The time was about 1900, after a series of very long days. Like the others, this day was filled with tests and interviews, hours of mental intensity interrupted by hours of mind-numbing boredom. I was a first-class midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, and this was the singular event that would determine the course of my professional life.
For the previous few hours a combination of fatigue and nervous energy had been building, and I had become riveted, torn between the awe of the moment and fear of screwing this up.
We had heard many tales about what I would soon encounter. Most of these stories were presumed to be tall tales.
For example, several different renditions of the "make me mad" story had been circulating, where Admiral Hyman Rickover dared a midshipman to do something that would anger him, purportedly to see how willing the midshipman would be to follow an order. Some midshipmen were said to have complied by clearing the admiral's desk with a single arm sweep. Others reportedly destroyed a valued submarine model by throwing it out the window.