Sunday, July 1, 2012

Big Girl

I always like to lead off with a picture. Preferably something shiny. And Buck (out Portales way) got me thinking about automobiles that I have owned or driven. This is also the first time I've ever posted on a Sunday night. So this post will probably be all over the place, disorganized and haphazardly random. You know, business as usual for the Old AF Sarge.

Now the vehicle in the photo is a 2005 Honda Element. Same make, model and color as my current ride. Take it for what it's worth, but I love this car.

She started her career as the Nuke's first car which she purchased her senior year in college. Seems USAA has a special deal for kids within spittin' distance of being commissioned in the Armed Forces. Using said deal, the Nuke bought this baby.

Now I also like to name vehicles that are in the family. Usually the names stick. For whatever reason, I tagged this vehicle "Big Girl". And she retains that moniker to this day. It just fits. (I should also mention that I refer to the WSO's vehicle as "Mailbox Killer". Has to do with the WSO, her vehicle and a rather unfortunate mailbox in Pensacola. Someday I'll share that story.)

I have to admit up front, I've liked the Element since the moment I first saw one. Something about its blocky, no nonsense lines just appealed to me. When the Nuke actually bought one, I was pretty excited about it. I was even more excited when the Nuke rang me up from Norfolk just before her first deployment. Seems she wanted me to fly down to Norfolk, pick up her vehicle and drive it back to New England. You know, to babysit for it while she was at sea on her destroyer.

Of course, it wasn't "her" destroyer exactly. I'm sure her Captain would have an issue with that characterization, pretty sure he felt it was "his" destroyer. But in reality, the ship belongs to the US taxpayer, and, as I pointed out to the Nuke, she is a taxpayer. Therefore it is, in part, "her" destroyer. But it's also my destroyer, your destroyer, weird Cousin Jimmy up in Somerville's destroyer...

Well, I think you get my drift. The Nuke just asked me never to refer to the ship as "her" destroyer while the Captain was within earshot. Which command I obeyed to the letter. I was tempted to mention this little story to her Captain when I met him, but he is a very large individual. Though a friendly enough chap, I could envision him easily tearing Air Force sergeants limb from limb, should they annoy him. And this was in the wardroom on board the Ike, so I figured all that blood and those severed limbs flying about could've put the officers off their feed, so to speak. So I refrained and the Nuke was pleased.

So I accepted the task to fly down to Norfolk and drive the vehicle back to New England. As the WSO was still in college and wasn't slated to go on her annual Midshipman cruise until later in the summer, she came along. Both for something to do and for to entertain the old man. (That would be me.)

So off the WSO and I went to Norfolk. We figured taking a cab from the airport would be an okay idea. After all, no one else in the family was then in Norfolk (the Naviguesser had left the Navy earlier that year and was out in California). So taxi it was.

We were a little amazed that the cabby at Norfolk International had no idea where the address in Virginia Beach which we gave him was. Why I was amazed, I have no idea. I've had cabbies in New York City who had no idea where Park Avenue was. Looking back on it, I do think I always get cabbies who are not from there, wherever there may be. Of two cabbies in NYC, one was from Taiwan, the other from Venezuela I believe.

Now the fellow we had in Norfolk was from Nigeria. A very nice fellow he was. He actually made a few stops along the way to get directions (meter was off while he did so, a very honest fellow he was as well).

Eventually we arrived at Chateau Nuke and unloaded our stuff. We were hungry so we hopped in Big Girl and headed out to the nearest Micky D's. There for our first encounter with the Southern way of doing things.

Now I'll fess up right now. I'm a Yankee, Northern born, Northern raised. We tend to be in a bit of a hurry up here at times. No muss, no fuss, just get it done. Now.

At this Mickey D's in Virginia Beach, "fast food" was a relative term. We placed our order and 45 minutes later we had our food. Yes, you read correctly, 45 minutes. And I have to say, the place was not busy, not busy at all. They were just moving at a slow and easy pace. What's the hurry?

I've since come to appreciate the Southern way of doing things. When you really step back and look at things, then really "What's the hurry?"

I've learned much from the South. Particularly how to enjoy grits. I have Charleston to thank for that. But that too, is another story. For another time.

So the WSO and I eventually got fed and returned to Chateau Nuke. It was late, it was dark and 'lo and behold, there was a parking space right in front of the Nuke's apartment. Whoa, this never happens back home. So we parked Big Girl and sacked out to get some sleep prior to heading north the next day.

The next morning, we're taking stuff down to the car and I hear the WSO say, "Uh Dad. Did you move the car?"

"Uh no, I did not."

'Lo and behold, there was a big empty space where Big Girl had been parked the night before. My first thought was that she had been stolen. But the WSO pointed out to me that there was no broken glass or any other sign of thievery. Also the Big Girl, in theory, cannot be hot wired. No key, no engine start.

So the WSO and I schlepped up to the apartment complex office to make inquiries. There to discover that the apartment complex had had the car towed for not having the right sticker on it. Which, they informed us, everyone should have as they had sent a letter out two weeks prior to inform the tenants.

I asked the lady if they had any Navy personnel living there. She assured me that they did. I asked her if those Navy people ever went to sea for long periods of time. She assured me that they did.

That's when I asked the lady (in a voice which would've carried over the noise of roaring cannons) that "GUESS WHERE MY DAUGHTER WAS WHEN YOU SENT OUT THAT GODDAM LETTER????!!!"

She didn't even blink. She informed me that this was NOT her problem. But if I wished I could use the phone to call a cab to take us to the impound yard. Yes, thank you, "I WOULD LIKE TO USE YOUR GODDAM PHONE!!!"

Again she didn't even blink, just handed me the phone and a phone book. I'm guessing she had been married to a Chief Petty Officer or had been yelled at many times before by disgruntled Naval tenants. I kinda felt like Superman in the presence of kryptonite, all my powers were null and void.

