My decision to leave the corporate world and work at home has provided many rewards. A flexible schedule. Stress-free Sunday nights. Tax write-offs up the ying yang. But none of these superficial rewards compare with the experience I had yesterday.
As I was taking groceries from the trunk of my car, I did a quick spot check of my lawn to make sure no dogs had left me any presents. Lately, the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street has become a field of doggie doo landmines. Though technically this piece of property belongs to the city, the leftover poop always seems to find a home at the bottom of my shoe.
Then I noticed the old man walking his Pomeranian (a breed I'm not too fond of) up the street. I had seen this man many times before but never had spoken with him. I moved slowly so he wouldn't be tempted to let his dog do his business.
As he approached, I noticed he was wearing a hat that read: World War II Veteran, Marine Corps. He was so thin and frail, it was hard to picture this man as a killing machine. I asked him what theater he served in and he told me he was part of the 6th Marines in the South Pacific.
But he didn't stop there. For 15 minutes he regaled me with stories that made HBO's miniseries seem like a snooze-fest. As a 20-year old boy, he took 4 beach heads; Guam, Iwo Jima and two beaches in the Marshall Islands.
He told me what happened on Guam, where his buddy had the heel of his boot blown off by shrapnel. Not very gripping, until he discovered that his pal was prone on the beach right in front of him. And had the heel of his boot not caught the shrapnel, my neighbor's skull would have.
He told me how as a Communications Specialist, he received orders to report to a new unit. Not wanting to leave his buddies behind, he bitched about the transfer order. A week later he found out his entire former unit got wiped out in a ferocious firefight.
Finally he shared the tale of some endgame shenanigans. Having defeated the Japanese, his battalion found itself fighting with the Red Chinese in an end-of-war land grab on the Asian continent. Low on reserves and morale but high on Japanese POWs, the Marines cleverly pitted their captive soldiers against the greedy Reds.
I could have listened to the stories all afternoon, but the frozen yogurt in my grocery bag was melting and I had to get back to writing some website copy about the latest advancements in kidney stone diagnostics.
As my friend and his yappy toy dog (by the way, what kind of ex-marine has a Pomeranian) walked away, I wondered if that was the dog who has been shitting on my yard.
If it is, I guess I'll give that guy a pass.
I owe him that.
And so much more.