Oreo Cookies


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Every second lieutenant acquires embarrassing memories when he wears
gold bars; it seems to come with the job.

The first time the Air Force sent me on temporary duty by myself, I
experienced probably the most embarrassing moment in my life, which I
tell here in hopes that other butter bars out there won't make the
same mistake.

I was traveling from Wright-Patterson AFB OH to Vandenberg AFB CA one
spring, and the flight scheduled me for a two-hour layover in the St.
Louis MO airport. I decided to hit the snack bar and bought a cup of
coffee, a package of Oreos and a newspaper. After giving the cashier
the nine bucks or so these items cost, I scanned the crowded sitting
area for a place to relax. The lounge was crowded, but there appeared
to be a spot across from a fellow in a military uniform of some sort.
"Great!" I thought, "another soldier. Maybe he can tell me about life
in the forces..."

With my coffee on the right side of the table, my newspaper on the
left and my oreos in the center, I sat down before I took my first
close look at the man opposite me. He was a Marine corps brigadier
general -- a mean-looking man with no hair, an real-life scar on his
forehead and about six rows of ribbons, including the Silver Star with
a cluster. To me, the general had horns, fangs, a pitchfork and a
long, pointed tail as well.

I was already committed to using the table, but not wanting to bother
the general, I meekly squeaked out, "Good morning, sir," before
sitting down.

I had begun the paper's crossword puzzle and was making good progress
when I heard a peculiar rustling sound, much like the crinkling of
cellophane.

I looked up out of the corner of my eye to discover the general had
reached across the center of the table, opened the package of Oreos,
taken out one and was eating it. Now, not having attended the Air
Force Academy, I was not familiar with how to deal with the finer
points of military etiquette, such as what to do when a senior member
of another service calmly rips off one of your cookies. Several
responses came to mind, but none of these seemed entirely appropriate.

I realized that the honor of the Air Force was, in a small way, at
stake here. I certainly couldn't let the general think I was a
complete weenie. Besides, at airport prices, one oreo is a significant
fraction of take-home pay for a second lieutenant. The only response I
could make was to reach across the center of the table, open the
opposite end of the package (trying not to notice that the other end
had mysteriously come open somehow), extract an Oreo and eat it very,
very thoroughly.

"There," I thought, "I've subtly shown the General that these are my
Oreos, and he should go buy his own."

Marines are known for many qualities, but subtlety is not among them.
The general calmly reached out for another Oreo and ate it. (By the
way, the general was licking the middles out first before eating the
cookies.) Not having said anything the first time, of course, I
couldn't bring it up now. The only thing to do was to take another
cookie for myself. We wound up alternating through the entire
package. For an instant our eyes met, and there was palpable tension
in the air, but neither of us said a word.

After I had finished the last Oreo, they announced something over the
public address system. The general got up, put his papers back into
his briefcase, picked up the now empty wrapper, threw it away, brushed
the few crumbs neatly off the table and left. I sat there marveling at
his gall and feeling very foolish.

A few minutes later, they announced my flight.

I felt a great deal more foolish when I finished my coffee, threw the
cup away and lifted my newspaper to reveal... my Oreos!

Today, two of us are running around the Armed Forces telling the same
story, but only one of us has the punch line. And general, if you
are reading this, get in touch with me and I will be glad to send you
a case of Oreos.





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