SO THIS IS A PIECE I WROTE – ON REQUEST – FOR A GOVT MAG BUT IT GOT CANNED BECAUSE OF THE INCENDIARY SUBJECT MATTER
(the truth, basically)
I’M RUNNING IT HERE INSTEAD.
The true story of what happened on my first day of National Service.
My first day in National Service can at best be described as traumatizing. I was emotionally scarred, and I think my soul died a little. It wasn’t fun AT ALL. There was no empathic tearing as the National Anthem played, or significant beating of the chest as the surge of patriotism overwhelmed new and nervous recruits group-hugging in camp as a drizzle fell. It was an EPIC non-event marred by a the fact that the powers that be mistook me for a Chinese triad gangster.
All names in this story have been changed to protect, er, ME. For obvious reasons, there will be no mention of camp names, platoon names, people’s names. You know what, no names at all. I remember sitting in a parade square with 400 others, getting in line for the ‘haircut of our lives’. By that I mean being almost completely shorn of what the rest of the human race have – dignity.
Clearly, the HAIRCUT was upsetting enough because I had cultivated a very palatable hairstyle – centre-parted and longer than decent – usually found on professional gigolos in the late 1970s. If the light was right and my Ah Beng dancing skills allowed, I looked like one of the Grasshoppers, aka those super sleazy back-up dancers of Anita Mui’s. But the hair clippers owned by the government are very democratic, in the sense that everyone comes out of that barber shop looking like a stage three chemo-patient.
So there I was, huddled with the rest on the ground, like freshly shorn sheep, when a large, very gruff man who needed better complexion – he would have won Mr Congeniality in a Manhunt – pulled 20 of us from the troop to go for a routine urine test.
This is getting better.
Firstly – You get your hair shaved off, so that you look like an immigrant laborer.
Secondly – You have to pee on command.
Thirdly – We were given little plastic cups and 60 seconds to fill them up. I had gone just before my haircut and the humiliating process can best be described as ‘sputtering’. That was also the day I learnt what ‘pressure’ was.
When all the recruits were organized and herded like cattle back into the troop, someone yanked my right ear just as I was about to march off with the rest. (I suspect he yanked my ear because I had no hair left)
“YOU, STAY HERE,” was all Mr Congeniality said. I felt like I had raped his unborn daughter.
The next few minutes were terrifying. I was ushered into an interrogation room, stripped down to my underwear and made to sit down on a too-cold stainless steel chair. I remember seeing the words ‘stainless steel’. I was amazingly observant in the midst of fear.
Four other officers, mostly sergeants, came into the room. Their grave expressions suggested that a lot of people owed them a lot of money. They had fists the size of claypots. One of them spoke like he was translating Hokkien into English, “Ey, tell me NOW, which GANG you join?! Where are your tattoos?!?”
My mind raced. My brain felt like exploding. ‘Gang’? I was part of the Debate Team and the Bookworm Club, and I roller-skated with a regular group of kids in a roller-disco that reeked of athlete’s foot, but I was never in a ‘gang’. What was the fuss about?
“WHERE ARE YOUR DRUGS?? We found drugs in your urine! Tell us now, where did you get the drugs! Are you a dealer? You sell to who?!” I almost shat my pants because these angry baboons looked like they were about to gang-rape and bukkake all over me in anger. Oh God Noooo.. I didn’t wanna die like this.
It took an hour of hair-pulling confusion, denial, raised voices and empty detention threats before someone asked if I was coughing out of fear. I said, “I’m sick. I took cough mixture this morning.”
The atmosphere in the room relaxed a like flaccid balloon. Two of the officers seem disappointed. They yawned and left the room. Mr Congeniality said, ‘You fucking idiot, why didn’t you say so. That’s why your urine was positive for narcotics.”
I was sent back to the herd, SICK & ABUSED. Codeine? I looked it up in a dictionary and it said, ‘CODEINE – An alkaloid found in opium, a narcotic whose effects resemble those of morphine. An effective cough suppressant used in cough medicines. It is addictive.’ NO WHERE DID IT BLOODY SAY ‘JUVENILE GANG MEMBER AND DRUG DEALER’. Mofos.
So there. National Service. If you don’t want to be accused of being a gang-member and drug dealer, cough your way to freedom. That, or get an doctor’s letter.
The Last Alpha Male found the rest of his National Service to be fulfilling and fun. Really. He talks to himself on Twitter.com/TommyWee