The Longest Christmas

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Two Rivers

Sometimes minutes can seem like an eternity.

Submitted: December 24, 2017

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Submitted: December 24, 2017



My longest Christmas began December 23, 1966.  I was in United States Air Force in Port Austin, Michigan, on a remote radar site.  It was cold and dark with spits of snow blowing from the winds off Lake Huron.  Not that I got to see any of that.

My partner and I had been selected by our section chief to work Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Our boss knew we were both single and no family to celebrate with.  Henry and I had been moved from our normal duty section to Maintenance Control.  It was a menial, thankless job.  Basically, we took calls from the maintenance sections of equipment outages and forwarded the calls to Division Headquarters.  The thinking was, I guess, we could set on the phone, while the section could go on with the repairing the equipment.  Also, it did give a clear history of the recurring maintenance being done. 

And, it was boring!  Even during the day shift, there was still time to get coffee and walk around and chat with fellow airmen in the area.  But, on the holidays which we were “requested” to work, it was just ourselves.  I was really bitter about the whole thing.  My supervisor had to take me aside and counsel me.  He put it this way, “You can work with a good attitude, and I guarantee you another stripe, or you can continue as you are and I’ll make sure you are disciplined for insubordination.  It didn’t take me long to figure the best course of action. 

The schedule was set up.  We would work twelve-hour shifts, seven to seven. I would work days, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; and Henry would work nights.  However, on New Year’s it was to switch.  I’d work the night shift and he was to work the day shift.

I showed up the Morning of Christmas Eve and began my Christmas ordeal.  I took one or two calls and that was it.  I read books, listen to the radio, wandered into different offices shuffling through the officers’ papers, all uninteresting stuff.  I went up to the maintenance section of the FPS-24, the radar where our office was on the second floor.  I drank more coffee, batted the breeze, and played cards.  Then I’d go down to see if I had missed any calls.  I hadn’t.  I drew cartoon pictures, tried to see if I could get a free coke out the machine by tipping it back and forth.  It didn’t work.  I called my brother, Louis, in the air force too, on the tact lines to wish him a Merry Christmas.  We talked for about half an hour.  When I hung up, I got the idea to call myself around the world and to the phone on the next desk.  It worked!  I would say hello, and then rush to the other phone to hear myself say hello, because of the delay in lines. 

In the last hour, I was counting the minutes leading up seven o’clock when Henry was to relieve me of this misery.  Seven o’clock came and went, and no Henry.  At midnight, still no Henry.  I was furious!  I called his barracks.  I called his girlfriend’s house from the number given to me by his buddies.  Nothing!  I finally figured it out; he was not in the area.  Because Maintenance Control was a twenty-four-coverage workstation, I wasn’t going to leave, and Henry knew that.  As the night and the next day wore on, I got a lot of sympathy from the other guys.  However, I plotted my revenge. 

When our normal duty cycle started and everyone was back for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s, I left without saying a word. 

But, when New Year’s Eve came and I was supposed to be at work at 7:00 pm I was merrily at home 270 miles away.  The whole radar site could have dropped into a hole as far as I was concerned. 

Seven in the morning the day after New Year’s the supervisor called me to his desk.  “Why didn’t you show up for your shift on New Year’s,” he asked.

“Ask Henry why he didn’t show up for his shift at Christmas?”

He looked over at Henry.  “That’s it!  I’m sick of all this crap!  I’m putting an Article 15, in both your files.”  Henry finally apologized, and we did endure each other’s company in a fashion.  Our supervisor never put the reprimand, in our files.  But he did get even.  He extended our time from six months to nine months.  I received the stripe he promised, but I never got to work on the equipment.  The stripe promoted me to buck sergeant and forced me into becoming a supervisor on returning to my normal duty section.  I spent the next two years supervising maintenance on equipment that I had never even turned a wrench on. 



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