Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Another Inspection Story

Inspections were a way of life in the military service. Uniform inspections, room inspections, barracks inspections, vehicle inspections ... lots of inspections. During my time in the Army, one of the worst was the dreaded I.G. Inspection.

I never understood who the I.G. was who was doing the inspecting. "I.G." stood for "Inspector General," but the Inspector General him/herself never actually showed up to do the inspections, it was always a bunch of sergeants. And they inspected everything. Unlike the normal inspections by First Sergeants, Commanders and whatnot, these guys moved furniture around, took mirrors off the walls, pulled covers off light fixtures and generally dug around all over the place. A fine-toothed comb doesn't even come close to describing what they did during their inspections.

One way to reduce the time spent in the room was to wax the floor to a very high shine. Apparently the shiny floor distracted them and kept them from digging around too much. Under normal circumstances, for normal inspections, the regular emulsion wax the Army supplied with a quick buff was good enough. For the I.G. inspection, though, some extra effort was needed.

The best trick to get the floor to shine almost like a mirror was to use Johnson Paste Wax. The exact method was passed from soldier to soldier. Here's the steps as I remember them - and don't try this at home:

  • Make a handle for the can out of a wire hanger. The handle can be fashioned a number of ways so long as it holds the can securely when held upright and tilted to the side.
  • Attach the handle to the can and open the can.
  • Light the wax on fire and allow some to melt.
  • Put the lid back on the can to extinguish the flames.
  • Pour a small amount of wax on the clean, dry floor in strategic locations around the room.
  • Buff the wax into the floor using a floor buffer with the brush attached.
  • Buff the floor again, only this time cover the brush with a woolly toilet seat cover.
With a little practice, you could have the floor almost good enough to shave with.

Oh, I forgot to mention this practice was strictly forbidden - for reasons you will soon plainly see.

I mentioned earlier that this trick was passed on from soldier to soldier. One time, I remember, it didn't work out quite so well for one guy. We were getting ready for the "Big Inspection." A few of us chipped in for a can of Johnson Wax and took turns with the buffer and the toilet seat cover. A new guy who just moved in across the hall was wondering what we were doing, lighting wax on fire and pouring the liquid onto the floor. We explained to him it was to get the floor as shiny as possible. He caught onto the idea quickly enough, so a couple of us "more experienced" guys gave him the quick rundown on how to do it. He decided he'd surprise his new roommates by waxing the floor while they were at chow.

We finished our floor and were relaxing after a hard day's work, when we hear a panicked "Oh shit!" from the room across the hall, immediately followed by what sounded like a fire extinguisher being discharged. We looked at each other, wide eyed, and ran out of our room into the hallway. There stood the new guy, fire extinguisher in hand, smoke floating out of the door to his room and into the hallway.

"How do you guys do that without lighting the whole building on fire?" was the question he asked. You see, we didn't exactly spell out to him the fourth step in my instructions above - "Put the lid back on the can to extinguish the flames." He misunderstood and thought we poured the BURNING LIQUID WAX onto the floor WHILE STILL ALIGHT.

The tragedy was lost on us as we had a good laugh at his expense. After the howling died down we got together and scrounged up a couple of extra blankets to replace the ones he partially torched so at least his roommates wouldn't have to explain to the I.G. why their bedding was singed and smelled of smoke. Unfortunately, he had to replace one roommates expensive gold-plated stereo cable out of his own pocket.


  1. Think I will try this at the barber shop, but, aren't the floors a little too slick?

  2. I don't think I'd try this in a place of business. It does make the floors rather slick and someone might fall.

    But, if you ever find yourself in the military, this kind of knowledge can be quite handy.