So we got a cab. This cabbie, when told the story of where we were going and why, chuckled and informed us that the Norfolk area is famous for towing people's cars at the drop of a hat. Upon the slightest pretext. He also knew where the impound yard was. About $50 away from our pick up point (yes, I put the distance in cash, for that is what it cost to get there.)

After another $80, we retrieved Big Girl. So now we were $130 lighter than when we woke up and still had 550 miles to go. Fortunately fuel was much cheaper in those days and we had brought a bit of "just in case" money.

We left Norfolk on a gorgeous Saturday morning, excited about being on the road. For the WSO and I have always found it easy to amuse each other. We have pretty much the same idiotic sense of humor and act very much alike. In the WSO's case, the acorn did not fall very far from the tree at all. Much to the chagrin and constant annoyance of the Missus (aka mother of WSO).

We crossed the Delaware bridge into New Jersey and waved goodbye to the sunshine and fair weather. Within minutes we were in a torrential downpour. Which pretty much lasted all the way to Rhode Island. The road trip became something of a grind with the weather having gone straight to hell. But the WSO and I soldiered on and found much to laugh about. Mostly about the utter lack of driving skills of most of the other denizens of the interstate. But we managed and we arrived safely at Chez Sarge, about 8 hours later than planned. But we made it.

For six months I babysat Big Girl. The Nuke's orders were to drive her "occasionally" and keep her in fighting trim. Which I did, perhaps a bit over-zealously.

When the Nuke returned from deployment, the Missus and I drove Big Girl back to Norfolk (the WSO was back in school by then). Upon arrival, the conversation went something like this:

"So Dad, do you like my car?"

"Oh yes, I love that car!"

"How is she running?"

"Oh, she's running great!"

"Uh Dad, you put six thousand miles on my car. How did you drive to New England and back, through Guatemala?"

"Uh, you said to drive it around from time to time."

"Mom, did Dad drive my car everyday? To work and everything else?"

"Yes, he did."

I was busted. The Nuke was annoyed but she also appreciated how much I enjoyed her car. So I was let off with just a slap on the wrist. Needless to say though, the next time the Nuke deployed, I was not asked to babysit her car. Wonder why?

But a few years later, the Nuke was in the market for a new vehicle. Not because she needed one, but because she wanted one. As she could afford it, who was going to say no? (By the way, to my knowledge, no one has ever actually said "No" to the Nuke and gotten away with it. Just sayin'.)

So the Nuke turned to me and said, "Dad, you really like my car, don't you?"

"Indeed I do, I love this car."

"Alright, it's yours."

"Uh, mine?"

Yes, the Nuke gave me this car. Gratis, no charge, free, no strings attached. Gave me as in "Here's the keys, here's the title. Enjoy."

Which I have, to this very day, some two years after the Nuke gave me Big Girl. The Missus says I'm spoiled. Of course I'm spoiled. But really, is it my fault that I have awesome kids?

I totally have awesome kids.



  1. I totally have awesome kids.

    That you DO. No one ever gave me a car, other than me. What am I doin' wrong?

    My SN2 spent some time in/on a DDG as the CHENG; he's a plank owner on that boat (and he HATES it when I call those things "boats"). He took the USS Mason (DDG 87) from the laying down of her keel at Bath Shipyards through her maiden cruise and more. I was pretty impressed with the commissioning activities for Mason... the Navy really knows how to do some stuff right.

  2. The rules regarding boats versus ships that the kids gave to me: ships are the big gray things, boats are black and go underwater. However, that being said, the Nuke (part of ship's company on a carrier) goes insane anytime the carrier is referred to as a "boat". But, the folks in the carrier's Air Wing normally refer to the carrier as "the boat", not "a boat" mind you, but "the boat". Also other sailors in a carrier strike group will sometimes refer to the carrier as "the bird farm". Of course, the WSO and Big Time always refer to their own carrier as "the boat". Which makes the Nuke go nuts, of course.

    Pretty cool that your SN2 was the CHENG on a destroyer. Believe me that is a BIG job. Especially if the Captain is relatively clueless when it comes to engineering. (My son had a Skipper like that. His Captain was walking through a passageway down near the engineering spaces and radioed the CHENG: "Hey CHENG, I'm hearing a lot of whirring noises down here. What the hell is that?" The CHENG's response: "Those are fans Captain. To circulate the air..." Captain: "Oh, uh, never mind." Everyone on watch heard the exchange. True story.)

    You're right as to the way the Navy does some things. The Naviguesser is a plank owner of the USS Nitze. We got to go up to Bath to see her christening AND got to go to Norfolk to see her commissioning. Both ceremonies were awesome. Tradition does have its place. I was always somewhat disappointed with our service for not having much in the way of traditions as compared to the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. Perhaps the Air Force is just too young. Unlike us!

    1. That's a GREAT story about that CHENG and the captain. SN2 has been lucky in that both his captains understood engineering during his department head tours. One of those guys, his captain on Mason is now an admiral and "godfather" to SN2.

      And apropos o' nuthin... SN2 did a three-year tour on boomers when he was on the E-side of life, so I get the boat/ship thing... I just love to yank his chain. He has a rough go of it when his brother, he, and I all get together in the same place at the same time... him bein' the Black Sheep o' the fambly. I still don't know how/where I went wrong... ;-)

  3. We call it a boat to irk those who drive boats! Sounds like WSO and Big Time are successfully carrying on the fine tradition, much to the chagrin of the Nuke. On another note, I have to admit I got angry when I read the part about the car being towed. We don't expect people to thank us for our service, but when one completely disregards the requirements of that service, my blood tends to get a little hot. You took it better than I would have I think.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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