Claim: An Army recruit who tries to commit suicide using a floor buffer fails and is charged for damage to the buffer.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1997]
- Usually the story culminates with the trainee's leaving the service, although sometimes he is said to have been placed in a psychiatric hospital or to have gone on to complete his training as if nothing happened.
- Whatever his ultimate fate (drummed out, psych hospital, model soldier), the despondent lad is usually forced to pay for repairs to the buffer and is often be said to have been
Article 15'd(i.e., subject to a nonjudicial punishment resulting in a penalty such as forfeiture of two weeks' pay).
Few new soldiers have had janitorial experience prior to their stints in the Army. The buffer is thus a new experience for almost everyone, and many are shocked to discover "Be All That You Can Be" often amounts to wrestling one of these monsters down endless halls in pursuit of the perfect mirror shine. For the inexperienced, the buffer is heavy, hard to control, and symbolizes menial enslavement to the service's ideal of all things immaculate at all times. It's little wonder it has come to star in one of the Army's
In true urban legend fashion, many, many Army recruits over the years have heard the infamous buffer tale presented to them as a true story, routinely related as an incident involving a trainee in the class just before theirs or a few cycles earlier. Countless others have claimed that they witnessed the event themselves (or that they personally know someone who did). The very same sequence of events has apparently played out multiple times with dozens of different recruits, as the "attempted floor polisher suicide" tale has been described to us by various correspondents as actually having happened at Fort Benning, Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Jackson, Fort Knox, Fort Gordon, and just about every other U.S. Army training facility in the United States.
Basic training is hard, and it's a rare soldier who doesn't entertain at least a fleeting thought of chucking it all during the process. The failed suicide legend is an expression of the fears of failing to measure up to the demanding standards of Basic Training and of being laughed at by one's unit, a group that will come to mean more to the serviceman than his own family. In the legend, as in life, fear of looking foolish in front of one's comrades is seen as the far greater bogeyman. That the soldier in the story feels so beaten down as to become suicidal is seen as little more than a
On rare occasions this legend is divorced of its Army associations and presented as a straight "failed suicide" tale, as in the following example:
Last updated: 17 June 2014
Flynn, Mike. The Best Book of Bizarre But True Stories Ever. London: Carlton, 1999. ISBN 1-85868-558-3 (p. 29).