One thing I noticed during my first hitch in the Air Force, was that in every group, however small, fate always provides one person for the purpose of irritating everyone else in the group.
That's not really too much of a problem in situations where people come together for a portion of the day and then go their separate ways for the remainder of it.
At work, for instance, or in school, an irritating boob can try everyone's patience, but when school's out, or the work-day is done, the pressure is off.
Place one loud mouth irritating boob in the open bay, of a small barracks, during the winter months, in a place like Iceland where the snow may be four-or-five feet deep, the wind blowing a gale day and night, the temperature hovering around zero, and the length of the day as short as 30-minutes, and you have a problem.
Make that barracks a Quonset hut with no windows, and cram 30 volatile young men together in double bunks in a low-ceilinged, dingy room that looks like a toilet paper tube cut in half and you have a big problem!
How know-it-alls like morose, flab-muscled, pop-eyed, sallow skinned Bud Howser live long enough to enter military service I will never know, but Bud (not his real name, of course) managed it.
He almost didn't make it to the end of his hitch in Iceland, however.
I saw at least a dozen times during the first few months alone when I didn't think he was going to live out the day--or night, it was hard to tell which was which during the winter.
Bud, you see, was the self-proclaimed world's greatest living expert.
Oh shoot! You name it! No matter what subject came up in our gloomy little cave, Bud knew all about it.
What made it worse was the fact that he was usually right.
We hardly dared to start up a conversation after the first few weeks because we knew we would have to listen to Life According To Bud.
Bud was a living, breathing example of what is termed an educated idiot.
I'm absolutely certain that Bud would have been one dead educated idiot before the end of our year-long tour in Iceland if it had not been for what happened one evening in a movie theater in Reykjavik.
For one thing, Bud had a theory on how to learn languages.
He used to tell us, "Languages are easy. You don't need books. You don't need those dumb-ass English-Icelandic, Icelandic-English things you all carry around. Throw the dumb things away. Just open your eyes. Use your ears. Put your puny little brains in gear."
Naturally, one weekend when the weather permitted and three of us decided to take the bus into Reykjavik to see a movie, we didn't tell Bud.
Somehow he got wind of it and, uninvited of course, decided to come with us to keep us "out of trouble."
What could we do? If we'd been in combat we could have rolled a fragmentation grenade into the latrine while he was in there and left it up to Graves Registration to decide how much of that stuff they had to shovel out to send home to his mother, but we were far from any war zone, so we were stuck.
That evening, however, proved beyond doubt that there truly is a loving, caring God.
After a long, bone jarring bus ride over crushed lava roads, we headed straight for the john in the lobby of the theater, but stopped dead one and all when we saw the signs over the doors.
One said Herren, the other Mennen.
"Oh, for crying out loud, you boobs," Bud said. "Can't you even figure that out?"
With that, he sailed through the door marked Mennen.
A few seconds later a chorus of female screams erupted inside the door and Bud came sailing back through it, this time with his scrawny neck in the grip of a tall, muscular, blond haired lady of the Viking persuasion.
After Bud got released by the Icelandic police and was returned to our by-then much happier little cave, all we had to do whenever he opened his mouth was say, "Mennen, Bud. Mennen."
Oh, how he hated hearing that!
And, how we loved saying it!