“Big Ol Jet Airliner”
Two more weeks and I’d be aboard a “Big Ol Jet Airliner” (Steve Miller Band) headed to Am Consul Karachi, Pakistan via a stopover in London. My first assignment in the Foreign Service.
I walked into the lobby of The U.S. State Department. Probably my last visit for a couple of years, I would miss the place. The first thing that came to mind was the memorial plaque on the wall. The inscription read:
“Erected by the American Foreign Service Association in honor of those Americans who have lost their lives abroad under heroic or other inspirational circumstances while serving the country abroad in foreign affairs.”
I ran into one of my OC Bandit cohorts—New Jersey John in the cafeteria. He departed Washington D.C. each Friday afternoon for the New Jersey shore. John had inherited an ancient beachfront home from his parents and spent every weekend fixing it up. In my estimation, of all the bandits, New Jersey John best fit the role of a Foreign Service Officer. However, he let it be known that he was content to remain here, at least until his house was in order. He wished me a good weekend and headed off to his car for the journey to New Jersey, trying to beat the turnpike traffic. I don’t think I ever heard the well-dressed guy say a bad word about anyone (unless it was in jest).
The 1863 Train
I stopped by the State Department travel office and picked up my air tickets. I had a British Air flight from Washington Dulles, with a weekend stopover in in the land of the “stiff upper lip.” The world’s first subway train—the London Underground—opened in 1863. My hotel was near the Leicester Square Station. I had planned out my London excursion on a street map.
After a few “pints” in London I’d take a Pakistani Air flight to Karachi, Pakistan on an official overseas assignment where, hopefully, I’d learn the nuances of a U. S. Foreign Service Officer.
In the Foreign Service lounge I reflected on my first year with the Office of Communications, leading up to my upcoming assignment in Karachi.
My domestic tenure had been both stressful and… I hate to use the words interesting and fun because their interpretations were so open-ended. Let’s just say, “I had passed the test.” The OC bandits—Norm Bates, Kevin, Zoom Zoom, New Jersey John, Byron, Ron, and Marvin Payne in particular had broadened my horizons, as they say.
A raw recruit, I had learned how to “dress for the part” at an embassy function, the definition of “fish sauce,” why never to order Steak Tartar again, and the correct use of all those utensils at a well-to-do dinner table. Admittedly, I needed to work on my “war story” oratory prowess.
I had met some interesting people during S.Y. protective details in Aspen, Orlando, the Wye Plantation, Paris, and Saudi Arabia. I had supported the U.S. Secretary of State, Princess Anne of England, and King Hussein of Jordan during their visits from and to the United States. Some players stood out: the mysterious ex-Florida police chief who seemed to have a connection with King Hussein of Jordan, two Austrian girls who ran the guesthouse in Aspen, Colorado, the tuxedo clad Riyadh Hilton Hotel bartender in Saudi Arabia who treated fruit juice like fine wine and apple nectar as the finest champagne, and Henry Kissinger’s maid who repeatedly called out like Chicken Little, “Don’t break no thing,” when I entered the renowned politician’s abode.
Not surprisingly, the S.Y. agents owned similar law enforcement personalities, but I could not come up with a term that best described the collective character traits of my cohorts, the OC Bandits. In such cases I deferred to Norm Bates’s 60/40 hypothesis, which had begun to make sense to me during my short tenure with the U.S. Department of State. The OC Bandits personality quirks would fall under the esoteric 40% of Norm Bates’s 60/40 hypothesis, which encompassed the mysterious forces acing upon the Foreign Service such as Murphy’s Law, the Laws of Nature, psychology, the local people and voodoo (future message will explore the mystery of Port Au Prince, Haiti).
Regarding the technical 60% requirement of the 60/40 hypothesis, I believe I had accumulated enough education, experience, and confidence to receive an above average grade. The mysterious esoteric 40% only brought an unwitting smile to Norm’s gout plagued face. Before I could get a proper read from him (after a few beers) I would have to complete the international assignment at Am Consul Karachi.
After finishing up on my shots—specifically the dreaded GG shot (in the derriere with a large needle) I returned to the Foreign Service lounge. I sat down on my sore behind and perused my travel orders for Karachi. I had been authorized housing which would most likely be an apartment since I was single-status. The orders included shipment of a POV (Privately Owned Vehicle) to Karachi.
About a month ago I had purchased a Fiat 131 sedan at a dealer near Landmark (close to Springfield, Virginia). Why a Fiat? For one thing, parts were available in the third world countries that I would most likely end up at. Tomorrow I would drive to the New Jersey port where the Fiat would be shipped to Karachi, Pakistan. It brought back fond memories of the 850 Fiat Coupe that I had purchase in Germany while a member of the U.S. Army STRATCOM Command stationed in Germany six years ago…
(to be continued)