So, as a rooster, I find it satisfying to cluck…a lot. Since the hub will be far far away for over a year, I might as well start writing–it’s not fun to cluck to an empty side of the bed. I have a ridiculous amount of wacky weirdness I’ve done, seen, been told or otherwise been party to, so why not start writing it down before I forget it all?
Here’s a short one to begin.
When I was 19 years old, I was an Airman First Class (E3) stationed in a small, southern town in Belgium. It was a pretty simple job–I basically worked in a mail room. However, there were opportunities that made life interesting now and then. Once, I was asked to go to NATO HQ for a week to help with administrative work for a Ministerial. This basically meant I’d work in a modern day equivalent to of a typing pool and assist the administrative staff who were there from Washington DC. This also meant a paid hotel room in Brussels for a week–giddy up!
This gig required me to wear civilian “office attire” which was a challenge for my 19 year old self. When I wasn’t in uniform, I lived in jeans or mini skirts. So, I borrowed a few outfits from the Colonel’s secretary (yes, we are talking blazers with padded shoulders at that time) and mixed in a few of my own pieces to form a semi-appropriate working wardrobe.
Never a wallflower, I enjoyed meeting the other admin staff and pretty much anyone who sat next to me. Since I was stationed in Belgium, I had a working knowledge of every cool bar and apre-drink gyro stand too. I was an asset! The woman I was more or less assigned to was very young, super fun and we hit it off right away. She was very excited for me to take her out on the town and I was happy to oblige. But, work first! So, I learned all about CVs, talking points, agendas and meeting notes. I typed my little fingers off and ran errands for my pseudo-boss, Lisa, all day. I made copies, fetched mail and other menial tasks with a smile on my face–it was a high-energy, exciting environment with world players everywhere. Although we were all in civilian clothes, there were some people who just couldn’t take the uniform off (metaphorically speaking). One guy, Staff Sergeant Jones (we’ll call him Jones because I have absolutely no recollection of his name) called the room to attention when Gen Colin Powell entered. It was embarrassing for everyone–the only one in uniform was the General and to call a bunch of civilian-looking people to their feet is not only awkward it’s pure jackassery. Even General Powell stopped in his tracks and said, “WOW! It’s just me.” He did have the aura of a star though–I was a bit star struck meeting him since he was so tall and handsome with a very warm grin (hey–it was a long time ago). After the General left the room we all gave Sergeant Jones the “you are a moron look” and hoped he wouldn’t pull that crap again.
When meetings were going on things got quiet and it was time to have a cup of coffee. I grabbed a cup and sat down in a lovely executive suite–I wasn’t just an Airman here–I was Ms. So and So and I could blend in so much easier. I was impressed with the massive platters of free food at my disposal since I was just a poor Airman, I couldn’t afford to buy those fabulous little, individually wrapped cheeses. I ate a lot of cheese that week…and fresh pastries and chocolate…yum. Anyway, as I was sitting there, eating my cheese, a gentleman sat next to me and we began to talk. He was very nice and told me stories about a town in Portugal where he and his family used to live. We talked about life in Europe and the ups and downs–he told me about a time his wife had her purse snatched once and chased the guy up a hill in a vain attempt to catch him. I told him about my wild times with friends in Paris for New Years Eve and nights in Brussels. We talked for at least an hour about it all and he never gave off that creepy “dirty old man” vibe so I liked him. I hated dirty old men, they were everywhere and gross. Eventually, he went back to work and I went back to my typing and that was that.
The hotel I was put in was quite an economy option since I had to share a bathroom (down the hall) and there was no transportation to NATO HQ arranged for us lowly souls. We had to walk to the Sheraton next door to catch our bus. I didn’t care–I was happy for the adventure. After 2 hard days of work, I finally had the chance to show Lisa my town. I took her to Le Cercueil to drink out of a skull mug, to the Delirium Cafe, La Porte Noir–to drink the oldest beer in Belgium and plenty more whose names I forgot! Finally, we wrapped up the night on pita-row and devoured the best tasting gyro EVER. It was a very late night.
The phone in my room rang extra-loud the next morning and all I remember hearing was, “Hey, are you coming in to work soon? We need you here.” SHIT! I overslept and probably wreaked of booze and garlic…rookie mistake! So I scrambled to get ready, threw on my nearest outfit and raced down the stairs and across the street to the Sheraton for a bus ride to HQ. Yup, I missed the last morning bus. Crap.
However, I saw that nice gentleman I sat next to at work and boldly approached him to ask if I could catch a ride in when he goes back to work. He was kind and said he’d be happy to let me tag along, huge relief. We walked toward the door together and I see a bullet-proof Mercedes pull up and the driver jumped out to open the door to the back seat. Gulp. Holy CRAP, who is this guy? I never thought to ask him his name…just figured he was some GS-someone working the Ministerial too. I nervously giggled and said, “Are you sure I should go in with you?” and he responded, “yes, of course, its no trouble.” I confessed to him that I tied one on the night before and slept in and missed my bus. Classy.
As we approached the Marine security guard at the HQ, the Marine peeked in and looked at me sitting next to the old man and couldn’t help but smile a bit. I was beyond embarrassed at this point but I think the old man was enjoying it. I finally said, “who are you?” and he told me he was the former Ambassador to Portugal and currently holding another position (I can’t recall now). I said, “I hope you don’t mind walking in with a young woman to work because you know what everyone will assume about us.” He smiled and said, “I know.”
Did I mention that this was the day I chose to wear my fishnet pantyhose with the line up the back of my legs? Good Lord.
2 thoughts on “A Year of Short Stories”
Great story, Kristin! Can’t wait to hear more of your adventures!
Thanks, Jeanne! 🙂