(Read part 10 here)
In my safehouse in Frankfurt, I was given a packet of instructions to memorize. It was seven days in seven cities in the country of Tangar Sur Mer. Can’t say I’ve ever been there… or heard of it. I had several hours to memorize where to be, when to be there, how much to spend, what to do, and who to do it to. It was daunting, but a motivated drive wrought me a capacity to memorize things, and has always been a blessing to me. To it, largely responsible for my ability to communicate in seven languages.
When my time was up I was brought to stand before a panel of cadre whereby I regurgitated every detail of my instructions in their proper order. My, but it took a long time. Thankfully, I didn’t miss a beat or an item. The satisfied panel invited me to return to my room and spend the remainder of my time doing whatever I wanted, but to be ready to walk out of the house at 0500hrs. To miss that departure would be to fail.
Back in my room I looked at my bed, my desk, my chair, my nightstand, and listened to the ticking of my clock. I set it for 0430 hrs, checked it, then checked it again. I laid my Jodi-a$$ head on my pillow, checked my clock, and checked it one more time. I drifted, thinking that if I ran out of money and couldn’t pay for a room one of my nights in-country that I would climb to the roof of the motel and sleep there. Sounded legit… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…
It was zero-heinous-thirty in the morning when my alarm rudely spanked my ears. I sat up immediately so as not to drift off again. I tried to think of the first leg of my journey… nothing! Oh hell… this was going to be interesting. I didn’t smell any coffee. confound it! Did I forget to set it up last night? Where by the heaven that bends above us am I anyway?
I went to the bathroom banging both shins and an elbow. I locked out one final SEAL and affected morning ritual. There was a fresh roll of toilet paper on the floor in the corner. It was wrapped in a very thin sort of sanitary paper… PAPER? I pulled the wrapper off and smoothed it out against the bathroom wall. My, but it was big. I folded it square and tucked into my inner-most garment.
Back in my room I stood poised to leave. I turned with my back to the door and made one last S2 sweep of the space. There was a bed, a nightstand, a desk, a chair, and a folding rude alarm clock ticking its mechanical ass off. “That clock is designed for mobility,” I postulated. “It needs to be mobile,” postulate I… and I grabbing and stuffed it into my bag as I headed out the door.
(I learned eventually from a source that he heard the HMFIC later that day yell out from my room: “He took the clock, that son-of-a-bitch took the mother phuqing clock!”)
The way I saw it that clock was like towels in a Hotel: they want you to take them as mementos of your stay in their fine establishment. Well, it sux being them, because I needed that clock more than they did. I would use it to barter a ride to one of my many destinations, as I would the remainder of my clothes… but with hope, not my G-Shock watch or sunglasses, but both had their heads on the chopping block, whether they knew or liked it, I did not care.
The ride to the airport was a short one as I dozed off and on. Once there and away from my captors, I quickly nicked a pencil from a desk at a rental car counter. I sat on the throne in a stall of a restroom and, pressing my toilet paper wrapper to the wall, I wrote out every thing I could remember regarding the nouns and verbs of my travel instruction… like a rat!
I jetted from Frankfurt and touched down at the London Gatwick Airport. My God, but I was wasted. I was totally spun up and tired at the same time. I didn’t dare sleep in the terminal lest I miss my flight. I sat, nay sprawled in my chair, too tired for posture. A pair of flight attendants happened by and I swear I heard one mutter: “Nice clothes.”
Standing up I turned and looked at myself splatted there in the chair. I looked like someone with a really nasty head cold had hawked up and spat in that chair. I sat back down and didn’t budge: ‘Phuq them; I’ll never see them again,” I consoled myself.
And then it happened.
To my disbelief, I heard my name called. Then again and again and I lifted my head to see two pipe hitters from my own squadron walking toward me with a half grin, and half contort in bewilderment. This had to be a trick; part of the play, the game you know. Everything was a trick; nothing was real, nothing to get hung about. They were nothing but an undigested bit of beef, a crock of mustard, a crumb of cheese.
Behind them, I saw the makings of most of my squadron bros milling about.
“geo what the hell are you doing here??”
