I have been in Maryland since Sunday night, having flown out on that inauspicious day (immediately following Thanksgiving) to teach a two-week course. This is my “check ride” in which I am co-teaching a class with a full-time instructor. If I do well, I will be certified as adjunct faculty for an accredited institution of occupational education. In addition to being a heck of a nice NCOER bullet for this year, this certification will allow me to schedule and teach this particular course closer to home so we can stop sending our people to Hawaii for it. (As you may imagine, this aspect of it has not exactly endeared me to my coworkers.)
My class has eighteen students. Seven (7) of them are company-grade officers, and are there only as part of a junior officer development program. Not a one intends to ever use the skill set I am trying to teach–they might supervise people doing such things–and they are at best indifferent to the subject matter.
(Side note: I don’t think I’ve ever been in a small room with seven captains before; you can practically hear the ambition.)
The two-week class dates tragically overlap with December’s drill weekend and concurrent battalion mandatory fun (the so-called “holiday party”). Words cannot express my sorrow at this circumstance, in part because English is not good at describing concepts so utterly separate and distinct from existence. Maybe Lovecraft could do it.
So. Maryland. My thoughts are not overly positive at this time.
Upon arrival Sunday, I was drained and hostile from unpleasant flights and sub-minimal sleep of dubious quality. On Monday afternoon, however, I immediately engaged in the most pressing of my TDY tasks: securing a source of beer for my hotel refrigerator. Not knowing the location of a local grocer, I settled for that classic vendor of alcohol in a pinch: 7-Eleven around the corner.
Erm. Lots of so-called “soft” drinks, but no beer. OK, maybe this is a strange store for some reason. There is another convenience store just down the street. But again… no beer? Whiskey tango hotel, over. What is wrong with this place? Must I find a grocery? This makes no sense.
Once is misfortune; twice is enemy action (yes, I skip coincidence). Drastic measures were called for. I would have to talk to strangers. The hotel lobby had some, right? I would go talk to those ones.
“Where do you buy beer in the state of Maryland?” I hoped I was pronouncing it right.
“Huh?” The two pimply-faced youths behind the front desk stared at each other in confusion, carefully not making any sudden moves in case this crazy not-from-here person was on the edge of some sort of episode.
I won’t recount the whole conversation, with its awkward pauses as we tried to find common language with which to communicate these heady, philosophical ideas about Federalism, Quaint Local Customs, and Unamerican Ideas, but в конце концов it seemed that one could only purchase alcohol (of any stripe) at designated, specially licensed stores of a type and class that did not include groceries, convenience stores, or anywhere else that I was likely to go.
Curse you, Maryland. Curse you. How many strangers would I have to speak with before my fridge would be occupied by brew? Just what kind of quest would this become? I was so distraught over this ridiculous restriction that I adjourned to my room in confusion and anger for the evening. (I’m sure that for the remainder of my two weeks here, I will be That Guy.)
All did end well. The following afternoon I performed an extensive map recon and identified one of these Repositories of Inebriating Agents that was less inconveniently located than every other such place. I finalized my will, updated my insurance, said my prayers, and stretched thoroughly before getting on the local highway, and after a great sojourn of perhaps 2.5 miles, walked into the store and bought a Blue Moon variety 12-pack because there really wasn’t anything there that I couldn’t buy at home, and Blue Moon was a) good and b) on sale. (There were lots of northwest brews, interestingly.)
I need to start planning my weekend. I don’t know when/if I’ll have to come back here, so I must prioritize my free time carefully. Unlike when I go to Hawaii, there is a lot that I want to do here, so I do not intend to spend my weekend in the hotel room or waiting at the airport extra early. But I don’t want to spend it behind the wheel, either; that way lies dragons–or at least ulcers. This shall require forethought.