(originally posted July 04, 2004 - all names have been changed to protect the guilty)
The Smoke Deck was the focal point of social life for everyone in the U.S. Air Force squadron at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. Even people who didn't smoke would go there as soon as their duties were done for the day, just to put in an appearance. Some were fresh out of Basic Training, and glad to spend their 20 minutes of freedom outside; some were "sharking", which involved circling amongst the newbies, looking for one that would be easily wowed by the "seniority" of someone who had been there for as long as three weeks already.
I know of several young men who got their first dates this way.
I was one of those who went to smoke. I had never been more than a pack-a-week kind of guy, but just being able to go out and have a cigarette after eight weeks of stress and mind games was a temptation that I couldn't even think of resisting. It was October, a month after I had arrived at DLI, and I was lighting up a couple of stogies to celebrate being allowed to wear civilian clothes again. I was relishing my flannel shirt and Detroit Tigers baseball cap (I've always been a big Magnum PI fan), and I had on a pair of jeans that seemed much looser than they had last time they were worn, four months before. Bert came up to me, took the cigar I offered, and said, "I got someone who wants to meet you."
Then she stepped out from behind him. "Hey, aren't you the guy that can put a quarter up his nose?" she said. It was that adorable girl I had been admiring in formation for the last four weeks.
"Got a quarter?" I replied dashingly. She laughed, and to make a long story short, by February we had decided to get married.
Of course, most of our friends were scandalized. After all, it is common knowledge that DLI marriages usually don't last more than six-months beyond the end of the couple's stay in Monterey. And most of those marriages are just a temporary arrangement for the sake of qualifying for off-base housing. The odds for a marriage like ours were not good. Maybe that explains why I was more nervous about telling people about the wedding than I had been proposing.
Most people who heard our happy news offered flaccid congratulations before moving on to more interesting subjects, and most of my close friends seemed worried when I told them. But not Glenn. He became visibly excited at the prospect, and his first words were, "Can I throw the Bachelor Party?" So I said, sure.
When the big night arrived, we borrowed my fiancee's Saturn, and swung by the liquor store on our way to the motel where the festivities would be held. Glenn had outdone himself. He'd secured a suite under the name "Nick Nefsik" (Arabic for "F*** yourself") which had a kitchenette, and a balcony overlooking the Chinese restaurant behind the motel.
People started to show up, and we all started to get blasted and watch porn. A typical night, for most of the guys, and a bit boring. Then someone suggested getting a stripper. Everyone ponied up a few bucks, and Don Law (whom everyone called "Dong") went to work with the phone book. She showed up about half an hour later with her bouncer; a beefy, sullen woman that stood in the corner of the room watching us watch her friend.
Then the fun really started.
And then, there was a knock on the door. Apparently, there was an Air Force girl in the room next door with her boyfriend, an Army sergeant. I probably don't need to point out that their relationship was not legal, but I will. They didn't let that stop them, though. They were so upset about all the noise coming from our room, that they came over to do something about it.
First, the guy came to the door and demanded to know who the "ranking NCO" was at the party. Dong explained that there wasn't an NCO in charge of Bachelor Parties, but that the stripper would be leaving before 10:30pm. All we asked was a little patience. The guy seemed to agree, and left.
The Stripper was quite good. She zeroed in on the Bachelor (me, of course) and did a very naughty dance, which I wasn't able to fully appreciate because I had misplaced my glasses, and was totally obliterated. When she was done with that, she made a little pitch about needing extra money to play a game called "Feed the Kitty", after which everyone bolted from the hotel to find the nearest cash machine. This was fortunate for most of them. While we waited for the bank roll patrol to return, the Stripper disappeared into the bathroom (where my roommate turned out to be hiding in the tub), and a few of the guys had gone out on the balcony for a smoke.
Fred Kreigler was by the window staring myopically at the porno on the TV, when there was a knock on the window behind him. There were about a dozen guys in the room, and I was by the wall dividing the bedroom area from the kitchenette when Fred pulled back the curtain to see a grinning death's head with a chin divot and a hair-line that was retreating like a Redskin's defensive line.
"IT'S SERGEANT KNIGHT!!!!!" he shouted... and mayhem ensued.
I don't know who opened the door, because Kreigler swore later that it wasn't him. Maybe TSgt Knight really was the supernatural being we all thought he was. That night he burst through the door, and grabbed as many people by the back of the shirt as he could reach. The stampede flowed by me in my place against the wall, and I stared stupidly into the panicked faces of my companions followed swiftly by the leering, gleeful face of retribution.
When the dust settled, there were about six of us left in the room with TSgt Knight, who looked around the room, smirking and braying threats into our faces. The Incarnation of Death was turning to each of us and trying to find out who had escaped his clutches by diving off the balcony.
"Who booked the room?" he shouted. "I want to know who 'Nick Nefsik' is." We were trying to make it look like we couldn't remember, but we were really just trying to figure out who we would have to turn in. I remember reluctantly giving Glenn's name, but tried to make it sound better by pointing out that he hadn't bought alcohol for anyone but me.
After much soul-thrashing, we managed to come out with only five names of people we were pretty sure he'd already seen. He had to be satisfied with that. Then it occurred to our Ranking NCO that one of our drunken runners might have been injured diving off that balcony, so he sent someone around to see.
Sure enough, the guy returned with Dong draped across his back. Dong looked around the room blearily, whether through pain, inebriation, or both. He looked hard at TSgt Knight for a few seconds, then burst out, "Who invited THIS asshole?"
We all froze, and our blood ran cold as the smile of the Grinch crept across his malignant mug. TSgt Knight leaned back, took a deep breath (as we held ours)... and laughed! "You're alright, then, Airman Law?"
In the end, it turned out pretty well. Nobody got into too much hot water, though a few of the people there had been student leaders, and had their positions of responsibility taken away. The two under age guys (including my roommate) were put back "on phase", which meant they had to keep a curfew and stay in uniform all the time.
Most importantly, my wedding went on as planned. My lovely, new bride was mad that I had worried her so much, but I was forgiven for not actually causing any damage to either our plans or her car. Fortunately, I had been able to convince our apprehender that I should stay at the motel that night, since I was unable to drive it.
Glenn showed up after everyone had been dragged off, and he helped me clean up the room.
"I'm sorry your Bachelor Party got busted," he said.
"I'm sorry I ratted you out," I said.
"That's alright. Everyone knew I'd set it up; someone would have told on me," he forgave me.
"Where were you, anyway?" I asked. "How did you get away?"
"Well, when everyone else was going off the balcony, me and Duke hopped over the dividing wall to the balcony of the room next door. We lit up a couple of smokes, and just watched. TSgt Knight didn't notice us, so we slid down the drain pipe. I've been at another party down at the other end of the motel." Typical Glenn!
And the chick that turned us in? We made sure everyone knew she and her boyfriend had made the call to TSgt Knight... including her husband.