Last week I mentioned the saying, “He who does not learn the lessons of history is doomed to repeat them.” It’s something that applies to everyday life, if you manage to live through your mistakes — and remember them.
One thing I learned right after I started driving was not to buy a bumper sticker which says, “IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU’RE TOO DARN CLOSE!”
Boy! Did I scrape that thing off in a rush.
Lesson: Don’t invite people to follow too close.
I also learned one of life’s little lessons while I was still up in Iceland. A Navy friend invited me to go on a training run over the Arctic Ocean on a Navy P2V submarine patrol aircraft on which he was a gunner.
Off we flew on a far ranging mission, shooting up innocent looking rocks with 50 caliber machine guns and air to ground missiles. Done with that, the pilot radioed Iceland we were returning, but was told to divert to Scotland because the base was under a heavy snowstorm and the runway was closed.
However, when we radioed Scotland they said they were in the same fix, so we flew in circles as Iceland and Scotland argued it out, until the pilot broke in and said, “Hey! I have just barely enough fuel to make it to one of you or the other, so make up your minds. NOW!”
Off to Iceland we headed. However, about 30 minutes later the pilot came on the intercom and said, “Men, we’ve hit an unexpectedly strong headwind. We may or may not make it to the base.”
Unable to see anything as we neared the island, we went on GCA (Ground Control Approach), which slowly talked us in while as we zoomed over the ice laden Arctic Ocean. The GCA operator said, “During the last 10 seconds there will be no transmission.” A few minutes later, in a blinding snowstorm, all went silent except for wind and engines.
Then — miraculously — our wheels touched down.
We ran out of gas on the runway. We couldn’t even taxi in.
You realize what a close thing that was?
Lesson? No more joy rides in aircraft! Ever!
One night in Karachi, Pakistan, I learned a lesson — and wait till you hear it! It just so happened that the Russian staff house was located directly across the street from our small Air Force staff house. Those Soviets were nuts; they used to stand on their balcony with a motion picture camera and film each party we had in our front yard.
Why? Beats me! Hoping they’d catch someone doing something they could blackmail him with, I suppose.
One night a friend and I flagged down a cab to go from the Army staff house to our staff house. We grinned as I pointed to the meter, which already had eight rupees on it. I knew that the fare between our two staff houses came to just two and half rupees, so when we got home I gave the driver three rupees, even generously including a tip.
When he started fussing at us I told him in Urdu just how much of a crook he was, and inside we went.
And then? The driver started yelling his head off!
“I hate you Russians! You are veddy bad people! Veddy, veddy bad people! You should all be shot, and ...”
All six of us in our staff house were rolling around laughing.
I think it was the Russians who learned that lesson.