You know that click? You say something and some stranger replies, and somehow your brains are synchronized? That's how it is with my friend Bob.
I met Bob while I was in the Air Force, when we were stationed together in Germany. I ran the Ops Center and he was a new crew member and several years younger. My responsibilities gave me control over a huge array of comm capability, including the power to allow people to make commercial phone calls. This was back in 1988. Cell phones, phone capabilities and the Internet were just evolving into today's omnipotent presence.
One morning, Bob comes into my office in the vault. He's mumbling to himself with some agitation. I outranked him by a couple stripes so he sort of cleared his throat for my attention. I looked at him.
"Excuse me, I'm sorry to interrupt you," Bob said. "I'm new to the squadron."
Nodding, I thought, get to the point.
"And, well, I don't want to take up your time, but I, I guess I should introduce myself to you. I'm Senior Airman Hawkins. I'm new to the squadron."
"You said that."
"Yes, right, sorry. Are you...." He leaned in to see my name tag. "Sergeant Seidel? Is that right? Did I say that right?"
Shifting foot to foot, he ran his hand over his hair and licked his lips. "Okay, sorry, I'm not...sorry, let me get to the point. Can you athathorize long distance calls?"
"Yes. Do you have a problem?"
"Well." Bob grimaced. "I kind of do. See, my parents moved, or I think they did. I'm not sure. They've done this to me before."
I laughed. "Your parents moved?"
"Yeah." Grimacing again, something he does when he's upseat, Bob shook his head. "They did it before, this is like the third time. Man..." He shook his head. "I can't believe they did this to me again. Anyway, I'm worried because a letter I sent them came back as undeliverable, so I want to call my sister and make sure my parents are okay."
"Okay." Astonished, I was laughing inside. His parents moved? I issued him a number and the instructions. "Please keep it short, say five minutes."
Right. He took off.
That's how it was with Bob. We hit it off from that day on, both enjoying movies, music, beer drinking, minutaie and trivia. He's retired from the Air Force after surviving war zone deployments. We've stayed in touch, although I haven't seen him since 2003. We communicate via email and FB. Whenever we do, it's just like we just saw each other this morning. We can chat, catch up and laugh without awkwardness.
He and I and four others created something called the Dead Smokers Society.
We were the only six members in our exclusive club. I created cards and laminated them for us. All have retired with their health, mind and body mostly intact. (That's Roland P. Spencer's card posted. Last that I heard, he was flying around South Africa.) Bob and I keep meaning to post our cards onto FB but keep putting it off. I signed the cards over Marty Dourte's name.
Poor Marty Dourte. He was an inbound pilot who never arrived, getting re-routed to another assignment but not before we had a full collection of Marty Dourte flight suit name tags. He was inbound for over three months before abruptly being diverted, so Bob and I made up stories about the mysterious Marty Dourte, questioning his existence. In our stories, he was a short, tough guy who spoke softly in a cold, raspy voice and stayed in the shadows, avoiding light and publicity. You could never quite see him. Even on sunny days, he was in shadow. He never touched other people but mention him to women and they fly into a rage, shouting, "That son of a bitch broke my heart."
Marty Dourte became our fall guy. We would order drinks for a our table, point over at it and say, "My friend, Marty Dourte, is paying for it. Just put it on his tab." Say things with enough authority, most people go along. Then the staff would come over and ask for Marty Dourte, sending us into gales of laughter. Yes, juvenile, but fun. The staff did catch on, though, and started calling each of us Marty Dourte, and his brothers, Marty Dourte.
Years later, when Bob was flying through somewhere and checking in at billeting, he heard the person in the next line tell someone, "Marty Dourte."
Bob introduced himself. Marty was a Major by then, and a good guy, according to Bob. Bob didn't tell Marty about the things that were blamed on him.
Bob and I never served anywhere else together although we visited one another in Texas and California. Now he's living in Illinois. He posted a picture of himself, in front of Stonehenge on FB.
Such a cool guy. If you ever see him, definitely sit down and have a beer with him. You will be rewarded in conversation.
Tell him Marty Dourte is buying.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com