I began the New Year in the air. Ironically, the Thai International flight from Bangkok terminated at Karachi, Pakistan my home base where our Regional Communications Office resided in the American Consulate General. After a two-hour layover at the airport I changed planes to Saudi Arabian Airlines. I was surprised to see foreign women stewardesses wearing veils. The restrooms were clean, the food wasn’t bad, and the personnel friendly. I’d rate it pretty high on my airlines list that I had been compiling.
Thirty thousand feet up is a great place to contemplate. Over six miles above the Arabian Sea I sipped on coffee and reflected on the past year while working on my expense report. 1977 had been a pretty incredible year for me. It began with an early January Virginia snowstorm that shut down my little red Fiat somewhere along Interstate 395 headed south to Springfield, VA (the radio depot where I worked for the US Department of State, Office of Communications).
The faithful Fiat that I had bought used for eight hundred dollars had traveled across country from Torrance, California. While I froze my tootsies off I realized it needed to be replaced (I hated that word). Its predecessor, my first new car (a Fiat 850 Coupe), had rolled out of the Weisbaden showroom in ’70 during my U.S. Army assignment at Donnersberg, in Germany. Its sea mileage had far exceeded the odometer reading when three years later a blown engine caused its demise in Southern California on the 405 Freeway headed to San Diego. Its ports-of-call had included Bremerhaven, Germany—Massawa, Ethiopia—New Orleans, Louisianna.
After everything thawed out in Virginia last year I purchased a gold Fiat 131 sedan that would accompany me on my Foreign Service assignments to Karachi and Nairobi, Kenya before I sold it in Nairobi before leaving.
I think ’77 was such an incredible year for me because it introduced so many new things in my life. And it had its ups and downs. I equated it all to my Virginia based mentor Norm Bate’s 60/40 Hypothesis (my Foreign Service job required 60% technical ability and 40% non-technical stuff). This was the only true “yardstick” I had to measure how I was performing on the job (for me, yearly “Performance Reviews” were not helpful). After a little over a year on the job I’d give myself a B+/C on the 60/40 scale (I’m harder on myself than anyone).
I didn’t want to confront it now, but I was reaching the uneasy conclusion that Norm’s 60/40 Hypothesis may actually be 40/60 (or worse!). The tongue was mightier than the sword in the Foreign Service and I was beginning to come to another conclusion that who you knew and how you fit into the system were more important than how technically qualified you were. Perhaps, I was reading too much into things.
Here are some of my Ups & Downs of ’77.
- Feb 1977: My first solo assignment with OC/PE (The Dr. Henry Kissinger Assignment)
- Mar 1977: Purchased new Fiat 131 Sedan (Planes, Trains, & POV’s)
- Apr 1977: Met King Hussein of Jordan (The King Hussein Protective Detail)
- Flashback 1970: Asmara, a prerequisite for things to come (Asmara, Ethiopia)
- Nov 1977: Fixing Cleopatra’s radio and praise from the RSO (Am Embassy Cairo)
- Nov 1977: Implementing the ambassador’s secure voice radio (Beirut, Lebanon)
- Nov 1977: Tracking down third-order harmonic (Am Embassy Amman)
- Dec 1977: Kudos from SY team (The Jerusalem Detail)
- May 1977: Allergic reaction to mussels in Paris (Am Embassy Paris)
- Flashback 1970: Crashed new Fiat (Donnersberg, Germany)
- Oct 1977: Left a classified document on my desk. (Security Violation)
- Oct 1977: The chili snafu at the Am Consul’s lunch (The Consulate General Karachi)
- Nov 1977: Atop chancery roof as Khamsin approaches (Am Embassy Cairo)
- Nov 1977: Falling for diplomatic courier’s ruse (The Tainted Diplomatic Pouch)
- Nov 1977: Beirut arrival—risky business (Beirut Arrival)
- Dec 1977: Food poisoning in Bangkok (A Not so Merry Christmas in Bangkok)
The “Fasten Seat Belts” sign along with the overhead lights became illuminated. A stewardess notified the passengers to prepare for landing. Riyadh would be my first protective detail alone involving both President Jimmy Carter and Secretary Cyrus Vance. I’d better have my act together…