I love listening to people tell stories about the things they have experienced in their lives. I especially love it when those stories taken place years before, even more so when they take place before I was born.
Maybe it's my Eastern European/ Russian heritage, but there's nothing I love more than a good tale.
My dad always has some to tell. Most of them I've heard a few times, if you know what I mean. But I love them. And he tells them so well, in a very funny, self-deprecating way. My favorites are from his time in the military.
My dad served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, on an air craft carrier. I'm not sure his rank, but he mostly spent his time in the communications room aboard the fleet's lead ship. He would spend hours just sorting incoming and outgoing messages on this tickertape machine that constantly spewed out paper. (I don't know the technical jargon, bear with me.) Anyway, it was a lot of paper and in a bid to keep it from overrunning the room, the guys used to stuff it into bags to take down to the ship's furnaces.
So, one day (after a 14 hour day that came after five 12 hour night shifts) he and another sailor gathered the bags at the end of their shift and brought them down to the bowels of the ship to burn them. My dad opened the huge furnace and threw in the first bag, grabbed the long iron pole, poked it further in and slammed the door. His co-worker (Yeah, I don't know the lingo, okay?) stood around in a half doze, waiting for the bag to burn so they could go crawl into their bunks for a much needed rest. They repeated this process a few times, until they got to the last bag. After shoving it into the furnace and waiting impatiently for it to incinerate, my dad opened the door to make sure it didn't need to be broken up some.
The blast that occured when he opened the furnace door to check on that last bag was so intense it lifted him off his feet and threw him backward. He slammed into the wall behind him and slid down to land in a slump on the floor, stunned. After a moment, he realized his fellow sailor was standing over him, shouting and making gestures, but all my dad could hear was a ringing in his ears. He reached up to remove his glasses, which were now coated in ash and grime, only to discover most of his eyebrows had gotten singed off. Those glasses, miraculously unbroken, probably saved his eyes from flying debris. It took him a few minutes to gain his feet but he was okay, other than a bit stunned and bruised.
What the heck would cause such a blast, you ask?
Well, apparently someone (my dad says he has his suspicions) had mistaken the bag of tickertape for the trash and thrown their empty can of Cheese Whiz into it. When the can was tossed into the superheated, enclosed furnace, the pressure within the can began to build. Somehow, my dad opening the door to check on the burning paper triggered the can to blow. Maybe it had just reached that point, or maybe it was the cool air rushing in. Who knows? He was really lucky that most of the shards of metal from the can never made out of the furnace, although he said his body was outlined in ash on the wall behind him.
My dad likes to said he came close to death in the Vietnam War. He just leaves out the bit where it was by Cheese Whiz can.
How about you? Do you have any great stories from the past? Or anecdotes you love to hear from friends or family?