11 June 2010

Chasing the Bit Bucket

In a recent Moth Radio Hour, author Matthew McGough tells the story of having moxie enough to pursue a job as a bat boy for the New York Yankees.

The high-schooler calls the club, gets told that someone will call him. After they don't call, he calls again. That gets him an interview. At the interview, he's told to come back in the spring. On his first day in the locker room, his hero Don Mattingly tells him that his bats are full of moisture from a recent trip, and that he needs a bat-stretcher.

He goes from Yankee to Yankee, and they all string him along. "No, I don't have it anymore, but I think so-and-so has it now. Besides, Mattingly is a left-handed player, so you'll need to get him a left-handed one."

This goes on and on, even over to the visiting team's locker room. There, he's told not only do they not have one, but that they need one, too! Somebody even gives the kid a couple of bucks to go to a local sports store and buy two bat-stretchers.

The kid realizes that it's probably a joke, but doesn't want to give up. He persists long after others would have given up.

He learns later that it's that same persistence that got him the job. Until then, every other bat boy had gotten the job because of someone he knew in the Yankee organization.

I was reminded of that story earlier this week, as we were wiring up an old dining facility for use as a brigade human resources and logistics office. I made some reference to a "bit bucket," and the commo warrant officer instantly recognized the old joke. Back in my old Army signal days, we'd tell new lieutenants that the network was leaking data, and that we needed a "bit bucket" to help stop the digital signal loss. They'd run off like ... a Yankee bat boy.

The other soldiers and I started remembering wild goose chases we'd on which we'd been sent when we were younger and less worldly:
  • A "contour line."
  • A "map legend."
  • A "box of grid squares."
  • A "rating chain."
  • A "can of blinker fluid."
  • A "left-handed muffler belt."
We've all done it, and we've all fallen for some variation of the gag. This week, another warrant officer told me with a straight face that he needed to call back to the rear right away. When I asked him what was so urgent, he said: "I forgot a whole case of Give-a-[expletive]."

I fell for that one, too.


  1. For airborne it was "canopy lights" (for night jumps of course) and we photographers it was "focusing fluid" for those out of focus negatives! LOL! PDV

  2. All right, who has the key to the landing zone?

  3. When driving on Nat Guard convoys in CALIF, we'd often have a brand new LT assigned. He would usually be quiet so he could "watch and learn." But sometimes we'd get one who thought he was actually in charge. The last time, I told the new dumbass LT, "Sir, you have to stop talking on the radio so much, you're going to use up all the squelch."

    He shut up after that...but when we got to Ft Irwin for AT, he asked the commo guys if they could put some extra squelch in his radio so he could talk more.

    They did of course...but told him he was limited to 1,000 words during the entire AT.

  4. Anyone else ever go snipe hunting?

  5. I think our whole unit is going snipe-hunting tomorrow!


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