“My squadron is right there.” I pointed to the hangar that was a good baseball’s throw
length away. I’m horrible about estimating distances. Okay maybe a professional baseball
player’s throw. Not one of my throws. “My pilot, the SDO (Squadron Duty Officer, the officer I
was on duty with) is there. He can vouch for me.”
Man, I was in trouble. I can see it now. I’d been in this squadron barely over a month
now and look at the predicament I was in. This wasn’t looking good – especially if the SDO was
to get involved. Thank heavens it was Kennedy. He seemed like a nice guy. I mean, his call-
sign was Sweet Pea, for god sake. He wouldn’t yell at me. Or would he? I barely knew him –
except that he was on this absurd new diet called Atkins where he would only eat the burger and
the bacon from a bacon cheese burger. Crazy! Didn’t he know that he should be eating high-
carbohydrate, low-fat diet to lose weight? All kinds of thoughts flooded my head. I was shaking
now. Partly due to the cold that was taking over my body, and partly due to the anxiety that was
steadily increasing in me.
Mr. Rifle Man stepped away from me and began to talk on his radio again. I couldn’t
make out a thing he said. Meanwhile, the guys surrounding us began to relax their positions
somewhat. The guy next to me (the nice one) began making small talk. At that point, he could
have told me that he enjoyed licking spotted frogs in his spare time – I would not have
remembered a syllable. All that I could think about was what was going to become of me.
Then, in the small light from the hangar, I could make out the SDO trudging down the
snowy flight line. I was flooded with relief upon the sight of a familiar face. As he approached I
shot him the best I’m-so-sorry-please-don’t-be-mad face I could muster. He simply shook his
I don’t know what he said to Rifle Man, but I knew it would be better now. I wasn’t
going to be hauled away in handcuffs ringing in the New Year in some Icelandic prison. I’ve
never heard of Icelandic prisons. But these Nordic people were descendants of Vikings. How
friendly could their prisons possibly be??
Soon after, they released me to him. We drove back to the duty office in silence. At last,
I broke it by saying the only thing I could. “I’m so sorry, Sir.” My voice wavered. Don’t do it.
Don’t get emotional.
“Airman Maki, stop,” he said followed with a long pause. “It’s okay.” More awkward
pause accompanied by silence, then in a business-like tone, “I trust you will be more careful
around the red lines from now on.”
“Yes, Sir, I’m so sorry.”
Somehow, I already knew I would never hear the end of this. And I never did. That night
in fact, the entire barracks had heard the story before I had even gotten back there when my shift
was over. Everyone thought it was the funniest thing in the world. Still feeling humiliated, I did
not agree. Being that the knees on my dungarees were still wet from where I had been kneeling,
it took a while. However, after a few New Year’s Eve drinks, my anxiety began to melt. True to
my word, from then on, I avoided red lines like the plague.