Hurry Up and Wait

Hurry up and wait. Is this phrase familiar to you? If it is, have you ever served in the armed forces of the United Kingdom? It’s where I first heard it and I have never heard it in any other setting, in the UK or elsewhere.

 Perhaps, dear reader, an example of usage will help?

Hmm, it occurs to me that my use of “Dear reader” dates me. Well, I did  mention that I’m an old fart, right? Some men look distinguished as they age. I seem to have gone for more of an extinguished look.

Anyway drags self back to something resembling the point During the summer of 1979-ish (I’m old, memory is getting fuzzy) the RAF (Royal Air Force for you non-Brits) base I was then posted to (name redacted to protect the guilty ‘cos it’s still an operational base) was holding an open day for the public. These had to be set up very quickly from the end of flying Friday, before the gates opened to the public around 10am on the Saturday. This is where the “Hurry up” part of the phrase comes in.

Serving members of the armed forces are paid a fixed salary. They can be compelled to work whatever hours are required which, as a military organisation, makes sense (laughs hysterically at the concept of overtime pay). Many of us worked through most of the night setting up the various areas – they would be called ‘visitor experiences’ today – and towing aircraft into their display positions. This left us with a couple of hours to get some sleep, shower, grab breakfast and get dressed up in our fanciest uniform and medals (if any). These uniforms were often vaguely musty, as they were worn so rarely. So that was err, nice. We were required to be in position by 8am, two hours before 20,000 people were due to come swarming through the station gates.

Why, you might very well ask yourself if you are a sensible and not an ex-military person, were we required to be in position two hours before the gates opened on a hot summer day? I refer you to the title of this rambling blathering. It is because, in all things military, one is expected to hurry up and wait.

Whilst it is true that the station commander and SWO (Station Warrant Officer) did a fast pass around everything to make sure we didn’t look like we’d been up all night – even though we had – this took just thirty minutes. I probably have a whole future blog post on that tyrannical old bastard of a SWO. They are the senior non-commissioned airman or woman on a base and typically report directly to the station commander (US readers: think Command Master Chief). This one treated everyone, regardless of rank, with equal contempt. They just added “Sir!” to the end of their rant if it was aimed at an officer.

Did I mention it was summer and already 24°C (75ish F for North Americans) at 9am? By 10am we were all tired, grumpy, needing to use the toilet, wanting water and generally questioning some of our life choices. In other words, in perfect shape to be good public relations drones for the Royal Air Force.

I haven’t really explained the logic and meaning behind hurry up and wait, have I? May I dare to suggest this is because there isn’t any? There rarely is in military thinking, in my experience.

Tune in next week for more random blatherings from this old fart. Assuming your blood pressure can take the strain of all the rambling asides and tangents that what I am pleased to call my mind goes off on.

PS. Many of my ramblings here should be read with a CTTT (Certified True Tall Tale) warning in mind.

PPS. I thought I’d promised that my posts wouldn’t normally have as many parentheses as did my first one?

Tip of the week

Unless you’re working with formulae, anything in brackets or parentheses can (usually) be ignored.

Header image via Pexels.

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