Shortly after I finished my Master's degree I got a job as a civilian contractor for the
Marine Corps. I went to the tiny town of Twentynine Palms, California to work at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. It was an awesome job, actually. I was helping to convert some of their training courses from instructor-led to computer training. I developed courses on how to disarm a landmine, how to maintain your Humvee, how to check your car for bombs, how to operate a combat radio, how to lose a pursuer in a urban car chase... all kinds of fascinating topics!
They also had the philosophy that I couldn't teach it if I hadn't tried it... which meant that I got to drive a Humvee and shoot a machine gun and other very cool stuff.
Because I was a civilian, I couldn't use the base facilities, which meant I drove 30-45 minutes to the next town for groceries or to see a movie or to pick up Chinese food. I hear the town and facilities have grown these days, but when I was there, the town itself was pretty bare-bones.
I had great friends there, though. We were all young and single, so we thought nothing of taking off at moment's notice and driving the 3 1/2 hours to either Las Vegas or San Diego (about the same distance in opposite directions) to find some entertainment. It was not uncommon to drive to Vegas for dinner and then head right back so everyone could be at work/on duty in the morning. Or go to San Diego just long enough for an hour of bodysurfing at the beach before going home again. (Gas was cheaper then, too!) I never did make it to the San Diego Zoo, though, much as I wanted to go.
Being the Mormon girl, I usually got tapped for designated driver duty. None of my friends were really hard-core drinkers, but most would knock back a few as part of a night out. As the observer I quickly learned that (with this group, at least) you could tell when some had had one too many because they got very affectionate. When someone started being very free with the "I love you, you know?" "You're the greatest! Really. The best friend I ever had." and "Do you know how much I love you guys?" you knew it was time to head for home and put them to bed.
That's why I now find it so amusing every night when Rylen gets tired and needs to go to bed. Because when he gets sleepy he'll come over, lean against me, and say (slurring a little with tiredness) "I love you, Mommy. And I love Daddy. And I love the kitties, too." And he'll usually throw in a little of "You the best Mommy. You not a bad Mommy." And then repeat these phrases over and over until he drifts off to sleep. It's actually quite adorable and sweet, but it does make me think back to those days of hanging out with my buddies from Twentynine Palms and I just have to laugh at the similarities between a sleepy toddler and a tipsy Marine.