Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage
Copyright © 2016 David E. Nees
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We were down in the “Ville” that section of the Korean town dedicated to entertaining the GIs. Ernie and some of the rest of us were getting a good buzz on. The bar girls were busy, flirting, hustling the drinks and lining up some of the boys for more interesting diversions.
We enjoyed messing with them. But Ernie always seemed to be so desperate that the girls teased him mercilessly.
“Ernie,” I told him, “you got to not seem so needy. They can sense you’re desperation, man and it’s going to cost you. You have to play hard to get, hard to please.” Much as I tried to educate him, Ernie never got the hang of it. I just enjoyed teasing the girls. I understood what the game was—part of the evening’s entertainment.
The night went well. There was a lot of drinking, flirting and Ernie getting his skivvies in a wad because of the girls teasing him. We were feeling no pain when we left. That is until we ran into Sergeant Samuels, a very large MP with an attitude.
I had my floppy cap folded through my belt—it looked stupid so I wore it as little as possible. We were strolling down the street, minding out own business, when the sergeant stepped in front of us.
“Soldier,” he stated loudly while standing up close to me, “you’re out of uniform.”
I just looked at him. I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.
“Put your cap on, soldier.” I just looked at him. “Right now!” he demanded, getting angry because I didn’t jump at his command. I put on the cap, “Don’t ever let me see you out of uniform again.” I just stared back at him. I couldn’t believe this was happening.
“Don’t fuck with me or you and I will have a big problem. Do you understand?” He pushed his face close to mine, like the drill instructors in boot camp.
“Yes sir,” I replied. It was a no-win to say anything else. I did, however, catch the sergeant’s name from his tag. No matter what the rest of the evening brought, I wanted to have that name when I woke up the next day. What Sergeant Samuels didn’t realize was that me and my buddies were in the Finance Division. We were involved in getting him paid. We had leverage.
By the time the next pay round occurred, I had hatched my plan. I had Sergeant Samuels’ pay voucher sent to Alaska. When pay day came around and our good sergeant went to pick up his money, the CO couldn’t find his voucher. No voucher, no pay. The money allocated to be sent home—family, child support—that was taken care of…from Alaska. I’m not a bastard; but for Samuels…nothing.
All that day I kept watch for Samuels. I knew he would be coming to see me. Every pay period the soldiers lined up with their issues. In Finance we helped them work through the multiple problems; something always got fucked up and we had to untangle it. Remember, the draft was still in effect, so we had a large selection of not-so-bright men in the service. It was only a matter of time before Samuels would show up.
“When a large MP Sergeant comes in, you take a break and I’ll take over your window,” I told Ernie. He knew the set-up and grinned back at me.
Sure enough Sergeant Samuels came in and stood at the back of the line. An hour later he was at the window.
“What can I do for you sergeant?” I asked politely.
“I need to get my pay.”
“Do you have your voucher with you?”
“No, my CO didn’t have it. That’s why I’m here. I need my pay today.”
“I hear you. Listen, I’ll be glad to take care of you and get this done, but I need a pay voucher.”
“That’s why I’m here, mine should have gone to my CO but it didn’t. Can’t you take care of me now?”
“No, I can’t do anything without that voucher.”
“So how the hell do I get it if no one has it?” He was starting to get a little hot under the collar.
“It’s easy. You go over to the admin building and have them make out a new voucher. Tell them yours didn’t come through and they’ll write you another one.
Bring it back and I’ll personally take care of it for you.”
“And you can’t do that now?” he asked.
“Not without a voucher. But don’t worry. Get the voucher over in Admin and bring it back to me. Then I can take care of you.”
With that I looked to the next person in line, dismissing him. He stood fuming for a moment and then hustled out the door. I quickly motioned Ernie to take over the window and placed a call to the administrative offices where I had a friend, Jack, working.
“Jack, I need a favor.”
“What’s up Ski?” he asked. Everyone called me “Ski” because they couldn’t or were too lazy to pronounce my full last name.
“There’s a Sergeant Samuels coming over to pick up a replacement voucher. Give him one, but don’t let the old man sign it. Just fill it out and hustle him off without anyone signing it.”
“You fucking with someone again?”
“Don’t ask, just do me this favor.”
“Okay, but you owe me a drink…or two.”
“You got it.” Jack was cheap. Things were getting good now.
Just before five pm, the sergeant came back. There wasn’t much of a line, so he got to me pretty quick.
“Here’s your voucher,” he said.
“Great.” I looked it over for a moment, then I looked up at him in dismay, “Oh crap. Sergeant, this isn’t signed. I can’t process it.”
“What?” he almost shouted. “This is what they gave me.” He reached for the voucher. “Can’t you sign it?”
“No way I can do that. This has to be signed by a senior officer.”
“What the hell am I going to do?”
“You’ll have to go back to admin and get an officer to sign the voucher. Then I can process it and get you your money.”
