Saturday, January 11, 2014


By Julie Rahm

My husband, John spent most of his Marine Corps career as a pilot in Harrier squadrons. As you may know, Harriers are jets that hover like helicopters. Harriers have the capability to hover because they do not have exhaust tail pipes like conventional jets. Harrier tail pipes are actually four moveable nozzles that are mounted two on each side of the jet. The nozzles are rotated down for hovering and pointed aft for forward flight. Anyway, Harriers are very demanding to fly. Only pilots with exceptional skills are chosen to fly Harriers. There are very few Harrier pilots. They all know one another. As a result, squadron pilots form very close fraternities. The bond between these men is real and unique. To perpetuate these bonds, often there are squadron rituals that unite the men into a singleness of purpose. One of these squadron rituals sticks in my mind. It was the “Bites” game.

The premise of the “Bites” game was if one of your fellow pilots called (yelled) “bites” before you called “no bites”, the “bites” caller got a bite of your lunch sandwich. Some pilots did not bother to pack their own lunch. They feasted on others sandwiches! It was important to call out “no bites” before you opened your lunch. Failure to preempt a “bites” call with a “no bites” call always resulted in a lost portion of sandwich. As time went by, the game progressed. It grew beyond the squadron building. There were “bites” calls at fast food restaurants. There were “bites” calls while food shopping. The bites were not small. Mostly, sandwiches were crammed into mouths to get the most for the one “called” bite. The game got crazy. What if two people called “bites” at the same time? Controversy was the by product. How many times could bites be called? For how long was a “no bites” call good? The game needed some structure. So, in military fashion, the pilots formulated the rules for the Bites game. Here is short version of the rules.

The Bites game could only be played from official sunrise to official sunset. A “no bites” call was good until official sunset. The game could only be played in the squadron building. The operations duty officer, who executed the flight schedule, was the witness for all “no bites” calls. As a protective measure, one could call no bites under the awning, before entering the squadron building. And lastly, the Officer of the Day was the sole arbiter of any dispute. As you ponder this…

These are grown men in their twenties. All have college degrees! All but a few had some post-undergraduate education! It is difficult to comprehend why twenty-six men would promulgate this sandwich poaching behavior. John still calls “no bites” when he carries a sandwich into a room! So, I tell you about the Bites game in order to tell you this.

It does not matter. Some things just are. Because, every puzzle need not be solved!

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