I joined the Navy because I didn't want to go to college right away. I was sick of school. I thought it might be nice to spend a few years travelling the world.
So early that morning I climbed into the waiting van.
The recruiter drove me and a couple other guys to the MEPS station in Los Angeles. I completed more paperwork, peed in a cup to prove I hadn't taken any drugs in the last thirty days and then waited. I finally boarded a bus later that day with about 50 other guys.
There was a mix of bravado and quiet reflection on the bus ride to San Diego (the loudest talkers were the first to drop out). We arrived outside the San Diego Recruit Training Center at about 11:30 that night. A guy in a white uniform climbed on the bus and yelled at us to grab our things and line up outside.
I had seen the movies. I was expecting pit bulls in perfectly pressed uniforms to march on the bus with profanity and spittle flying, immediately identifying my deepest insecurities and causing me to void my bladder, before marching me in shame in front of all the other deeply shaken recruits. This guy was not exactly friendly but he didn't seem like he was going to eat me alive either. He marched us to a room and then yelled at us to line up on squares painted on the floor.
Another uniform clad guy starting calling roll. After questioning the parentage and intelligence of all of us, the guy had confirmed our identities and marched us to another room. More uniform clad people threw toiletries and towels at us. Finally, at about 2:00 AM we were led to a barracks to go to sleep.
About two hours later, a blinding light and a banging metal trash can woke me from my dreams of home. Men in uniform marched through the barracks yelling at us to get up, brush our teeth and "fall out." I stumbled to the bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror.
I really did want to go to college.