Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Another Marine Corps Memory

I mentioned a couple weeks back about a time that I spent at Fort Ord near Monterey while taking part in urban warfare training. I wrote about one of our adventures during training. I'd like to balance that with an off-hours story.

On a Saturday afternoon a few of us caught the bus from Fort Ord into Monterey. We were just going into town to sight see eat and then later, drink. Among the members of our group were Jay Steinmetz and the New Corporal. The New Corporal was a little guy with freckles that reminded me of a diminutive Richie Cunningham. I'll call him Richie since I have forgotten his name. We knew Richie before he was a corporal so when we were off duty he was just one of the guys and fairly low on the totem pole. Jay was a big round punk rocker from L.A. who wore tinted prescription glasses because he claimed his eyes were light sensitive. The first sergeant hated the glasses which caused Jay to love them like a bass-head loves his trunk. Jay was a fun person to be around, he was smart, funny, loved to laugh and liked good music. He also didn't take shit from people.

As the bus got inside the city limits of Monterey it started making frequent stops and picked up civilians and dropped off military personnel. I don't remember him getting on but at some point a little wiry guy ended up sitting across the aisle from me on the bus. The eight of us were gathered in the last three rows of the bus. He caught my eye a couple of times and tried to be intimidating. I just did my best to ignore. I didn't feel too threatened surrouned by a bunch of my buddies. After a few more stops I notice he has a small pen knife in his hand and is slowly opening and closing the blade and muttering about "being looked at" and "I've been to jail."

Jay sees what is happening and from his seat in the center of the aisle in the last row speaks up to the guy with the knife. "Hey, man put that knife away. What the fuck's wrong with you?"

The knife wielder mumbles a bit more about just getting out of jail and he shouldn't be messed with.

Now Jay gets mad. "Goddammit! I said put the knife away, this is a bus! What the fuck?! Who are you trying to intimidate?"

Richie puts his arm on Jay's shoulder and says, "Steimie, calm down. Don't worry about." Jay never takes his eyes off the guy with the knife and tells Richie to "shut up." Richie does.

Again more mumbling about jail and alleged toughness.

"Get the fuck off this bus, you piece of shit. You and that knife need to get the fuck off, now!" I had never seen Jay so serious before. He was making me nervous. I was seeing in my friend a willingness to be violent. He was not out of control and raging, he was displaying the calm aggression of the boxer.

Now the bum gets coherent, "I don't have to get off this bus, you can't make me."

Steimie plays his trump card, "Look around you, you fucking idiot. This bus is full of Marines." He finally does look up from his knife and really looks around him. He sees three seats full of Marines and we all, even me, are wearing our Marine faces. For a group of guys that generally didn't like the Marines is was a bonding. "You see, you fucking moron. We will fucking waste you if you don't get off the bus. Right now!"

Next stop he got the fuck off. We didn't react in any way because Jay had got himself worked up and needed a few minutes to calm down. I caught Richie's eyes and he raised an eyebrow. After we got off near Cannery Row I asked Jay what was up with his performance. He was smiling again and he said, "Fuck him, he was tyring to intimidate us. I ain't putting up with that."

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