NEW ORLEANS, LA - Earlier today, Private Jackson Smith took the oath of enlistment, which would make him a proud soldier in the United States Army. But the joke is on Smith’s superiors because he secretly crossed his fingers behind his back as he recited the hallowed words – thereby nullifying anything he was promising to do.
“I had some second thoughts, and well, the recruiter was just pressuring me so hard. It was kind hard to tell him no. I figured I would just cross my fingers, and after SSG Grant dropped me off at my house that afternoon, I just wouldn’t return his phone calls anymore,” Smith said as he sat in a bean bag chair and “merced noobs in Call of Duty.”
“Boom, Head-shot!” he added.
The practice of crossing one’s fingers to negate a promise has roots deep in English common law. This practice, long recognized by the courts, was brought over during the colonization of the eastern seaboard and has stuck ever since.
Smith began his ordeal four months ago, after he had successfully completed his GED. The seventeen year-old was wandering around the mall, looking to buy some gnarly Tap Out gear in celebration, when he stumbled into the local recruiting station. Smith, head down and turning his foot back and forth on its toe, asked about the possibility of enlisting. That was when he ran into recruiter SSG Jed Grant.
“I gave him the usual spiel. You know: duty, honor, country – that type of thing. But honestly, kids don’t really go for that these days. Instead, I usually just tell them they’ll never see combat and get a $30,000 sign-on bonus. That and the college stuff, of course,” said Grant.
Smith sat down with Grant for two hours and discussed the possibility of enlistment. First and foremost on the recruiter’s mind was the lofty standards the Army places on new recruits.
“You got any felonies?” asked Grant.
“No convictions.” replied Smith.
Without further ado, Grant slammed a comically large stamp on an Army enlistment form which left the statement “acceptable,” in green ink. The next hour and fifty eight minutes were spent discussing hot chicks and awesome guns.
The next week, Grant called Smith to follow up.
“He told me that he set up an appointment for me to take the ASVAB. To be honest, I wasn’t sure who he was, because I was good and fucked up. But, I decided to head down there because my friends were being real douchey anyway,” said Smith.
Smith’s best friend and confidant, Harold Williams said, “He wouldn’t shut the fuck up about the Army. I mean, he would be acting all hard when we played Call of Duty – like pretending to know what weapon was what. It was getting real annoying.”
On his third ASVAB attempt, while being whispered answers through an ear piece by Grant, Smith finally got a score high enough to enlist. At this point, things got serious. Smith was shuffled around various offices to talk to different people in strange uniforms. He was told to sign this or that, and at one point, was instructed to throw a dart at a board which had fifteen sticky notes attached to it. One note said Military Police, the rest –Infantry. After the dart hit, Smith was christened a soon-to-be Military Policeman. Afterward, Smith was pushed into a small room with a couple different flags in the corner.
“Some guy walked in. He was eating a honey bun with one hand and carried a piece of paper in the other. I mean, he was going to town on that honey bun.” said Smith. “Then he said, ‘raise your right hand and repeat after me.’ That’s when I knew that I was in big trouble.”
The practice of raising one’s hand to give an oath is directly related to the custom of crossing one’s fingers to get out of one. If someone raises their hand, theoretically, everyone can see that the fingers are not crossed. Therefore, everyone can trust the oath took effect. But, Smith cleverly crossed the fingers on his left hand.
“It was just a bit of quick thinking. You don’t get through the Murbury County Community College GED program in only four weeks if you aren’t quick on the uptake, you know?” Smith said and tapped his temple with his forefinger to emphasize that point.
After the ceremony, Smith quietly rode home with Grant. Two months have passed and Grant is still less than pleased.
“Well, I’m not very happy about it, to tell you the truth,” said Recruiting officer SSG Jed Grant. “I thought the whole crossing fingers was something five year-olds did. Who knew, right?”
The Army is now exploring the possibility of having enlistees raise both hands during the oath but naysayers have complained that it gives the impression that new soldiers are “being taken hostage.”