Since the first time I heard the name, “Katina Powell” I’ve had numerous conversations with friends and family members about what all of this could mean. Inevitably, no matter who I find myself picking over the details with we both come back the same familiar refrain. “It just sucks.” After processing where we stand after the self-imposed ban last week, and engaging in new conversations about what it all means, inevitably, I found myself back at that same old conclusion after all available analysis had been exhausted. It just sucks.
This got me thinking about that phrase. It’s not exactly easy to define, but at the same time it’s unambiguous in that everyone you talk to roundly agrees that this does indeed “Suck.” This made me mull over other contexts for the phrase and I immediately came to the only other one I know and realized that it’s a fair comparison and an apt analogy for where we all are with this thing right now.
When I completed Navy basic training and “A School” in the summer of 2000, my ship was on deployment in the Persian Gulf. So, Uncle Sam flew me and a fresh batch of bright eyed bushy tailed Gung-ho “booters” to Bahrain and then landed us on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. There I was, Airman O’Bryan, a 19 year old kid from the sticks who had been told by his recruiter that, “If you go in as an Un-designated Airman you can pick whatever job you want once you get to your ship.”
I believed him, and I’m sure the look on my face was priceless when they introduced me to my Division Officer and I asked him when I got to “pick my job.” He smiled at a grizzled old Senior Chief saltier than Neptune himself, turned back to me and said four words I’ll never forget. “Welcome to The Suck.” As it turns out, recruiters often lie to 19 year old kids. My ass belonged to the United States Navy and V-1 Division on board the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and that was that. My life would consist of 14-16 hour work days in a part of the world where the heat of the sun alone was enough to break a man’s spirit. Now factor in that you’re on a metal deck 10 stories above the ocean with searing hot jet blast all around you in one of the most dangerous environments known to man, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
The Urban Dictionary defines “The Suck” as:
“The place of ultimate suckiness. The original suckiness from which springs all other suckiness in the world. The black hole of suckiness. The state of sucking, as in not cool. Extremely crappy in nature.”
Following his experiences in Iraq II, Col. Austin Bay wrote a book called, “Embrace the Suck.” He describes The Suck itself as a friction, saying that:
“War is very simple but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced (them). So when you tell someone to Embrace the Suck, it isn’t merely a wisecrack; it’s a Raw epigram based on encyclopedic experience."
But, I'll tell you something else about being in maximum suckitude. It won't last forever. That's another element of being in The Suck. You're there and you know there's more to the experience than what you have at this moment. You know that at some point it will end and things will be better, and that's one of the things that keeps you going.