Monday, January 05, 2009


One day recently, SFC McG and I wound up traveling to a number of different places via convoy, after it became clear that the weather was not going to permit us to get where we needed to go via the air. I'm deeply indebted to the Battalion Commander and his Command Sergeant Major for making room for us in their vehicles, and for giving us enough time at each stop to be able to do Christmas Mass for the troops. I'm also indebted to the Chaplains organic to the units we visited for putting out the very last-minute word that SFC McG and I would be showing up early the next morning, once it became clear late the night before that we'd have to be changing our travel arrangements!

Unlike other convoys we'd been on, this time both SFC McG and I were given headsets so we could listen to what the others in the vehicle were saying to one another. The crew members were a couple of junior Enlisted plus an E-5 Sergeant. Sar'nt Major, SFC McG, and I rode with them.

Once we were underway, Sar'nt Major laid down the ground rules, which basically were, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." He then challenged me to tell a joke, because any Officer riding with him had to pay the price of admission; the Enlisted would pass judgment on the joke.

I'm not one for telling jokes (though I've been called a joke, often and by many....), because I almost invariably screw them up. One Jesuit wag once accused me of laughing three times at every joke: once when it was told, once when I remembered it, and once when I finally got it.

I felt really on the spot.

Some people have an extensive repertoire of jokes from which they're able to rattle off one after another. I'm not one of those people. So there I was, having to come up with something, knowing they were going to be passing judgment on it.

Now, fortunately for me, there's one joke that I actually "got" the first time I heard it, and have managed to remember. It's a bit rude, so I won't repeat it here, but it doesn't offend individuals or classes of persons, so I figured it might just work. I actually like it, and still find it funny after all these years. The only problem is, that I find it so funny I can't usually get through it without cracking up at the punchline.

So, I threw caution to the wind, and croaked out my joke. I'd not told it in a while, so the delivery was a bit choppy, but I managed to set out the story line so that the punchline would work. Despite 'losing it' a bit at the end, I got through it so that they could understand it.

Sar'nt Major's eyes got really big as he looked over at me at the end of the joke, and he cracked up, as did the others in the truck. Even SFC McG, who's a bit more (well, a *lot* more) proper than I am, smiled. The junior Enlisted personnel, who'd been a bit reticent having a Chaplain in the vehicle (or maybe just an Officer), seemed to relax and open up, after they stopped laughing.

I guess I passed the test.

The rest of the all-day journey I felt a bit as though I were eavesdropping, listening to their banter. Sar'nt Major was a blast -- very funny, somewhat rude (Soldiers, after all, I guess), and very solicitous after the Soldiers in his Battalion.

I felt privileged to be with them all.

Blessings and peace to one and all on this Eleventh Day of Christmas,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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1776 said...

I want to hear the joke so spill it, we can handle it.....

Anonymous said...

Yeah! I'm sure you can pretty it up enough that it's not *too* offensive :D - Donna

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