“I got snatched up on a Lonely Travel gig. What are you guys doing here?”
“Ohhhh riiiiight… yeah we thought that is what happened to you. We are on our way to do a high altitude jump into Gibraltar, remember? Hey… so do you need anything?”
“Oh hell yeah I need something; I need a whole lot of somethings… but I just can’t accept anything from you guys. That would put you at risk; in fact, we probably shouldn’t be talking man. I hate it but that’s the way it needs to be.”
We shook hands mournfully and the brothers left. Paul S. Came back briefly and sat for just a second and told me some pointless, worthless things about a boil on his buttock and left. I wondered weakly at what that might have been all about. Then, glancing down at the seat he had just been sitting in, was a gigantic Whopper (with cheese) from Burger King. From the King, to the King. It was good to be king, even if for ten minutes at London Gatwick.
“On rappel!!” I shouted to no one there, “Look at the size of it!” When I unboxed it and held it in my hands, it changed suddenly into a hefty leg of mutton. “Gawd dammit, Paul!” There on the floor was a Burger King soda! I clutched it as it turned into a tankard of ale. There was much rejoicing.
“We eat!” I shouted as I orally shredded the mutton leg in bulbous tufts, intentionally letting much of it fall to my chest en route to the floor. I guzzled the ale, purposely allowing some to spill from both corners of my mouth. Once drained in a single cascade, I slung the tankard with a spirited cast to the floor dashing it to pieces. I wiped my dripping pie trap with the sleeve of my tunic and cried out:
“More ale! By the Gods ye be damned, more ale!!”
“Lufthansa Flight 484 to the Ba’ad Salaat Emirates will be boarding shortly.”
Where’s your Messiah now, Flanders? There was my answer to more ale. I planned and slept most of the way to the Emirates… like a rat!
The French flight attendant on the German plane was more than slightly bemused by my preposterous Cajun accent. “She can sit in a closet suck an egg if she doesn’t like it–a BROWN egg… a brown one.” (In French):
“No, no, no, Monsieur; I think it sounds magnifique. I have heard of the French settlement in America all my life, but I have never met or heard anyone from there. It sounds like the way my grandmother and the very old people speak. It is incredible, you know? Well, eef zer eez any-sing I can get you…”
Thinking keenly of the $hit paper wrapper stationary I was sporting, I asked her for perhaps a pen and some paper. Once she figured out I wanted a pen and paper, and not a giraffe and brick, she brought me a pen and two small notebooks, one of which I still have to this day filled with a journal of my travel and all my instructions for each of the seven days.
The front cover of my cherished notepad opened up to my journal
Page one of my journal; though clipped, mention of meeting the brothers at London Gatwick is clearly referenced. The month was May of 1997. ‘FF’ is shorthand for Frankfurt
Flipping the notepad around opens into my daily operational instructions
Daily instructions. The circles have been checked off as I completed the action. Note the first action of the first day is to get the shared ride to the train station, checked off… like a rat!
Landing in Tangar Sur Mer I knew I would face my first quandary, in that I was only allowed to spend a paltry amount for my ride to my first objective. That meant I had to share a ride with four others. In fact, according to my journal I was only allowed to spend 30 DH to make a 150 DH ride to the Port Train Station.
At the taxi landing: we the gaggle, in order to form a more perfect union, need to speak English… English or French. We all blinked at each other. I shamed them all for their Arabic-ness; they shamed me for my English and Acadian knock-off. We all just needed to join hands and praise Jesus, but that just wasn’t going to happen.
“Y a quelqu’un qui’l faut aller jusqu’au Port Train Station?” “Who needs to go to the Port Train Station?” I spoke out, mindlessly gesturing what I thought a train station should look like.
The group erupted into what can only be described as three auctions going on at the same time in three different languages. I hung in there for a valiant spread of time, then I finally slammed a taxi door and we sped off to the Station as I fished 150 DH from my America pocket… like a rat!
“Well, that went swimmingly,” me thought, “Nobody ever possibly passes that first test, because it’s just stupid!” I rationalized, “This is going to be a real ball buster!”
By God and with honor,
(All photos courtesy of Wikipedia and the author)