New Word of the Day: Lalochezia

Today, as I browsed for a new word, I ran across this one. Lalochezia. It’s pronounced lal·o·che·zi·a (lāl’ō-kē’zē-ə) and refers to the positive emotional state or relief produced by cursing. Hmm. I know full well what this means, but I never would have guessed that there was a word for it and oh boy, does it bring back memories.

*

It was the summer of 1989 and I was a private in the U.S. Army, stationed at Ft. Drum, NY. For some reason, the commander of our reconnaissance platoon, a first lieutenant, decides that out of the eighteen new soldiers in our platoon, I am the perfect choice for his RTO or radio telephone operator. The way I saw it I was the worst choice, but my squad leader said it would be a good thing to have the constant attention of an officer. So I agree to do it without having any idea what “it” was. Oh was I stupid.

The purpose of an RTO is best summed up as being both a pack mule and a human shield. First you have your rucksack filled with all your stuff—usually rations and water to last three-to-five days, something to sleep in, and ammunition. Then you stuff in an AN/PRC77 (called a “prick 77”) radio, an encryption module (called a VINCENT), two spare batteries, a large whip antenna, and a spool of wire for a directional antenna. Then the LT, who is constantly moving because no one can hear him on the stupid thing because the signal’s too weak to penetrate the terrain, drags you around by the handset like a toy poodle. Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. You’re an excellent target too with an antenna that screams, “Shoot me! I’m attached to an officer who can call in air support! Then, after you kill me, walk your fire in two paces closer and one pace to the right (just follow the leash) and kill him too!”

Altogether, my pack weighed between ninety and one-hundred and twenty pounds. It sucked dirty first lieutenant socks.

*

So, we are out on a training exercise not six months out of basic training and the company commander, a captain, decides he wants to observe us in our natural setting—in the middle of a wetland several “klicks” (kilometers) away over hill and dale. At two in the morning. Guess whose walking point? I’ll give you a hint. It wasn’t either one of the officers. Guess who was navigating? I’ll give you another hint. It wasn’t me.

I’m wet, I’m cold, I’m tired, I’ve got a hundred pounds of crap on my back, and now I’m blazing a trail at night, with no moon, through nature’s version of concertina wire, with a machete. This stuff is so thick I wouldn’t have walked through it in the daytime unless people were shooting at me. It’s good concealment and cover.

A vine grabs my leg, knocks me down. Another one paints fire across my cheek as I fall. My hands sink into mud up to my forearm. I get up. I continue hacking. I step into water that smells like a toilet and soaks me up to my crotch. I continue hacking. I rip the skin from my knuckles as a bramble bush steals my machete, tosses it away, and whips fire down my other cheek. I poke around, find my machete, barely stumble to my feet under the weight of my pack, almost fall over, wipe the grip dry, and begin to curse. I curse at nature like only a member of the armed forces can—with no regard for noise discipline and with no regard for punctuation or grammar.

“Mother frackin glob swarmin flop!” Hack! “Summer-blast flub nubber dack!” Hack! “Bitchter birthin god dummer slob!” Hack! “Fillen brat gorg slopper fudge!” Hack!

The brambles, vines, water, and mud begin to whither and spread as if I am Moses slapping them with my staff and not just a dumb, green GI ineffectually bludgeoning them with my dull machete. I begin to rage. I feel like a god. I grow drunk on the power. I…

“Private!”

“Yes sir?”

“Shut up.”

“Yes sir.”

But it’s too late. I had taken an emotional vacation in my mind and had come back refreshed and whole. Nothing matters anymore. Not the prick on my back nor the prick behind me. I’d been saved by lalochezia.

So next time you hit your thumb with a hammer, or step on a Lego in your bare feet, or stub your toe on a bike left lying in the yard, remember, it’s healthy to curse. So go ahead. Do it. Don’t hold it in. Let the F-Bomb fly. Trust me. You’ll feel better. I know I do.

*

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