American Consulate General | The Karachi Curse

February 1978

After my botched date with CIA Agent Allison I returned to Am Embassy Cairo to fix the radio repeater that had mysteriously ceased to function just hours after I had boarded a plane for Karachi.

I had attempted to have the crypto tech Bill H at Am Embassy Cairo look at the problem before he left Cairo on a flight. As a result, Bill couldn’t fix the problem and subsequently missed his flight.

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Upon arrival in Cairo, I headed straight to the embassy controlled Maadi apartment building. The radio repeater had been installed in an air-conditioned room on the roof. It took me five minutes to troubleshoot the problem.

The problem hadn’t been Murphy’s Law or the curse of the pharaohs. The problem was me. The radio repeater functioned perfectly. Before I left I was supposed to instruct the personnel in Maadi and the enclave beyond it to switch their handheld radios to Channel 2 to communicate with the embassy base station in Cairo over the radio repeater. In my haste to catch my flight I had forgotten this all-important task.

That afternoon I had informed the embassy CRO (Communications & Records Officer) who laughed about it. He promised to educate embassy personnel. I was on a return flight to Karachi that evening. Ironically, the crypto tech Bill H. was on the same flight. I offered to let him stay at my place in Clifton, outside Karachi.

Bill was only staying in Karachi for one day before he headed to Bangkok for a seminar with the RCO crypto techs. I took him to lunch at the Intercontinental Hotel, not far from the Con Gen.

Upon returning to the RCO (Regional Communications Office)  I had to rush to the restroom. BJ had warned us all about the dreaded Karachi curse–diarrhea. I began to sweat profusely. Bill and Al noticed it.

Hold the Mayo

The RCO secretary BJ came by and looked me over. “You don’t look too good,” she said. “Have you been taking your malaria pills?”

“Yeah, but I think it’s something I ate at the Intercontinental Hotel.”

“What did you order?”

“A cheeseburger and fries.”

“Did the burger have mayonnaise on it?”

“Yeah, I think it did.”

BJ frowned. “I thought I warned all you guys about eating mayo in this part of the world. You’ve got diarrhea, huh?”

“Oh yeah.”

BJ dug deep into her pocketbook.

She handed me a tab of small pills. “Take two in the morning and evening until you get rid of the diarrhea.”

She felt my forehead.

“Darn, you’ve got a fever, too.”

BJ stood there for a moment before she said to herself, “What did I do with that thermometer?”

She hurried off, presumably in search of the temperature checker.

I bid goodbye to Bill H. and the crypto guys. I almost yelled out, “Hold the mayo!” as they shuffled out. That would have sounded pretty corny. They were all excited about spending three days in Bangkok.

I walked back to the radio bench and tried to do some work.

Things didn’t get any better. My fever worsened. I ended up spending most of my time on the toilet.

BJ returned and took my temperature.

“A hundred and one,” she said, like it was fatal. She turned around and left.

RCO Robert Roberson walked in the radio room with BJ. Al joined them. Bob said. “Al’s going to take you back to Clifton. Make sure and have your handheld with you and charged. If you get to feeling really bad we’ll get a driver to take you to the hospital.”

I didn’t argue. I felt weak.

Nurse Basheer

Al handed me off to Basheer and returned to the Con Gen. Basheer helped me up the stairs to my apartment. I was worse off than I thought.

I plopped in bed. Basheer rushed off to prepare the universal British remedy—hot tea.

After tea I slept for several hours. I awoke feeling all sweaty. Basheer stood in front of me. He looked like a blur. My body was on fire. He handed me a cup.

“Try to sip the broth, Sahib,” he said, and handed me the spoon.

I took a few spoonfuls of the chicken broth.

Basher removed the obstacles in my path as I limped toward the bathroom. The Karachi curse was in high gear. The toilet smelled like a cess pool before I flushed.

When I got back in bed Basher retrieved some medicine from a cardboard box. He handed me several pills. I swallowed them with a glass of water Basheer had placed in front of me..

BJ came around the next day. She wanted to take me to the Pakistani hospital. I had an aversion to hospitals. I agreed to go if this didn’t clear up in the next forty-eight hours. From her expression I could tell that she didn’t buy that.

“I’ll be back same time tomorrow. If your not better, I’m taking you to the hospital.

I slept after she left.

Oddly enough, my dreams were like episodes of “Our Gang” during the next several hours. The theme manifested itself in my childhood growing up in Southern California…

(To be continued)

One Comment Add yours

  1. 53old says:

    Karachi Kaopectate????


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