Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Walk Like a Duck

And then he found himself on a dark Coatesville street with a bunch of strangers being handed a small Bible...

In the mid-1960s The Kid got this letter that said, "Greetings". Somewhere within it he was told to be on this street corner in Coatesville at a very early hour of the morning.

So there he was and it was still dark out. He was milling nervously about, shaking a bit because it was chilly and he was a little nervous. Other young men kept arriving on the street corner and some paced along with him, others huddled along a building smoking and not a few cursed the hour and the cold.

Eventually a bus pulled to the curb and men shuffled toward its door. These two women appeared from somewhere, standing on each side of the line and as each man boarded they handed him a little book with a burgundy cover. It was a New Testament (King James Version). The Kid's stomach tightened. What were they going to do at the other end of this bus route? Ship him right from the bus door to the battlefield?

He stuck the little Bible in his back pocket.

The door hissed closed and the bus rumbled off to Philadelphia. It was pretty quiet inside. Everyone looked a bit glum. Some tried to sleep, some flipped through the New Testament, but no one said much of anything. By the time the bus pulled up at 401 North Broad Street in the city the sun had come up.

We were herded into a long room with benches down each side and told to sit. A uniformed man entered. He had sergeant stripes on his sleeve and a lot of hash marks below. His tone said he meant business and he told us to count off by twos. Then he gave instructions in that clipped, acronym-filled style of the military and the police. The Kid didn't understand half what he said, but caught enough to know his next step.

"At 800 hours, Number Ones will fall out and proceed to the yellow line to your left." or something like that.

When the clock reached 8:00 AM someone else (not in a uniform) came in and said, "Would number ones follow me."

They didn't fall in at any yellow line yet. Number ones were told to go in a room and take off everything but undershorts and socks and only then to line up at the yellow line, which the person pointed to. Number Ones were told they would have a physical exam this morning. Afterward they'd  be allowed time for lunch and at 1:00 in the afternoon would receive a mental test in room such and such.

The Kid undressed and placed his belongings in a basket that was placed on a shelf and locked. Now The Kid was thinking of his friend Ron getting that private examination several years earlier. His friend was done with his Army time now. He had been smart, had joined when the world was at relative peace and been honorably discharged before Vietnam became hot.

As The Kid lined up in his tighty-whities amidst a motley crew of men in various briefs and boxers, his mind flashed back to a similar embarrassment.

He had been a Boy Scout and one summer went to Camp Horseshoe with his troop. Upon arrival they were sent to this open tent and told to strip bare. The Kid didn't like to undress in front of others. He was shy and self-conscious about his body. At the time he was in the Scouts, he was at his adolescent most geeky period. He was tall, gangly and rib-showing skinny. He felt freaky enough fully dressed and the last thing he wanted was people staring at his naked scarecrow body. He never liked the gang showers at Junior High for this reason and this was worse, far worse.

(The Old Goat hates this picture, by the way. The Kid has this stupid grin planted on a head that looks like a balloon about to pop. And those knobby knees between those high-waist shorts and silly stockings -- ugh! The photo should have been burned decades ago.)

All we Scouts were lined up at the front of this tent with open sides, The Kid and all the rest starkers, in Full-Monty Mode, naked as Jay Birds -- get the picture. And the line stretched out across a grass patch in the open air where more Scouts were arriving with their moms and sisters and all kind of strangers who had no business viewing a bunch of boys in the all-together. IT WAS HUMILIATING! And The Kid nor Old Goat have ever understood why we were made to strip naked. When The Kid arrived at the doctor, who was seated on a stool, all he said was, "Spread your toes apart." The Doc bend forward and visibly examined The Kid's toes, declared him free of Athlete's Foot and sent him off to dress. WHY DID WE HAVE TO BE NAKED FOR THAT?!!!!

At least the Government was letting The Kid keep his shorts on. 

Now The Kid was thinking he might fail this exam. He didn't want to end up in Vietnam so he was depending on his physical flaws to save him. He was nearsighted with an astigmatism. He had been born with a damaged ear drum that caused him problems with distinguishing some words. He had also been born with a heart murmur. 

The exam was like a comedy routine, a joke. Did they test The Kid's hearing at all, the Old Goat can't remember. He can remember the eye test and this is no kidding.

"Step up to that line," said a guy in a white coat, presumably a doctor of some kind.

The Kid toed the mark.

"See that chart on the wall, " the Doc asked.

"Yes," said The Kid.

"Passed." said the Doc, "Move on."

The line snaked through various stations in this gym like room until they wended their way to a door at the rear. Here a dozen at a time were taken into a bright, white room where three men in white coats waited. These men walked about them. "Take off your shorts," one of these White Coats said. 

Oh, they must be going to examine our feet!

"Now I want you to squat down and walk like a duck to that end of the room and back again," said the White Coat .

Do you understand what a ridiculous sight that was. The Old Goat is glad his friend Ron wasn't there in those days with his ever present digital camera. Or worse, his Flip Video. The Kid would be a comedy act on YouTube today. 

It’s a hut, hut, quack, quack, quack.

I hear ‘Nam Ain't much fun,
But this here stethoscope
Is protecting my bun
From being shot, I hope.
You guys should have become docs
But today you’re Uncle Sam’s sitting ducks.


Don’t think twice, boys, about
Being embarrassed
Don’t think twice, boys, about
Being embarrassed
Waddling across this floor
Bent over bare-assed.

It’s a hut, hut, quack, quack, quack.

From the play, "Life Ate My Homework"
                                            by Stuart & Larry
                                            Copyright 2005
                                            Lyrics of  "Duck Walk Blues"

At the end of this disgusting display, The Kid and his fellow featherless ducks were ordered to stand at attention while the White Coats circled them again. They were ordered to do another awkward act, which we will not describe here. One of the White Coats stopped behind The Kid.

"What's that on your shoulder, " he asked.

Next: Lunchtime Lunatics, Mental Morons and Final Fate.

1 comment:

Ron Tipton said...


Another excellent posting! How well I remember my visit to 401 North Broad Street. I had to go through the same humiliating routine that you went through and more. Remember, I didn't pass the cough test (one testicle didn't drop.) They pulled me aside and told me to lay on this padded table covered with paper. So there I lay which seemed like an eternity while all kinds of people walked by, men and women! Finally a group of men came by in white jackets and thoroughly examined my private parts for too long. Then I was told that I didn't pass my physical because I had a hernia. I didn't know what a hernia was. I was sick with worry all the way home on the Trailways bus (to Coatesville.) I was convinced taht I was going to die because I had some deadly disease.

By the way, stripping naked for the Boy Scouts when they only examined your toes? You know now what that was all about I'm sure. I had to do the same thing when I applied for a job at Lukens Steel in Coatesville. So here we were, about 25 of us guys, all ages, butt naked with everything dangling while the secretaries are walking around like no one's business. Now I know what that was all about.

The last time someone told me to strip naked and it didn't make sense I refused. It was at my dermatologist a few years ago. I don't have skin cancer on my penis or butt cheeks. Yesterday when I visited the dermatologist at the VA I only took off my shirt and socks. No need to strip naked. I wasn't asked to. But when I had the sphinctoromety (new a-hole) did have to bend over for them to check to see if my new a-hole was healing. Of course the doctor asked if his internist could watch. I said "Sure, why not?" She was a beautiful young Vietnamese woman. At this point in my life it's going to take a lot to humiliate me. We're a lot more vulnerable when we are young.

Good posting Lar. I'm looking forward to your next one.