Saturday, January 26, 2008
The "Drug Wars" (2)- Australia 1982
"Another beer for my American mate, Fousesquawk"
In 1982, I had occasion to go to Bangkok on a case from my home base in Los Angeles. (I had been stationed in Bangkok from 1975-1978.) Prior to leaving LA, I paid about $100 dollars extra for a triangle fare in order to visit Australia for three days on my return. While in Bangkok, I called an old Australian Customs colleague (Frank)with whom I had worked in Bangkok. having finished his stint in Thailand, he was back in Canberra. It was arranged that when I was finished with the case in Bangkok, I would let him know of my arrival in Sydney, and he would come to Sydney to spend a couple of days.
Upon my arrival in Sydney, I was met at the airport by a couple of Frank's Customs colleagues who took my to my hotel. I learned that Frank was unable to get away from Canberra, but that his colleagues would take care of me in Sydney, and, in a day or two, put me on a flight to Canberra.
During my stay in Sydney, the Customs guys treated me with incredible hospitality, showing me the town, taking me out to lunch and dinner (at their expense). But it was then that I learned first-hand about the drinking habits of Australian men-particularly cops. Let's just say that few nationalities can match the Australian men for their love of drinking. Every lunch turned into a three houyr affair-lunch followed by endless rounds of beer; then dinner followed by endless rounds of beer or other spirits. One night at dinner, the meal was followed by about 15 rounds of port-to the point that when the cops went to the bathroom, I was pouring the wine into a potted plant near the table.
After that, it was off to the King's Cross section of Sydney for more pubs. Finally around midnight, desperately searching for a way to end the evening, I spotted a lady at the other end of the bar paying her bill and getting ready to leave. Somehow, in my clouded head, I came up with a brilliant idea. Getting up from the barstool, I said, "Hey mates, watch this." I then walked over to the lady, who promptly told me she was leaving and not interested in starting up a conversation.
"No, no. You don't understand", I explained. "You see those maniacs at the end of the bar? I need to get away from them and go back to my hotel. Just walk out the door with me, then I'll go my own way." Hearing my American accent, she sized up the situation immediately. Another American guy being drunk under the table by the Aussie guys.
"Sure", she said smiling.
As we walked out the door, the Customs guys were all giving me the thumbs up sign, big smiles on their faces. The lady and I got outside the door, I thanked her and went on my way alone back to my hotel.
The next day, the boys took me to the airport and put me on a plane to Canberra, courtesy of the Australian taxpayers. Upon arrival in Canberra, Frank met me at the airport and took me to lunch, followed by hours of beers until it was time for dinner-followed by more hours of beers until we got back to his place about 3am.
The next morning, after breakfast with his obviously unhappy wife, Frank took me back to the airport for my return flight to Sydney and a connection to Honolulu and Los Angeles. By this time, I was pretty much pickled from three days of non-stop drinking with the Aussies. I had a 6 hour layover in Sydney and I planned to put it to good use-sleeping.
Frank told me, "Listen, the guys in Sydney are busy on a case today, but when you get in, call them and when they're free, they'll come to the airport and meet you."
"Sure", I told him.
At 1pm, I was at Sydney Airport and had a 6 hour wait for a 7pm flight. I proceeded to find a corner in the farthest corner of the airport from my gate and closed my eyes. After about 30 minutes, a guy came up to me and asked, "Are you Gary?"
"Well, I'm so and so from Customs, the boys sent me here to meet you. They'll be along shortly. C'mon. Let's go have a beer."
So off we went to the airport bar. The boys arrived and we proceeded to have another 24 beers. When my flight was called, my colleagues literally dragged me to the plane, a Qantas flight to Honolulu. At the gateway, they flashed their badges and told the hostess, "Put this guy in first class." Dropping me in a window seat next to a distinguished middle-aged gentleman in a business suit-who had paid good money for a first-class seat, they bid me good-bye and bon voyage. The hostess walked up with two bottles of champagne, starting to ask me if I wanted white or pink - or whatever the hell it was, then stopped and said, "I don't think you are really interested in this. Why don't I just turn out the lights for you, sir?"
"Thank you", I mumbled-and slept the whole way to Honolulu.
The moral of the story is this: If you ever go to Australia, don't tell anyone you're coming.