing ain’t so all-fired new . Some of us been there , done that . Sort of .
Actually , all kidding aside , I think taking a gap year is a good idea . But , what do I know ? I’m a guy who quit UCLA when it cost $180 dollars per quarter no matter how many units you took and to quit meant losing the military deferment as the Vietnam War was heating up and the generals were hounding the President for more and more draftees . I never claimed to be the sharpest tack in the box .
But , such is life . The generals still want more troops and weapons so that the country can fight and win the War on Terror . So no one worries much about Commies any more , or what ?