The lottery didn’t mean much to me, since at the time I was going to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and was in Air Force ROTC. Growing up in New York City I’d been pretty uptight, very conservative, and didn’t really question authority.
All that changed by the spring of ’70. Partially it was hanging around anti-war students, as well as talking to returning veterans, and some disgruntled people I met on the bases we visited as cadets. Some of it was starting to really study history at school. The last straw was the Cambodian invasion. I was a very enthusiastic participant in the riots that followed. A schizophrenic experience, since I was finishing ROTC at the time, having just declined the offer to be sworn in. So by day we’d march and at night I’d come back and help try to burn the place down. But that was the ’60s.
Fast forward 2 years. I graduated and had received The Letter. But along the way I’d read a book called "4-F", which nicely laid out how to avoid the draft. The author said a big organization like Selective Service didn’t deal well with people who didn’t fit, or situations that took time to resolve. Based on that advice, I visited a number of anti-war M.D.s, one quite prominent, and mentioned several minor medical issues. Taking the hint, they were pleased to give me letters that just discussed those small things in great detail. The best was, after hiking around for several hours, having one write a detailed report that I had "pain in walking."
When the day came I went to 14 Whitehall Street and joined the confusion so perfectly captured in "Alice’s Restaurant." Taking the book’s advice, I shoved my papers at everyone until a captain read the whole works, said "I’m not going to go against these guys," and told me to go home. Weeks later, after my father called, they finally finished the paperwork and coughed up a 4-F. Sometimes I wish I had served, but not there, not in that damn war.
Obviously none of this would have worked in a small town, or where the social pressures to join were strong. That day I saw lots of minority kids who had no idea what was going on being swept up by the system. It was a grossly unfair way to do things. But if you knew how to play the game then and there it was not so hard to beat.