Gary Rinsem

Life's First Revelation

It's an important lesson that I learned in stages and struggled several years to understand.

People openly acknowledge that some are taller. Also obvious yet always avoided is the fact that some are smarter. Mrs. Cobb taught me this lesson by personally demonstrating the inverse. At recess in second grade, a boy in my class was stripped naked with all his clothes stuck in a tree. Several big kids did it and laughed as the naked boy cried. Many girls stared at his penis and giggled, including all the girls in our class. It was traumatic just watching. I expect it was far more traumatic being the victim of it. Most kids were inside by the time the bell rang, except a couple giggling girls and myself. I was trying to find a way to help him. He wouldn't stop crying and wouldn't leave the tree with his clothes in it. Back in the classroom my lesson began as I watched Mrs. Cobb struggle with the problem. The rest of the kids had been trying to get her to understand that he needed her help. She didn't know how to react because it was a new problem for her. She had no ready response stored to apply in this situation, so she was confused and saying stupid things in reply to urging from the class. It was this instant that I first put a thought to the notion of intelligence. I realized my teacher had little of it. I don't remember the outcome for the naked boy, except that he was often taunted with cries of "pee pee." Mrs. Cobb soon repeated her demonstration of little intelligence. The classroom had two hardboard cut outs of toilets. One pink and one blue. I'll let you demonstrate intelligence by determining their purpose on your own. A boy was gone to the bathroom a long time with another waiting, seated at his desk. The second boy could wait no more and stood next to his desk squeezing his crotch. He was begging and crying in desperation. The entire class started begging Mrs. Cobb to give him the pink toilet hall pass. He was a boy, giving him the girls hall pass was too much of a decision for her to make. A yellow puddle formed on the floor with the boy sobbing uncontrolled. He too was taunted with "pee pee." Without a care the first boy returned and put the blue toilet on her desk. Mrs. Cobb, still badly confused, gave it to the crying boy with wet pants even though kids were telling her that he didn't need it. The entire class of second graders was smarter than Mrs. Cobb. She was the only one who couldn't understand simple situations like these. Similar events were common throughout second grade. My whole life I've assumed Mrs. Cobb was grandfathered in as a teacher, from a time before teachers had to be qualified. She could never have passed any real testing for the job. I'm writing this memory for two reasons. First, it's duty night and I'm bored on the ship, with BB volunteering for the chaplain. Second, because of something that happened tonight to remind me of Mrs. Cobb. A female sailor I'll call Bobby, sat with me at dinner. We've never spoken before, but it wasn't a surprise, it's common for people to join you on the mess deck if you're alone. Some people just want company while they eat. She wanted more than company for dinner. We talked about work while we ate, but Bobby stayed with me after dinner was finished. On the after EDF I bought her a soda, it seemed the polite thing to do as I bought a Mt. Dew for me. She stayed with me all the way to the flight deck for a smoke and then to the crew's lounge to see how BB were doing. Bobby followed me like a lost puppy and kept asking simple questions, about things everyone on the ship has to know. I got more and more confused as her questions continued. There didn't seem to be a hidden motive guiding her actions, just following with a never ending string of strange questions. No desire to grade tests with BB so I went to see who was hanging out in the machine shop, and what personal projects they were working on. Bobby followed with questions flowing. It was getting very strange and I couldn't guess any reason for it. She showed no interest in me and the questions were too silly to be real. I finally ditched her by going to R2 berthing, where she can't go. To avoid her I went up the port ladder and out the main deck hatch, in case she was still waiting by the laundry. I was sitting on the fantail towing capstan watching a frigate pull in, when the warnings started. The entire duty section saw Bobby following me. Every man wanted to have his chance to tell his Bobby story. She was in the first group of women assigned and has been constantly doing to guys, what she did with me. Most notably, asking them to teach her how to calculate her gas mileage. It was the only question she asked that wasn't a simple fact about living on the ship. It turns out all her questions were sincere, she wasn't "up to" anything at all. My clue should have come when she couldn't understand why she had to FILL her gas tank. She kept insisting it cost too much, she couldn't afford a full tank of gas. No explanation of how silly that was would sink in. She couldn't understand it costs the same buying gas $5 at a time or one fill up. Bobby still doesn't know how to calculate gas mileage and never will. Details varied a bit, but her story is something like this. Been in the Navy ten years. She dates boot camp boys anytime she can and those dumb kids tell everybody she's a slut. Assigned to the machine shop, but can't do anything more than clean up chips. One thing is certain, she doesn't belong in the Navy. People have been nursing her probably since the recruiting office. It seems I was the last person aboard to find out. She's pleasant enough and attractive enough so she will probably be a 30 year girl, nursed all the way. (2020 Note: last summer I ran across her on one of the web sites or Facebook groups dedicated to our old ship. I don't remember now if it was second or third class, but she somehow made Petty Officer. There's no way for anyone to help her with the exam so it's a mystery to me how she got a high enough score. Points for time in rate and 4.0 evals are the only possibility.)