Meeting Henry

Dining Ins are very formal dinners for military folks, and they are held for various occasions.  The tradition can be traced back to the days of the Vikings and was made popular in ‘recent’ times by General H.H. (Hap) Arnold during WW II.  I have always enjoyed Dining Ins… am going to one at week’s end by the way.

Being very formal occasions, you just don’t “screw around” during the first, or formal part of the ceremony.  There is a strict etiquette that is followed:

Violations of the formal etiquette of the Dining In are “punished”, generally with fines.  The following are considered “Heinous Violations of the Mess”:

  • untimely arrival at proceedings
  • smoking at the table before the lighting of the smoking lamp
  • haggling over date of rank
  • improper wear of uniform
    • inverted cummerbund (Note that U.S. Army regulation requires that cummerbunds be worn upside down: i.e. pleats down.)[8]
    • wearing a clip-on bow tie at an obvious list
  • gaffes
    • loud and obtrusive remarks in a foreign language
    • foul language
    • discussion on a controversial topic (politics, religion, and women are commonly forbidden topics)
  • improper toasting procedure
    • toasting with an uncharged (empty) glass
    • rising to applaud particularly witty, succinct, sarcastic, or relevant toasts, unless following the example of the President
  • leaving the dining room without permission from the President of the Mess
  • carrying cocktails into the dining area before the conclusion of dinner
  • haggling over penalties or fines imposed
  • drawing a sword except in ceremony [9]

The list is no where near inclusive, but you get the idea.  Infractions are typically dealt with a trip to the Grog Bowl.  This Grog Bowl is filled with “what-ever,” and is highly flammable – and alcoholic.  You also do NOT want to be sent there!

So, you get the idea of the decorum of a Dining In a bit… very formal.  And it was in this setting I met Henry Kissinger.  Only I didn’t meet him at dinner, I met him in the “john.”

When I first walked in to the john, I saw these 2 guys in suits standing behind the row of urinals.  I thought they were just waiting in line, then I saw an open stall.  Well, hell, why wait?  As I was getting ‘situated, I looked to my left, and there he was, the Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger – our guest speaker for the evening.  Who knew?  Then it dawned on me who the 2 “suits” were – his bodyguards.

So, without thinking, I looked over at Henry and asked, “Say Mr. Secretary, do you ever have a problem taking a leak with these 2 guys always watching you?”

I am so glad (today) there was no one from the Wing who might have overheard me ask that question!  Oh crap!  Of all the things I could have asked Dr. Kissinger about…

For his part, he thought about my question for a second, then he began laughing… and so did the 2 suits…

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