The Misheard Instruction

While being interviewed recently by a prospective employer, she asked a question that I’ve never been asked before: “Has there ever been a time when you misheard an instruction or something some told you and what happened and how did you deal with it?”  While I couldn’t think of this particular incident at the time, I do recall what happened back in 1979, as if it were yesterday.

“Anyone here going into the medical field?,” the Airman First Class asked, as we stood ‘butt-to-nut’ along the wall.

Reluctantly, I raised my hand. “Good!” he exclaimed, “You’re with me,” as called me out of line.

Trailing behind him, we entered the lab where others were working. He pointed to a large pile of undeveloped x-ray film and began telling me how I was to hand them out to my flight as they moved by the open window.

With his instructions firmly placed in my brain, he left for his coffee/cigarette break and I proceeded to handout the film. He returned as I was handing out the 37th one.

“What in the fuck have you done” he screamed, “you stupid asshole!”

Everyone in the lab stopped what they were doing and looked our way. I felt the blood rush into my face and my ear begin to burn as if they were on fire.

He grabbed me by the collar of my O.D. green fatigue blouse and jerked me from in front of the window. The act caused me to stumble back and fall on my ass.

The Airman First Class continued to cuss me up one side and down the other because I had failed to understand that each member of my flight had an assigned number from one to 52, and that they stood inline in random order. Evidently, I was to ask each man what his assigned number was and then to hand him the corresponding film.

Needless to say, the next time someone asked any of us what career field we were getting into, no one wanted to volunteer the information. To this day, I will swear on a stack of bible’s and my momma’s grave that I did not hear him tell me that each film had a corresponding number, and thus, to a singular individual.

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