I'm drinking with Jeff at the Sembach NCO club. It's a quiet night, couldn't tell you what day of the week it is. We drink every night till we pass out. The only difference is that some days we don't have to throw on a uniform and stumble into work the next morning. The beauty of serving on a small base is that everything is within walking distance.
Whatever night it is, it's slow, we're bored. Then Julie gets a bright idea to spice things up a bit.
"Let's go to the Bad Durkheim wine festival, I think it starts tonight," she says.
The Bad Durkheim wine festival is everything you can expect from a traditional German festival dedicated to the production and consumption of alcohol. It's not as big as Oktoberfest, which just means you can't see the beer tent from space, but it's big enough to kill a novice drinker. Luckily, we're professionals. The tents serve wine by the bottle or half-liter tumbler. There is no such thing as sipping from a brandy snifter and making pithy remarks about art at Bad Durkheim. You go to get twisted crunk.
Many an Airman has been known to shit themselves and pass out in a pool of vomit and feces after a tame night in the Bad Durkheim wine tents. The night I did make it to the festival, I spilled a drop of Riesling Auslese on the bench as I climbed over the table to regain my seat, and an old German man said "Gar Aus!" and made a "Bottoms up" motion with his free hand.
As an airman, I knew how to take direction, and chugged the half liter obediently.
So we take to Julie's suggestion with gusto. Altogether, six of us pile into Jeff's Austin Mini Cooper and head for the Autobahn.
Julie drives, she doesn't drink, just smokes a lot of weed. She can do that because she's someone else's wife, and not active duty like the rest of us. The story with Julie is, she was my girlfriend till a couple weeks ago, and now she's dating my best friend, Jeff, and she's married to some crew chief who's never around, and isn't any fun when he is around.
At the ramp to get on the autobahn, Chris says he has to piss, so Julie pulls the mini over, takes it out of gear and engages the parking brake. We all pile out. Five drunk men pissing on the side of the road isn't as rare a sight as you might imagine in Germany. There's no law against public urination. We each shake it off and get back in the car. She puts it in gear and takes off down the autobahn.
A vintage Mini Cooper doesn't have a lot of power. I raced Jeff on the Autobahn once in my VW Beetle, both of us running at top speed, without either of us breaking 80 kmh. With six passengers, it crawls like a tortoise.
To encourage the engine, all five of us passengers start rocking, pushing our torsos forward and jerking back quickly, and the funny thing is, it works. The little mini jerks forward as we hit the peak of our rocking in unison. It's the coolest thing since masturbation, we think, judging by the excitement.
We make it the 6 kilometers to the Bad Durkheim exit, pass a tiny little town on the country road, and the mini dies. Kaput. The engine cuts straight out and we're coasting.
Julie pulls over to the side of the road, takes it out of gear, and goes to engage the parking brake.
Only thing is, the parking brake is already engaged. She never released it after the piss stop. The poor mini cooper engine is frying red-hot because it's lugging its weight in passengers, on the autobahn, with the handbrake on. The radiator coolant reservoir is bone dry.
"My bad," Julie says.
I can't help but laugh. I told the stupid motherfucker not to mess with her. It does nothing to improve his mood.
The shit part is none of us knows how to fix a car. We don't know if the damage is irreparable. That's the problem with being an electronics troop. Mechanical shit is more mysterious than what happens in a ladies restroom. We've actually spent some time in ladies restrooms, and usually what happens there is shameful sex and lies. Things we're good at. Working on cars is for sober, dirty people. The last time I tried working on my car, I lost a wheel doing 80 mph on the autobahn the next day.
None of us could afford a cell phone, either. We spent too much money on booze for that kind of extravagance.
We can't see any towns ahead of us, and knew there was one about 2 kilometers behind us, so we start walking back the way we'd came.
In Germany, instead of flat reflectors, the sides of the roads are lined with these reflectors on white poles. We called them "Machts Nichts sticks". To expel some of his unbridled rage, Jeff starts ripping them out of the ground.
We're all drunk, except Julie, and she's doing her best to go unnoticed, so we figure this is a great idea, and everybody starts ripping up the MoxNix sticks and carrying them around like caveman clubs. They're just square PVC with plastic reflectors, weigh nothing, and are designed to come up easy to minimize the damage to your car, I guess.
Chris and Dave are sword fighting with them, and Andy is beating on the grape vines of the fields we're passing. Julie tries to flag down a couple cars, even a taxi, but when they see a tribe of drunken soldiers waving clubs, they speed up and leave us choking on dust.
We don't mind too much. We're singing and laughing, and having a great time, except for Jeff, who is still kinda pissed about his car.
We make it into town, and call Jerry on the emergency standby line. Part of being a communications electronics troop is carrying a cell phone for on call emergencies a couple days each month. They rotate the duty to ease the pain.
Jerry's too much of a pussy to abandon his post, and he doesn't have a car, but he gets Tucker to hop in his mercedes and come get us. We find a bar to wait it out, and half an hour later, Tucker shows up for the rescue. You can get a second-hand mercedes for a couple hundred bucks in Germany, so don't go thinking he was some kind of baller. I drove a BMW 5-series before I lost that wheel.
He takes us out to the mini, and by a miracle, it starts. We figure it isn't going to last, though, so we decide to make it home as quick as possible with Tucker following.
The country road is too narrow to turn around, so we drive up to the next town, which turns out to be a couple hundred yards further down the road in the direction we were heading to begin with. We couldn't see the city lights because it's on the other side of a hill. We give Jeff a hard time over making the bad call to turn back and walk what turned out to be an extra two and a half kilometers.
We make it back on the autobahn and about halfway home when the car dies again. Nobody thought to stop and put water in the radiator, the engine got too hot and seized up again. Jeff and Julie wait with the mini while the rest of us pile into Tucker's mercedes, head up one exit, then back one exit to the nearest open gas station. We fill a milk jug full of water and bring it back to the mini.
We pull up behind the mini, and Jeff's pasty white ass is bouncing up and down in the back window. We pile out of the mercedes, and Chris pours some of the water from the jug on Jeff's head.
Jeff is calmer now that he's worked out some of his aggression, so he laughs. The mini makes it back to base. It doesn't move again for two months. We all agree we'll try again tomorrow, and wait till we get there to start drinking.