My work requires me to do a lot of strange things.
Shadowing a high school military boot camp at 5 a.m. is not one of them.
But in today's unstable economy and lay offs coming up next week, I gave my 210% and trudged off to Shawnee Mission North High School in the middle of the night to write a story about young Marines.
In 22 degree weather and five inch heels, I paced around the school for 25 minutes because all the doors were locked (although I had seen a student just moments earlier miraculously enter in ONE of the doors...). Finally, I had to be escorted into the gym by two security officers while a giant row of stone-faced teenage boys holding rifles stared at me.
Their coach, a retired Marine officer, shouted some strange commands at me. Clearly, since I'm not part of the military training, I just giggled and proceeded to ignore him. He was not amused.
"Little girl, move three steps right! THREE STEPS RIGHT!" He screamed at me, before I finally realized he wasn't joking.
Hoping to leave early (so I could go back home to sleep) I cornered a few uneasy seniors for an interview. They kept addressing me as "ma'am" which I found irksome.
"I'm so young," I said, giving a cute little shrug. "I'm really not that much older than you. In fact, I date boys your age." (That's not true). But instead of making them feel better, the boys looked even more horrified.
"Little girl! You've stolen my commanders! Halt interview!" Their coach shouted at me. "Halt interview! Attention!"
He marched over and glared in my face. "Halt interview!" He shouted.
Tears pooled in my eyes. It reminded me of being in Drivers Education at 16. (My driving instructor had been a former Ohio State University football coach and on our first day out together, he screamed cuss words in my face for not looking in my blind spot while merging. I was so distraught, I had to pull over on the highway and sob. He then felt bad and bought me a chocolate milkshake through a McDonald's drive-thru.)
My tears worked again, because the 50-year-old military coach softened his scowl.
"This is about boys becoming men, not ballerina time," he told me, frowning at my cream colored pea coat and vintage buckled heels.
Eventually, his gruffness wore off and when the boot camp was over, he had as much credit with me as a teddy bear.
And by the time I was ready to leave, we were joking and laughing like old friends.
He even invited me to join the military boot camp and said I had "potential."
It was quite charming.
So what promised to be a bad morning actually ended up being a pretty good one.
I don't feel tired. I look terrific. And if this whole journalism thing doesn't work out, I have potential to be a U.S. Marine.
(With the right heels, I really think I could make the uniforms on the far left and far right look really fab. Granted, this photo is from the 1930s but I doubt the Marines female uniforms have changed that much.)