The next few weeks continued as I had described. Everyone had a roommate and we lived in a small room similar to that of a college dorm. In the rooms there were two twin beds with one small pine wood nightstand between them. Each room had two wall lockers, which was sort of a closet/dresser with couple drawers inside that was built into the wall. There was a small sink and mirror between the wall lockers. On the other side of the room were two desks. We woke up everyday at 5:15 am to get a head start at making the "racks" or the beds. They had to be made military style, as tight as possible with the hospital corners at a perfect 45 degree angle. The clothes hanging in the wall lockers had to be facing a certain direction, hung up in a certain order, and organized to mirror the wall locker of your roommate. All the buttons had to be buttoned and zippers zipped. The drawers inside the wall locker which were sort of a tiny dresser also had to be organized a certain way. The top drawer was for toiletries, everything was organized neatly, smallest item to largest item with the labels facing up. The other drawers were for your clothes. They also needed to be organized a certain way and all of your clothes had to be neatly rolled in the drawer. Not only did roommates need to make sure that their things were perfectly identical, but the entire class had to have everything organized identically. If you were changing, the blinds had to be put down...if you were not or if you ever left the room, the blinds had to be exactly half way up and the door had to be open. The rooms had to be perfectly clean, meaning no dust anywhere, no pieces of lint on the carpet, no water spots in the sink...perfect!
If anything was not squared away in your rooms, they would be trashed! Everything in the wall lockers would be thrown all over the rooms, beds would be flipped over with sheets and blankets all over the room. One time we came back and our mattresses were in the middle of the room, leaning against one another to make a teepee. I'm sure you're thinking that this doesn't sound too difficult. I was thinking the same thing before experiencing it. Follow instructions and you're good right? You make mistakes because you have no time. Everytime you are changing clothes, making the racks or cleaning, you are trying to do it as quickly as possible. The stress that you are under causes you to miss little details.
Every morning at 6am, we have morning stretch. We form up as a class and march down to the gym, run some laps, do some stretching, and some other light exercises for about 20 minutes just to get the blood flowing. We have class 8 hours a day and have an hour of PT, physical training, everyday as well. After dinner at night, we have to lift weights, study/type notes from the classes you had that day, and then clean the academy until it's time to go to bed.
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner were no time to let down your guard and take a break. We marched in, you got your tray, (whatever happened to be on the plate was what you took) and sat down at the table. You ate your food as fast as you could. There was no talking and no looking around, no looking at anything other than the food that was sitting in front of you. I'm a slow eater typically so this was challenging for me. I would take a drink after every bite of food I took to help me swallow it faster. One day I timed the amount of time it took us to eat at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. From the time we started eating to the time we were leaving the cafeteria, it averaged out to be a little more than 5 minutes. I don't know why but the academy has some infatuation with peanut butter. I love peanut butter but I've never been anyplace where there is a jar sitting on every table. A lot of times we didn't get enough food or didn't have enough time to eat everything so we just grabbed a scoop of peanut butter out of the jar to help fill you up.
One day at lunch, the instructors were yelling at people while they were eating. "Stop looking around! You're eyes should only be on your plate! Hey You!! What are you looking at!" They singled out two or three different people for looking around. A few minutes later I looked up from my plate to look at the people at my table to see if they were done eating. When we finished eating, we had to wait for everyone at the table to finish eating because we all had to get up at the exact same time. I didn't want to be the one to hold up the table so I was checking to see if everyone was done. BAD IDEA!
"Towers!! Can't you follow directions!? Couldn't you hear me yelling at Rodriguez!?"
I freaked out and an excuse just blurted out of my mouth.
"Sir, I was looking for the peanut butter, Sir." This was not true at all of course but it just came out. As soon as I said it, I realized that the cadet right across from me had the peanut butter in his hands. I freaked out again because I knew the instructor would see that and know that I was lying, which was the #1 wrong thing to do at the academy. I quickly tried to prepare to counter the yelling that was about to take place.
"He's got the peanut butter Towers! Right in front of you!"
I knew he was going to say that and the only thing I could come up with in the seconds that this unfolded was, "Sir, I was looking for the crunchy peanut butter, Sir."
This turned out to be the perfect excuse because the crunchy jar was sitting on the other side of the napkin holder just beyond the direction I was originally looking.
"For God sakes, would somebody get him the peanut butter!" he yelled!
I about shit my pants. I had narrowly avoided a disaster.
The purpose of this environment that is created is to train you to pay to attention to details. It trains your eyes and your brain to notice when the smallest things are out of place. If you are running down the hallway and don't notice the tiny piece of lint on the carpet and pick it up, you wished you would have. This environment trains you for real life on the streets. In the academy, if you miss something or don't pick up on a tiny detail, it's only a button or a dust bunny or a piece of lint. On the street, however, it could be something much more important. What if you miss the subtle signs that the interaction you having with a violator are about to go south? What if you miss that gun or a knife? It's the buttons and lint in the academy now, that will ensure that you go home at the end of your shift when it's real and you're on the street.
We lost our second guy by week 3. He was on crutches for most of the week from running we did the week before. I'm not too sure of the details, but basically he was told he'd be on crutches for a while. The academy determined that it would cause him to miss out on too much, so he was sent home. Going into week 4 we were down to 20 people.