Could you repeat that?

Monday morning:

Student has some sort of eye infection. I notice it while “coaching” my students through an assignment.

In our current potion of the course, the day’s lesson is given in the morning and the students have the remainder of the day to complete the assigned task. We’re on design and layout, so they hear a little bit about what they’re doing and have at it. They come to me in the back, one by one. This guy came back and sat down.

“Wow, are you crying?” I asked. He had moisture around his eyes and some weird caked crap lining his eyelashes like clear brownish clumped mascara.

“No, I have an eye thing,” he said, obviously having endured about a thousand questions about his eyes thus far in the day.

“Ah, you get medicine?” I put forward.

“Yeah I have some, but I’m not going to medical. I can’t miss out on class.”

We put the students in a bit of a bind. We tell them they should go to the doctors if they’re ever sick, then we put so much material into the curriculum (as dictated by the actual services), that, if a student misses a day or two, it is terribly difficult to get them caught up before the next round of assignments. This particular student had already been “recycled”, that is, sent to the beginning of the course to start over. Now that he was just two weeks away from completing our three-month course, I didn’t blame him.

“Ah, well, take care of that stuff. Don’t want it to spread.”

Tuesday morning:

My eye itches.

More than the normal itch. It was the sickness.

“Crap,” I thought to myself and said out loud a few times. I didn’t dare rub it and send the oozing fluid to my hands. My eye was watering more than usual. Yeah, looks like I had the pink eye.

“I better get this checked out,” I said to one of my fellow instructors.

“Check what ou–Wow! Why’s your eye all red?” he said, having noticed.

“Uh, I think one of my students gave me pink eye.”

“Which one was it,” he asked, looking around the room. All of our students were in the same room that morning for a large lecture.

“That one,” and I pointed out the culprit.

“Got it. I’ll watch him,” my fellow instructor said. Good on him. Don’t let the carrier out of your sights.

Later that morning (as in five or ten minutes–the time it took me to get to my desk and look up the clinic’s appointment-making phone number), I called the local clinic to see if I could be seen.

Ring one, two, five, click click, ring one, click, ring one, ring three, pickup.

“Hello this is *Smermishmanmandsam* how may I help you?” the lady managed to sigh out with the enthusiasm of an invalid’s wave.

“Yes, I’m an instructor here at the Defense Information School and I think one of my students gave me pick eye. I need to be checked out,” I said. Rookie mistake when calling for military care: the person at the other end cares little for the circumstance. State your reason for calling and end the sentence. Revised statement: I need an appointment.

“Are you active duty?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied, realizing all of those clicks during the ringing process probably had me talking with someone in Jersey.

“What is your social?”

I gave it.

“What is your address?”

That too.

“What is your date of birth?”

Yup, offered.

“Where are you stationed?”

“Fort Meade.”

“Fort Meade shows no appointments available. Would you like to schedule something at Walter Reed.”

Good God, no! Walter Reed was 20 miles and about seven hours away in the D.C. traffic.

“I’d rather not go to Walter Reed. You said there’s nothing at Kimborough?” I asked for verification, though I needed none. Kimborough, our local clinic, was famous for never having any available appointments. Either our fort had an inordinate amount of malingerers, or the clinic was understaffed. It was a source of constant ire, at least for those who occasionally needed medical care, which was looked down on by big Army (everybody at sick call was just trying to get out of work, after all), thus the low priority to get more staff, I suppose.

“The computer says there’s nothing at Kimborough. Would you like the phone number to call them yourself?” she asked, even more flatly than before.

“Yes, that would be great.”

She gave it to me and hung up. I called the number.

Ring one, ring five, ring seven.

“Hello this is *Smermishmanmandsam* how may I help you?” the lady asked. I sensed a pattern.

“Yes, I’d like to get an appointment,” there, lesson learned.

“Are you active duty,” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“What’s your social.”

Gave it.

“What’s your address?”


“What’s your date of birth?”

There you go.

“Where are you stationed?”

“Here on Fort Meade.”

“What’s the problem?”

“I think I have pink eye. I’d like to get some medicine so I don’t spread it,” I said. Zing! Punchline.

“Pink eye?” the lady said, well, exclaimed, actually, with a vigor I had not heard in some moments. The phone almost distorted the audio, I think.

“Yes ma’am, can I come down to get checked out.”

“Yes sir, please come down right away.”

