When I was given orders to Germany, I was excited. It would be my first trip outside of the United States…other than Canada, but we only went there to fish and get beer, so I didn’t really count that. My parents drove me to St. Louis from Milwaukee and I set off on my adventure from there.
On the airplane, in the seat in front of me, was one of the most annoying people I had ever met. It was obvious he was a fellow soldier, but his demeanor was something else. We hadn’t even taken off and I was annoyed. He had a Walkman and you could actually hear the music being played despite his headphones because he had it so loud. That wasn’t the annoying part…it was when he would try to sing along with the lyrics periodically that it became annoying. He did this for about half the flight and snored for the other half.
When we landed in Frankfurt, I thought I would be rid of him. Of course, that didn’t happen otherwise this would be a very uneventful and short blog post. Instead, after I boarded the bus that would take me and my fellow soldiers to Army Posts to the south, he boarded right after me and sat in the seat in front of me. The bus ride was similar to the flight. Loud music and crappy singing. I hoped to be rid of him soon.
When we reached Nellingen Kaserne, both of us left the bus. We were met at the gate by a young soldier who took us to our barracks. He showed us to our room and I was pleasantly surprised (not) to find out we were going to be roommates. We unpacked our gear and he continued to sing with his Walkman. I couldn’t stand it.
ME: You suck at singing. (No reply because his music was too loud).
ME (again): YOU SUCK AT SINGING! (He took the headphones off).
ME: I said, you suck at singing.
HIM: I know. If I was any good you’d be listening to me on the Walkman.
Fortunately, his batteries died a few minutes later and he didn’t have replacements handy. We settled in, met some fellow soldiers, and actually became friends after a while. Not only were we stationed at the same post, in the same Battalion, in the same Company, in the same barracks, and in the same room, we were also assigned to the same Engineer Shop. We had little choice but to get to know each other. Once I got to know him, I liked him and he liked me. I gave him his new nickname…Metalhead.
We spent the next two years as best friends. We partied together, worked together, traveled together, and just had good times together. Even when I was promoted to Sergeant and took over the shop as the boss, we remained friends and he became my biggest help when we had to get things done. Of course, it wasn’t always rosy, we had our moments.
One moment came when we had a surprise inspection and he was extremely hungover. He would find a creeper, lay down, and roll it under a vehicle. Then he would wrap his arms around whatever was above him and go to sleep. From the outside, it looked like he was working on something. Since he was one of the best engineers I had, I let it go because when he was alert, good work happened. This time it backfired. The inspector walked right up to him and stood there. I walked over to see if he needed anything and I heard it. Anybody within twenty feet could hear it. Snoring. The inspector let it slide because he thought it was an ingenious way to get some sleep. We got lucky.
Another moment came when our platoon went out for dinner at a nice German restaurant. I ordered the sauerbraten and it was delicious. Metalhead just reached over with a fork and tried to get some of it. What happened next happened purely by instinct. I stabbed his hand with my fork. I mean, I STABBED his hand with my fork. It was deep and it was bloody.
METALHEAD: You stabbed me!
METALHEAD: This hurts! I think I might need stitches!
ME: And some antiseptic. I’ve been using that fork in my mouth…sorry.
METALHEAD: You stabbed me, man!
ME: Yeah, sorry.
Possible moral of this story? Don’t try to take my food. I grew up with brothers and it was brutal at dinnertime sometimes. Also, don’t judge a metalhead book by its metalhead cover.