Christopher is unfit for military service. This obviously does not come as a surprise to anyone. Of course, there are many reasons why Christopher and military service could not possibly fit together, but now it is official.
Like all 17-year-old male Austrians, Christopher received a letter from the government some time ago with instructions to report to a local center to register for military service. Most – if not all – his friends have chosen the alternative „service to society“ instead of the military, but they still have to go in for two days of tests and interviews to register. Seth and another friend went in a few weeks ago, and Seth gave us a hilarious description of everyone running around in absurdly short pants that didn’t even cover anyone’s boxer shorts. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall during his interview with the psychologist. As Seth described it: „He was trying to figure out what’s the matter with me, and I was trying to figure out what’s the matter with him.“ In a contest like that, I would definitely place my bets on Seth.
Earlier this week it was Christopher and Sascha’s turn. Apparently Christopher would have been exempted from military service (and thus also „service to society“) with only one case of meningitis, but with a whole stack of medical records describing multiple episodes of meningitis and a diagnosis offering no assurance that these episodes will not start occurring again, there was absolutely no question about it. He almost started regretting it, though, when he and Sascha looked at some of the possibilities for „service to society“, including international positions, such as working at Holocaust memorials around the world. Theoretically, he could still volunteer for some of them, but this way he could study first.
Although it is convenient that Christopher is exempt from this obligation (we are not even going to think about the possibility of a justification for that), on the whole I don’t think a year of „service to society“ would have done him any harm at all. For Patrick, on the other hand, I’m afraid this is going to end up being extremely inconvenient and complicated, although he is already thinking of elaborate schemes for avoiding the issue.
The first problem is that Patrick will be finished with school a year early, when he is only 17. At this point, he can’t wait to be finished and away. Of all the plans he is considering, none of them include staying in Austria. He feels no particular tie with this country or any other. He is a real citizen of the world (albeit maybe not this world), and out in the world somewhere else is where he wants to be. On top of that, after the other boys‘ experiences with the psychological interviews, they all agreed with mischievous humor, „Just wait until they meet Paddy next year – they’ll never be able to figure him out!“ How can we explain to the Austrian army that they really don’t want Paddy, and he doesn’t want them, and it would be best for all concerned to just let him go?
P.S. I finally figured out how to get pictures off my phone and onto my new laptop the other day, so with the usual apologies for the poor quality, they are at least up now: Christmas 2007