I graduated with a BA in theater arts from UCLA in March, 1970. My II-S student deferment was thus no longer valid and my lottery number was 152. Not long after I left school, the infamous "Greetings" letter arrived. Lucky for me, I was a lifelong asthmatic. No problem…or so I thought. I went to my family doctor and got a letter stating that I had asthma, and off I went to take my physical in this old, crumbling downtown-LA building.
I had been told that the doctor’s letter was probably insufficient, that I had to present proof of medical care–prescriptions, hospital records, that sort of thing. Since I was always able to quell any attacks with over-the-counter sprays, I had no such evidence to give them. So, I worriedly went through the whole horrid process, including the hilarious check for piles and the beloved turn-your-head-and-cough. And let’s not forget that gruelling written mental test, which nearly drove me to the point where I considered taking hostages at pencil-point–I actually started to lose my mind, as I plowed through page after page of those ridiculous multiple-choice questions.
Finally, it was over. The last dude stamped me as I-A, and I pleaded my case. He then leaned forward and said: "Listen carefully. I’ll give you an extension. If you happen to have an attack in the next two weeks and don’t have your medicine with you, and so you require care at your local emergency room…have them send us the record of your visit. Do you understand?" Boy, did I.
I waited a few days, then summoned a couple of college co-ed friends to drop by for some physical activity. The two gals and I engaged in a spirited tickling fight, followed by some close-up fun with one of their pet cats (I have always been allergic), followed by a jog around the block and a few trips up and down the apartment house stairs. Lo and behold, I started wheezing! We all drove to the UCLA Medical Center in my ’55 Buick (I was able to drive), where I checked into the emergency room–wheezing like crazy. "Asthma attack?" calmly asked the perceptive receptionist. "Go to Room 3". There, I received a shot of epinephrin (the active ingredient of most asthma sprays) and a glucose-water I.V. to help circulation. Quickly, the wheezing stopped, whereupon I started hyperventilating. Major numbness in lips and fingertips–cured by breathing into a paper bag. That was followed by an over-reaction to the epinephrin injection: I was ready to bounce off the walls. "OK, roll over," the weary doctor instructed, administering a shot of phenobarbitol in my derriere. I lay there, alone, ecstatic from all the meds I’d received.
My next visit to Selective Service was in their brand new building. Upon checking in prior to sunrise, I was assured that the hospital report was in my file, but–darn it all–the results of my earlier physical were missing. I would have to go through all that over again. I started complaining, but the attendant said "Hey–you wanna get out of the army? Take the physical." I was relieved to see that my mental test score was written on the folder, so I didn’t have to go through that torture again. As I proceeded from station to station, my mood was joyous, much to the puzzlement of the others marching along in their undies. Finally, we entered the drop-your-shorts room. I was the last one in, with all eyes in me as I entered. "I suppose you’re wondering why I’ve gathered you here today," I intoned. It would be the only laugh they enjoyed that morning.
My last stop was a table where I received my new classification: unfit for service. (I would later get a formal IV-F). Walking toward the door, I gazed over my shoulder at the line of glum recruits heading to the buses taking them to boot camp. On a counter near the door I saw some pastries. I picked out a powdered doughnut, took a bite, and walked outside, just as a gorgeous sunrise was unfolding over the City of Angels.