Saturday, February 14, 2009

Like useless young men in a depression

MSNBC has a story about a woman who "went to work for weeks expecting to be laid off and felt relief when it finally happened."

It reminded me of the character Hungry Joe in Catch-22 who has fulfilled the number of bombing missions necessary to be sent back to the States, but lives in total terror. When Col. Cathcart raises the number of missions again, he's relieved, even though it means he'll have to go risk his life again over Italy.
In Yossarian's group there were only a mounting number of enlisted men and officers who found their way solemnly to Sergeant Towser to ask if the orders sending them home had come in. They were men who had finished their fifty missions. ... They worried and bit their nails. They were grotesque, like useless young men in a depression. They moved sideways, like crabs. They were waiting for orders sending them home to safety to return from Twenty-Seventh Air Force Headquarters in Italy, and while they waited they had nothing to do but worry and bite their nails and find their way solemnly to Sergeant Towser several times a day to ask if the orders sending them home to safety had come.

They were in a race and knew it, because they knew from bitter experience that Colonel Cathcart might raise the number of missions again at any time. They had nothing better to do than wait. Only Hungry Joe had something better to do each time he finished his missions. He had screaming nightmares and had fistfights with Huple's cat. ... Every time Colonel Cathcart increased the number of missions and returned Hungry Joe to combat duty, the nightmares stopped and Hungry Joe settled down into a normal state of terror with a smile of relief.

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