Yesterday: The Way It Was

On another blog I had written about the overused phrase “Thank you for your service”. This declaration used to happen to me a lot. Not so much anymore. I wear a denim jacket with USMC embroidered in red above the left pocket. Just below that are miniatures of the rows of ribbons I earned during my four years in the Marine Corps. I wear it to show that I’ve lived through an adventure. When I get recognition I like to say “well, it was an adventure.”

Here’s what I said on July 29, 2012:

But I don’t care.  I always feel a touch of sadness for the one wishing that on me, as if he’s staking a claim on my “experience”.  He doesn’t know what he’s saying; he’s articulating what he’s picked up around him, not able to identify it as social subjectivism geared toward service–an idea now brought to life as a relevant slogan: “thank you for your service”.  Ayn Rand’s statement on military service applies not to society, or any collective, but to the individual:

“Even if he enlists in the Army and hears it called “service to his country,” his feeling is that of a generous aristocrat who chose to do a dangerous task. A European soldier feels that he is doing his duty.” –Ayn Rand, Philosophy: Who Needs It, “Don’t Let It Go”, p. 253

Be that as it is, yesterday (actually, it was five days ago on February 17) I got a “thank you for your service” that I appreciated, and returned in kind. Here’s the story:

I had an appointment with a medical specialist is a small town 64 miles away. The appointment was for 1PM. We left at 10:45AM, planning to find a place to stop and have a lunch before the doctor’s appointment. We were given directions by the doctor’s office via a Yahoo map. Linda was my navigator. We missed none of the steps in the directions, but by 12;30 we found ourselves lost. I was preparing for all the costs of a missed appointment, and just find our way back home. But there was still time. We drove through little towns. The feeling was odd, as if we were back in the 1950s, and then another town the 1960s. The houses and buildings were old, but in good repair. She said about one large white house: “that had to have been built in the 1800s.” The streets were clean. All was in good order. Twice stopping at gas stations for directions, the people were kind and helpful. The directions they gave seemed so simple, but they got us further lost. I turned around, stopped at the only business building on the road, a dentist’s office. She didn’t know our destination that well. But she typed in the information and printed off new directions. There were four little local “roundabouts” to go through before making one last left turn. Finally, I could see we were damn close but one more wrong turn or missed sign and I would miss the appointment; it was now 12:50PM. And we’d driven 96 miles. I had to take the next right into an empty lot, but for a cop car.

1950-Plymouth-Concord-New-York-City-police-car

Looking at the map one more time, I had no idea how far away we were or even if we were on the right road. I drove over to the cop car, got out and said “Hello officer” and told him our situation. Smiling, he said “you want me to take you there?” And so he did. We had a police escort (without the flashing lights)! He took us right up to the door of the doctor’s office. It was less than a mile. But we would not have found it. By then I was suffering a sensory overload what with all the twists and turns and streets with signs for this and that. I parked, went over and thanked the cop. He said “No problem. Thank you for your service”. And for the first time I ever used that phrase, I replied “thank you for your service.” And I meant it.

That cop was happy to be helpful–the way we were taught growing up in the 1950s: that cops were helpful members of our neighborhood, not to be feared.