Rats! Episode 05 – Life’s a drag, speak up!

The above scenario actually happened to one of my buds, Valerie, and it was frikkin’ hilarious when it happened. It may not make sense to any of you civilians, so let me explain.

New cadets/rats were not allowed to walk in the hallways of the cadet dormitories, which were Rasch and Brodie Hall back then (they’re probably still Rasch and Brodie Hall, but I don’t keep up with this things, and I know they’ve been other dorms in the past and why am I going on about this now?). Anyway, rats weren’t allowed to walk in the hallways. We had to drag. Dragging is a fast-paced march, done at the very side of the hallway, up against the right-side wall. New cadets marched quickly, in single file, right shoulders scraping the wall until they came to a point where they had to turn. Then they did a 90 degree turn in the appropriate direction and kept going. If a new cadet ran into any obstacle in the hallway, like say one of those giant rectangular trashcans that were spaced about every 15 yards along the way, then the new cadet had to do those 90 degree turns all the way around the obstacle to get back to the right-side wall. If you were with a group of other rats, you all dragged together in single file to make a rat train. If you were on your own, you dragged on your own, and you hugged that damned right-side wall every step of the way. The only time a rat got to walk in the hallways was when he or she was on mail duty and needed to be able to look at the doors to deliver the mail.

Oh, and did I mention that while dragging, rats were not allowed to look around? Eyes had to stay straight ahead. You couldn’t look at anyone else in the hallway, even if that person was directly in front of you. That would be gazing, and gazing was bad. People got demerits and got dropped for push-ups and suffered all sorts of nastiness that upper classmen liked to visit upon rats if gazing occurred. So all the rats marched around the dorms like… well, rats in a maze, with blinders on.

Oh, and did I also mention that we had to speak up to everyone in the hallway and greet them by rank and last name? See, that’s what’s going on in the cartoon above. That particular rat has been caught dragging out in the hallway, and has spoken up but has not addressed the upper classman in question by rank and name! Honest to god, we were expected to know who was in the hallway just by the sound of their shoes and whatever other blurry details we could sneak a peek at through our peripheral vision. Sounds impossible, yes? And yet somehow we did it.

And just to make things even more interesting, because you know this wasn’t interesting enough, all new cadets could only leave the dorm through one doorway. And that doorway was at the exact opposite end of the building from where the female cadets were rooming.

So imagine this. It’s 8AM. I have a class on the far side of the campus in 20 minutes. I’ve got my shirt tuck done, my shoes polished and my books packed. I grab my hat (also called a cover in military parlance), fling open the door to my room and rush out into the hall. After three paces, I hit the far wall pop a right turn of precisely 90 degrees and start to drag. Every fucking upper classman on that floor is out in the hallway – heading to class, ironing uniform shirts, burning popcorn in the microwave oven, or taking a trip to the head (another military term meaning toilet). And as I’m dragging along the hallway, I hear their footsteps, catch a glimpse of their silhouettes, and say good morning to everyone of them by name and rank all the way through the whole damned building. I can’t look at anyone or just plain walk until I hit the door to the outside and then I can relax, just a little.

That was my life, every day for I can’t remember how many months. Crazy, ain’t it?

About Cynical Woman

Cartoonist, Artist, Geek, Evil Crafter, Girl Scout Troop Leader and Writer. Also, a zombie. I haven't slept in I don't know how long.
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  1. I believe they call it “Character forming”. Yeah, right… 😉

  2. Y’know… I am SO glad I only went through boot camp…

  3. Kes,

    In addition to being a rat at Virginia Tech, I also had to do 6 weeks of camp at Fort Bragg the summer after my junior year. So it was sort of like I got to do both ROTC and boot camp. It SUCKED!

  4. Steve,

    Yeah, I turned out to be quite the character after all that, didn’t I?

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