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Sunday, February 19, 2012

“They can only kill me once.”

Friday was a good day.  I hade a fifty dollar trip to West Memphis, and eighty-one dollar trip to Millington, and a couple of runs to the airport.  But the last trip was the most fascinating passenger I’ve ever had.

He was a guy I picked up in midtown to go to the airport.  He looked to be in his late forties or early fifties, well-built, had a military-style haircut and he was dressed in all black.  Even his bags were black.

I noticed his German accent as he got in because he was talking on his phone.  “You tell that mother fucker this German redneck is going to kick his ass the next time I see him,” he said, “I told him this is the last time.  No, I fly to Amsterdam, then Istanbul, then to Kabul and from there I go into the mountains.”  He paused, then said, “No I haven’t been doing any sharpshooting lately.  Yeah, that’s right, and don’t forget to tell the little asshole what I said.”

I couldn’t hold my tongue.  “Man,” I said, “that was the most intriguing conversation I’ve ever eavesdropped on.  What do you do?”  He hesitated then explained, “I’m a former marine, an engineer for NASA, and I work part time for the Department of Defense.”  By the same token I could ask what you do but I see you drive a cab.  I bet you don’t drive full-time.”  “No I don’t,” I replied, “I’m a graphic designer but the recession really hurt my business, so I drive for extra cash.  In fact, I just published a book about my experiences in the cab.”  “That’s wonderful,” he said.

He told me he escaped from East Berlin because “No mother fucker is going to tell me what to do,” and he had learned a lot from both his grandfathers who were high-ranking officers in the Wermacht.

I asked, “Have you been to Afghanistan before?”  “Many times,” he answered.  I continued my line of questioning, “Do you think we should get out?”  “Yeah. We have no business being there any longer,” he replied.  “Don’t you think the Taliban will take over once we leave?,” I asked.  He laughed and said, “They already have.”

“Have you been to Iran?.” I asked.  “Often.  Not a nice place. The people are really suffering,” he said.  What about Syria,” I went on.  “Been there too, same thing,” he said.  I responded with, “It seems like the military would to take over, especially considering the latest sanctions.”    “One thing you have to understand about Arabs and Persians, they’ll follow their leader no matter what.  They’re not like Latin countries where there is a long history of military coups,” he said.

My curiosity was screaming, “Are you really going into the mountains in Afghanistan?”  “Yep.  We have the best military in the world but they’re restricted from this sort of thing,” he replied.  I was dying to ask him what he was going to do, but I knew he wouldn’t tell me or if he did, he probably would have had to kill me.