Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Counting down

This counting down business reminds me a lot of my NS days.

There was a hell lot of counting down back then. Everyone was obsessed with the day called ROD (run out date, later changed to ORD or operationally ready date). Everyone was doing their own version of counting down. Everyone was teasing the "new birds" (new recruits or postings) about their RODs. Indeed, if one RODs later than you, even if it is just one day, you're "entitled" to tease him about it.

My version of counting down then was via the Windows screensaver, Marquee. I'd put up the message "XXX (insert number of days) days to ........................................................................... ROD!!!" and updated it everyday to reflect the correct number of days. It helped to chase away those Monday blues away, albeit just for a few seconds, because I got to reduce the number by three every Monday morning. Cheap thrill, I know.

There was a feisty female sergeant in my branch, Sarah, who did her counting down in a more outspoken manner.

First, she procured some vanguard sheet and fashioned it into a
triangular prism about 20 cm in length and 5 cm in height. Her invention, when completed, rested on one of the three rectangular faces. On the rectangular face facing her, she split into three equal boxes with a marker and wrote the letters "R", "O" and "D". On top of each of these three boxes, she punched holes and affixed a keychain to each. Finally, she cut out little cards the same size as those drawn boxes, wrote the integers "1", "2", ... , "0" on them, punched similar sized holes on top of them and inserted these into the keychains.

If you've gotten the correct picture up till now, you'll be able to imagine that this little contraption allowed her to FLIP one number everyday. That was her way of counting down. She started on this counting down ritual when she had around 300 days to go.

When she had less than 100 days to go (like me now!), the letter "R" would be revealed. The following three months were to be three tough months for us. She would keep asking us if we could see that letter, answered her own question and walked away with a hyaena-like laugh.

And no, the final 10 days weren't as tough. Mostly because she wasn't around to continue her counting down and ribbings; She was clearing her painfully accumulated annual leave! But being nice colleagues that we were, we did the flipping on her behalf.

On the day of her ROD, she passed on that contraption to me and asked me to carry on the "tradition". I did. And also passed it on to the next guy when I myself RODed.

I was to bump into Sarah at a wedding dinner years later. Then married with kids. Some little wrinkles beginning to make their presence felt. But still as feisty as ever.

94 days to go.


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