Terri struck a nerve earlier with her post about late night phone calls. I have a particular pet peeve/phobia/paranoia over late night phone calls. Oh, sure, getting waked up out of a sound sleep is jarring enough, but it goes way deeper than that. I am the light sleeper in the house and it usually doesn’t take a lot to get me to a wide awake status (like a dog hocking up a hairball in the bedroom). For the record, I have never liked getting a phone call in the middle of the night. It never was good news.
It all starts back when I was a Lieutenant in an Armor Battalion stationed in Germany. Yea, it might have been all fun and games playing soldier over in Germany eating C-rations, getting to tear up the countryside in big, massive all-terrain vehicles (called tanks) and blowing stuff up, but we had a mission. Boil all training and drills and target practice down, our basic mission was to fill the gap if the balloon ever went up. We were stationed in Germany at the tail end of the cold war where our primary mission of the US military was to defend the eastern boarder against Russian and East Germany. There were numerous units assigned to man the borders against any possible incursion. Several units were on constant patrol on the border between East and West Germany and their task was to defend against any possible attacks. We were stationed further west in Stuttgart about 4-6 hours from the border. The drill was, if the balloon went up and the East Germans/Russians invaded Germany, we were to be the second line of defense. The border units were the first into the fray and our job was to load up our gear and tanks and head east to the border and get further orders on the road. Given the tactics of the day, our job to was to plug any gaps in the defensive line. What does all that really mean? Our job was to stand by in case the next major war started. Not to sugar coat it, but we pretty much figured that, if a conflict ever started, our life expectancy was pretty short. The proverbial elephant in the room topic that no one liked to dwell upon.
To insure operational readiness, they loved to practice getting ready at any time day or night. We had a phone tree established and everyone had at least 2-3 people to call, so if you got the call, you were to notify the next persons in the chain. When the alert was given, the Battalion commander was called first, then his S1 and next the Scout Platoon (first responders). Since the Scout Platoon leader lived upstairs from me and I was the next one in the chain to call, I sort of had a heads up on when he got his call. Of course, it wouldn’t be real practice unless they did it in the dead of night. Usually, they called around 2-3 in the morning and when the call came in, you never knew if it was the real thing, so the pucker factor was pretty high. I kept a duffel bag packed downstairs in our storage room that was my “war bag”. It had basic toiletries, a change of uniform, extra underwear, cold weather gear, a box of cigars, and a pint of scotch. I thank God I never got to use that bag, but it was always ready to go. It became a bit of paranoia with me if the phone ever went off in the middle of the night. To this day, 25+ years later, my heart skips a beat whenever I hear the distinctive ring/klaxon of a German phone. And if I get a phone call in the middle of the night, you’ll have to peal me off the ceiling.
As I came back stateside and got out of the Army, I was able to unwind some of that stress, but I still panic whenever the phone rings at night. Woe be to the poor soul who make a wrong number call to my house at 0300. I thought I was over it for the most part, but with the addition of a son to the tribe, it took on a whole new meaning. I haven’t fielded a lot of those calls, but there has been one or two (mostly for car problems). The latest one was last week. Momma has been taking care of her parents and sometimes she doesn’t get home until pretty late. Being a COF (certified old fart) who gets up early, I pretty much hit the sack by 2200. Around half past midnight, the phone went off and it had one of the distinctive rings I set up for my various family members. Suffice it to say, it scared the crap out of me. Turns out her car wouldn't start so I had to get dressed, fire up the land barge and go pick her up. I didn't mind going out to get her, was just pissed off that her car decided that midnight was a good time to break down.