So I did. I washed my hands a few times, hopped in my car, and drove the mile or two to the clinic. Parking, I strolled into my portion of the facility.

“Hello, welcome to *Smermishmanmandsam* how may I help you?” a lady called to me as I waited behind the “Please wait until called” sign. This wasn’t the person I talked to, but the other lady at the desk, the only other person in the room, was speaking to someone on the phone and did sound like my contact in the organization.

“Yes, I called about an appointment.”

“You called here?” she asked, looking over at her office companion, who was now watching a video on her screen, vacant stare, not paying attention to either me or her coworker.

“You called here?” she asked, again, in a slightly unbelieving tone.

“Um, yes, I called here,” I said again.

“Are you active duty?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“What’s your social?”

Gave it.

“What’s your address?”

There we go.

“What’s your date of birth?”


“Are you stationed at Fort Meade?”


“What is the problem.”

“Pink eye. I think I have it.”

She eyed me for a moment, perhaps trying to discern which eye was infected–my clear one or my pink, irritated one.

“The nurse will be right with you, please take a seat.”

I did and, sure enough, about 15 minutes later, the nurse was right with me.

“What seems to be the problem?” she asked.

“I think I have pink eye,” I said.

“You’re active duty?”


“What’s your social.”


“What’s your date of birth?”


“You stationed at Fort Meade.”


She took my vitals and told me that I’d have to wait for a no-show on the appointment gig–that all available ones were filled. I asked if it was one of those “wait all day” deals or “wait for a couple of hours” situations. She said it wouldn’t take too, too long.

A few minutes later, a male nurse called my name.

“Here,” I said, and followed the direction where his voice came from. He was leading me to another section of the clinic.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asked.

“I think I might have Pink eye,” I said.

“Oooh, don’t touch anything, I don’t want that,” he said, laughing.

I was led to a doctor’s office, who was busy typing in some information on her last patient.

“Please have a seat, I’ll be right with you,” she said. I sat.

“What’s your social?” she asked.


“What’s your date of birth?”


“What’s your current address?”


“What seems to be the problem?”

The understaffed clinic seemed dreadfully overstaffed.

My civilian friends often ask me what it’s like being in the military. It’s like going to the DMV, every day.


About salemonz

Born in San Diego, Calif. Raised as a Navy Brat, I jumped ship and crossed over to the Army. Served as an enlisted journalist for a bunch of years, then helped the DoD figure out what the hell to do with social media. After the Army, now I drift down the river of life, trying not to be a jerk.

11 responses to “Could you repeat that?”

  1. ZNB says :

    Absolutely hilarious and sad my friend. Hope the eye gets better.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. marla says :

    or it’s like calling your cellphone provider (or at least mine) and trying to get through the never-ending string of computers on the other end of the phone…and then when you do, you can’t hear the person on the other end, and after 10 minutes of “could you repeat that agains?” they either don’t know how to help you or don’t want to play the “whadyasay game”.

    So they send you through to another person who sounds even further away….but not before you have to press 1 for english or 2 for espanol to another computer on the other end…

    …except with the army, the aggravation is in person and you can’t put said people on speaker phone while you try to do something productive during the whole ordeal

  3. finchstylings says :

    While i wish the pink eys on no one – That’s what you get for throwing the dj shadow-cut chemist combo in my face! HA!

  4. Joshua says :

    Damn you, Karma!

  5. sick boy says :

    it’s a little late, but i just wanted to apologize for not just going to medical in the first place and causing you all sorts of problems…i just wanted to graduate, honest, not my best judgement call

    also hope you’re fully recovered now and enjoying visiting with your friends and family for the holidays

    your colleagues gave me plenty of grief in your absence, if that helps at all…

    at least now i can tell my friends im mentioned in your pretty famous journal-blog-thing

  6. sarah l says :

    Looks like I left town in the knick of time!
    Hope your eye cleared up.

    See you in a few!

  7. Adrian says :

    a kid almost lost his soul over this whole thing!

  8. Joshua says :

    Ha, no worries! No harm done!

  9. Felyne says :


    If you gave a different response to the questions each time would it matter? I guess that’s just like ‘if a tree falls in the forest ….. ‘

    Merry So-Belated-Its-No-Longer-Relevant Christmas to you and your little pink eye germ buddies. Please don’t touch anything.

  10. Joshua says :

    Ha! There’s another bout hitting the school. I’m washing my hands every few minutes and shunning human contact.

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