When you have open door latrines that serve many young men on the same hurried time schedule, there is etiquette that must be followed. They are not written anywhere, but everyone is expected to know and follow them. Some of the basics are: Don’t stare, don’t linger, don’t go in barefoot, don’t touch anyone doing his business, and never stand too close to someone if you don’t have to. Disregard them or suffer the consequences.
It was our senior year and I had a graded review (GR) the next morning. That’s an exam for real college kids. Unlike most cadets, instead of preparing myself a little bit all week, my approach was to prepare the night before. My time management technique ensured that I would never threaten the Dean’s list with my presence.
After the evening meal, I came straight back to my room and started dusting off my books. It was about 4:30 a.m. and nature was calling. Still wearing my uniform from the day before, I went out of my room and down the hall and into the latrine. It was peacefully quiet and I was enjoying being alone in the dorm. Except for the hall lights and bathroom lights that are always on, the place was deserted. I went into the latrine and chose a standing urinal closest to the door I entered. I was just starting my business when one of my squadron mates entered the latrine from the door on the opposite end. The bathrooms were located in the corner of the dorm and accessible from two converging hallways. There are about twenty standing urinals all in a row, and I expected him to stop at the other end, closest to where he entered. As I glanced (latrine etiquette does not allow staring), I saw Bobby Betzold walking my way. He was wearing tight white Hanes underwear and a t-shirt. He was enjoying a good night’s sleep, sure sign of someone on the Dean’s list. I looked back at the wall in front of me, also latrine etiquette. To my surprise, Bobby had walked by all the other urinals and was standing right next to me, a clear violation of latrine etiquette. His eyes were barely open as he looked straight ahead and did not even acknowledge me. At that moment I heard someone shout my name. One of my buddies from another squadron had seen me when he walked by. There were no doors on the latrines. I had no idea why he was up and dressed at that hour, but he seemed very happy to see me. He came in the latrine and slapped me on the back. Then he swung my shoulder towards Bobby and said to get some sleep.
When he swung my shoulders around, it caught me totally by surprise. Those were the days when we didn’t have to stand close to the urinal and struggle. I had kept doing my business as I flowed steady across Bobby and back to the urinal. I looked at Bobby and he had not moved. His hand at his side was dripping along with his leg and wet shorts. He finished his business, shaking so as to tidy up, and pulled his underwear up. Bobby never opened his eyes or turned toward me, he just said “real nice”.
The next morning I saw Bobby, fully expecting to sincerely apologize, but he carried on as if nothing had happened. He may never have known who that was in the bathroom 40 years ago, with such poor latrine etiquette, until he reads this.