There’s a hustle and bustle, rattle and hum over by the meat section in the commissary.

Who gets the top meat?

Shoppers are milling through all of those shiny, plastic sheeting-wrapped packages of meat. Raw and exposed for inspection. Carefully perused and selected with precision. These packages are hand selected and there is a sense of ownership once they are placed in the shopping cart. Like cavemen after a kill—don’t mess with someone’s bloody meat.

Arriving on the scene is Colonel So-and-So’s wife who has rolled in like the Queen of Sheba, or so she thinks. Her husband runs one of the larger squadrons on the base. She believes this title gives her license to do as she pleases in the commissary. He rules the squadron, she feeds the ruler; thus, she can have the best meat selection available to the troops. (Well, that could be her thinking.) What she did do was go over to another’s cart and swipe their meat.  The gall! She liked the look of it and took what she felt was better suited for the commander. She had confidence that it was her prerogative. And no one stopped her either.

On military installations there is a perceived sense of hierarchy of who gets what. How can there not be some kind of pyramid in the military’s social world, too? The installations are run by a non-trifling, enforced chain of command. The uniformed services take this directive as seriously as a heart attack. Not that it should, but their working environment’s world order easily transfers over to the everyday exchanges.

The example of the meat-thieving commander’s wife’s piss poor behavior has a flip-side as well.

We were last stationed at a smallish base in a smallish town. Pretty much what would be described as a “military town.” See, I, too, was a commander’s wife and knew the other like spouses, but no one seemed to know it when I was out and about. So, when I would go off-base and be involved in community activities, I was privy to and would often hear tales of grandiose misbehaviors allegedly performed by commanders’ spouses. (And our commissary, too, was a hub of perceived social hierarchy and often the stark setting for such ghastly moments.)

For instance, supposedly a group commander’s wife was just as much of a hard-ass and unpleasant of a character as her husband. She was described as a “total bitch” and that she would often cut in front of others waiting to check out simply because her time was more precious as a commander’s spouse. This was preposterous. I knew the accused and she was a shy homebody who homeschooled her kids and held great respect for others. I asked one of these pot-stirrers if they actually knew Total Bitch and she confessed to just passing the story around and not actually knowing the spouse.

When sitting back as a casual observer, lessons can be learned on a military base— a kind of microcosm of society. If the person in charge gets the best seat at a formal dinner, then he should get the best food, too, or if the person in charge acts likes a jerk at work, then his entire family is a bunch of jerks, as well. Unfortunately, perception overshadowing reality is a very real facet of the military

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