Nigh on 20 years ago, when I was in the military, one of my co-workers died by by auto-erotic asphyxiation. I did not know him well, and felt no sense of loss when he passed away, but ever since the word “auto-erotic asphyxiation” triggers cues one of my favorite memories of the military.
The week after the event in question, my section gathered before our shift for weekly formation. Our flight-chief (the senior NCO) was new and still getting acquainted with all of the people. He began formation as usual, with roll call, and that’s when the fun started. He made his way through the alphabet to the letter “R”, and brain-farted. He called out the deceased's name in a loud, and crisp voice (“in a military manner”, as we used to say.) Failing to receive a prompt reply, he barked out the name a second time, and stared daggers at the assembled crowd, searching for someone too stupid to respond to his own name. If my life were a movie, this scene would be punctuated by the sound of a needle being dragged across a record. Everything, time included, stopped in its tracks.
Within nanoseconds, one could see the flight chief’s face recast itself: a look of gob-smacked disbelief at what he had done slid down his face, followed immediately by embarrassment. It was here that the lieutenant whispered, “He’s not here. Remember?!” Under normal circumstances, the lieutenant’s voice wouldn’t have been audible over the hum of the side-conversations that occurred during roll-call, but the sound of the deceased's name had seized our attention; all eyes were on the flight chief and lieutenant, seated before us, and consequently everyone heard the lieutenant. His attempt to quickly and quietly recover the situation provided the needed punchline. Soon the incredulity that filled the room was replaced by the sounds of people trying desperately to suppress their laughter.
I hope none of your friends or family have gone on to their eternal rewards by this particular method, but I thank you for reminding me of a funny evening. It was even better than the Rosa Parks incident in 2005.