In the winter of ’69 it rained a record at the time; houses slid down hills; hills slid onto the freeways. The ants came marching in making patterns across my kitchen floor.
One morning in December I was up by 5 because I had been called by the army for a physical. I had to be there at 630; I got up so early because the windshield wipers on my car didn’t work, and it was raining. No way I could take the freeway, so I mapped out the trip on side streets. I drove very slowly sometimes sticking my head out in the rain to see what was in front of me and through a narrow space down on the left side of the windshield where the swilling water left a clear spot about the size of a stamp. I arrived on time a nervous wreck.
We were told to take off our clothes, stow them in a locker, and to place our valuables in a little bag we carried around with us. So there were all were walking around in our underwear following a yellow arrow drawn on the floor from one station to another where they checked our blood and our eyes and our ears and had us all bend over and this one guy came around and said spread your cheeks and you did and he stuck his fucking finger up your ass.
This was the LA draft board, they accepted anybody. The guy in front of me had marked down that he had TB and was a drug addict. The doctor looked at the paper work, asked him to touch his toes, which he did, and the guy said, “You’ll do.”
At one station we had to pee into a little bottle for a urine sample. Fifty of us all standing around peeing into little bottles. But I couldn’t pee. I was in a panic wanting to pee. But the more I panicked the less I could pee. Finally, another group had to come in and I left without peeing. At the last station of the day they checked my paper work and the guys said, “You didn’t pee.” I said that I had really tried but couldn’t pee. Apparently I was not the only one who had suffered this problem, because he said, there’s a john around the corner, go in there in pee.
So I went into the john and closed the door and sat down on the toilet because I felt I might shit too. Also I was tired and wanted to shit. I still had trouble peeing. As I am sitting there with my drawers around my ankles still struggling to pee, The door swings up and this guy in uniform takes a look at me and says, “Fucking Shit!” and slams the door.
I can’t today even fathom the degree of shame and humiliation I felt that day at my inability to pee. Eventually, I peed. I apologized because it wasn’t very much. He said it was enough. A month or so later, I officially received my 1-A making me officially eligible for the draft at the moment my year in graduate school was over. But it seemed to me that there were a god in the heavens, he would have been standing there and given a 4-F to anybody who couldn’t pee on demand.