I don’t know quite how to say this, but I’ve high-stepped a line in the beach sand that a naval type should not, no not ever, cross. I’ve stolen someone else’s honor. All for my greedy fingered consumption. There exists a precise term for such an occurrence, stolen valor. And I am most certainly guilty of it. To my eternal shame.
My happenstance started innocently enough in pleasant, downtown Kearny Mesa. This afternoon. (Cue mild bird-watching music from the PBS archives.) For the unknowing, Kearny Mesa is home to a large population of Asian folks. And I like to shop their stores for all sorts of delicacies. I strolled the aisles of Murukai Japanese Food Market, looking for my favorite tea. I found it, Genmaicha, a curious creation of green tea and toasted rice. Slangly, it is known as popcorn tea, due to (yes) its popcorn-like flavor.
My day would not be complete without some gyozas, so those too went into my basket. And I ambled over to the already long line. Still in uniform, I did not rate a second look from anyone. Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar sat once right ’round the corner and before the Marines thieved ‘er from us, hardy naval folks were a common sight. Now she is known by the scalawag name of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (MCAS Miramar), but that is a scuffle for ‘nother blogpost. I must confess my crime, free my gravy’d conscience from the cellar where it has cowered for the last three hours. Cold, shaken, and stunned.
To the front of the line I go: my tea and my beloved gyozas. The kid running the cash register did not offer me a bowed konichiwa like the last customer. Rather I get a casual: Good afternoon, Chief.
Now let me make it perfectly clear, the Chief I thought he was referring to, was the Chief employees all over the States sling, along with: boss, pardner, and hoss.
It did not dawn in my military mind that he thought me a dues-paying member of the Goat Locker. No Sir. I mean, No Chief. Never did that bright 100 Watt lightbulb (an old-school one without all the mercury) flicker magically above my shaved head. At least, not for the first two seconds.
What made my crime worse: I liked it. Is that so wrong? I smiled when the lightbulb finally sparked on. And when he told me: Have a good one, Chief, I did not (in good conscience) correct the boy. No, I sauntered out of Murukai Japanese Food Market: me, my popcorn tea, my gyozas, and finally a grin. Some smooth criminal I was. Guilty of stolen valor. Now which Goat Locker do I need to turn myself into?