An Exhaust-ing Errand

| Working | June 19, 2015

(Even the Army has fool’s errands for the recruits to run, as is tradition in many other professions. Usually, instead of being sent in search of “sky hooks” or “anvil grease”, these tend to be a bit more specific. This was a few years ago when conscription was still a thing in Germany.)

Instructor: “You know, the conscripts are getting dumber every year.”

Me: “Nah, you’re exaggerating. They’re just not adjusted yet. Think about it: some of them are away from Mommy for the first time, they’re getting yelled at for the most ridiculous things, and they’re suffering from sleep deprivation. Don’t you remember your boot camp?”

Instructor: “Sure, but even though some were simple, they weren’t this stupid. You know, there’s something I always wanted to try… If this doesn’t work, I owe you a case of beer.” *he yells down the hallway* “[Private #1], [Private #2]!”

(They come running.)

Private #1: “Reporting, sir!”

Instructor: “I need the two of you to go to [area within the base] and report to Sgt. [Name]. He is with the maintenance guys; his office is by the garages for the recovery tanks. Do you know where that is?”

Private #2: “Yes, sir.”

Instructor: “Good. For our upcoming training unit tomorrow, I need a UTM grid from him. He should have it ready; you just need to get it over here.”

Privates #1 & #2: “Yes, get a UTM grid from Sgt. [Name], sir!” *they leave*

(UTM is a specific coordinates system for maps.)

Me: “Seriously? They just had a course on reading maps and coordinates last week, and field-training on that two days ago. There’s NO WAY they’re that stupid. They were probably just too scared to tell you off.”

Instructor: *grins at me and dials a number on the phone* “Yeah, Sgt. [Name]? This is [Instructor]. I sent two recruits your way to get a UTM grid.” *pause, then laughter* “Perfect.” *he hangs up* “And now, we wait.”

Me: “Isn’t Sgt. [Name]’s office like 700 metres from here?”

Instructor: “Yup. I’m telling you, they’re gonna do it.”

Me: “You’re on.”

(About half an hour later, the two recruits come back, struggling with an exhaust grating of one of the tanks, which weighs around 120 kg/260 lbs. We watch them through a window as they arrive on the plaza in of the entrance to the barracks. The instructor opens the window as they put it on the ground for a short pause.)

Me: “You gotta be s****ing me.”

Instructor: “This is fantastic…” *yelling out the window* “What the f*** is that supposed to be?”

Private #1: *audibly panting* “Sir, the UTM grid you wanted, sir!”

Instructor: “Are you f****** with me? If I’d wanted a small one, I would’ve asked for it! Take that thing back and get me the big one!”

(Their faces visibly dropped and they looked at each other, Private #2 quite obviously cursing under his breath. Still, they picked it up and started carrying it back. They eventually reported back empty handed and sheepishly. When told about the prank, they were pretty good sports about it in spite of the hard work and very thankful for the apologetic beers we bought them afterwards.)

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