“They’ll be closed. I need my money today. I got a gal waiting on it.” Many men had Korean girlfriends on the side and made regular ‘support’ payments to them. It was love and affection for a price; cozy and regular…as long as the money kept coming. I guess it was an improvement over whoring, but had its complications.
At this point I looked directly at Samuels. “Sergeant Samuels you’ve got a problem.” I gave him a long look. “You remember me, from last week down in the Ville? I remember you and what you said to me. ‘Don’t fuck with me or you got a big problem.’ Remember that Sergeant? Well, I’m here to tell you, don’t fuck with me or you got a big problem.”
You could see it in his face as he connected the dots. “You!” he exclaimed.
“Yes me. Sergeant, you don’t want to fuck with the guy who handles your pay. You get it?”
His face got red. I could see he was choking on the things he wanted to say. I was kind of glad a window and counter stood between the two of us. Finally he nodded his head. He was smart enough to know when he was at a disadvantage.
“Great. I’m willing to let bygones be bygones. Now that we understand each other, I’ll take care of you. You see, we can help each other out. I can take care of you. You can take care of me. How does that work for you?”
Sergeant Samuels thought that worked just fine for him. I took his unsigned voucher and gave him his money. I never had any trouble with him, or the other MPs who he knew (he passed the word around). We even became friends of sorts. After that, I never lacked for a ride. If Samuels, driving around in his jeep, ever saw me, he’d make a detour and give me a ride…wherever I wanted to go. He was taking care of the guy who took care of him.
Fast forward a couple of months and my buddy, Sergeant Samuels comes into the office one day and calls out, “Ski, I got something you might be interested in.”
I came over. “What is it Sams?” I said. That one syllable thing again.
“Major Turney was in an accident the other day. I got the report.”
“So, what’s the big deal, he kill someone or something?”
“Nah, the car was damaged but no injuries. The interesting thing was he had a girlfriend in the car.”
“You mean a girl from the neighborhood?”
“Yep. She was shook up. We had to drive her home. I wrote up the report, but I haven’t turned it in yet. Thought you might want to look at it.”
“Sams, you son-of-a-bitch, you’re all right,” I said as I smiled. “Let me have it, I think I can do something for all of us.”
Major Turney was looking to make colonel and had been busting our balls for months. The guys had to work weekends to get ready for his strict inspections. We were all getting worn down by what everyone saw as bullshit work just to polish the major’s file.
That day I called the major’s office and set up an appointment to see him. I grabbed Ernie and we headed over there. Entering Turney’s office we snapped to and gave him our sharpest salute.
“What can I do for you Specialist?” he asked. I was an E4.
“Well sir, the men are getting worn out with the constant inspections. They’re working the weekends just to get things ready, on top of all their regular work.”
The major looked at me, “So..?”
“Well sir, there’s this report from the MPs about your accident two days ago, the one where they had to take your girlfriend home. Now we were thinking that all this work you’re having the unit do just so a quarter can bounce off the beds is not all that important. I’m hoping you might agree with us.”
The major gave me a cold look, then asked, “What do you mean by that, Specialist?”
“Well, Sir, that report could undo all the work you’ve been putting in. That work might not be so important when you look at the big picture.”
He kept staring hard at me. I didn’t flinch; just stood there ramrod straight and respectful. Finally he replied, “No, it’s probably not that important now that I think about it.”
“What do you propose?” he continued.
“Well sir, from where we stand, it looks like you’re sitting on a goddamn crate of eggs, if you'll excuse the expression. We can help you out, if you help us out. We can make this report go away and we can arrange to get the car fixed. Nothing shows up, nothing gets attached to any records.”
“And you want what?”
“We want you to back off from these inspections. Give the men a break.” I paused, then added, “And me and Ernie want two extra days off a month.”
The major's brows narrowed as he scowled at me. “You got some balls coming in here and demanding special treatment for yourself,” he continued to stare, sizing me up I guess. Then his face relaxed and he said, “but I like that. Okay, you got it.”
“Thank you, Major. We’ll take care of this incident and the men will really appreciate your consideration. You take care of us, we’ll take care of you, that’s our motto.”
We gave him our best parade ground salute, spun around and left the office. Major Turney was good to his word. The pressure lightened up and Ernie and I got our two extra days a month off.
He actually became a pretty regular guy. He always remarked at how ballsy we were to come in demanding a bribe from him. He even thought we had more fun than the officers when we went out and one time asked if he could join us.
“You guys seem to have a lot of fun. My driver keeps showing up with a hangover and he always mentions being out with you.”
“Major, you can’t go where we go in the Ville with your officer’s uniform. That isn’t gonna work.”
He agreed. But since we were about the same size, I loaned him one of mine. Turney went on to get his colonel’s rank and I like to think he always remembered to take care of his troops. Like I always say, don’t get mad, get leverage.