Sometimes despite all one’s efforts and good intentions, trouble seeks you out like a homing torpedo. My buddy, Jack, and I conspired and resolved to be “good” before we went on liberty in Oslo, Norway. This time there would be sightseeing and a good meal not a drunken debauch in the first bar we came to. This time we would not wake up the next morning with spinning heads, churning stomachs and empty pockets. We had our minds made up as we left the ship and got on a boat (the ship was too big to dock at the pier and had anchored out in the bay. So boats were required to get to the pier) and travel to shore.
The day was a perfect early summer day, bright sunshine, warm not hot and not a cloud in the sky. We wondered aimlessly around Oslo, taking in as many of the historic sites as we could. Oh yes, we did notice the people of the town. It seemed, that everyone was tall, fit and attractive especially the ladies. Now I know the reputation sailors have when it comes to women but Jack and I were being “good” and we were on our best behavior. We smiled and greeted people, men and women, as we encountered them on the streets. We felt like good-will ambassadors who would correct the misunderstandings about sailors single handedly.
And so the day passed, pleasant touring which included a snack (grilled smoked haring ‘” eaten like a hot dog) and not a drop of beer to encourage bad behavior. As evening approached it occurred to Jack and I that we were both tired and hungry. It seemed to us that every direction in the town was uphill (maybe that was why everyone looked so fit.). We decided that we would find a nice restaurant have a good meal and then return to the ship.
We found a very pleasant looking family style restaurant and sat down at an available table. It was about seven PM and the place was busy but not packed. Our waiter spoke a little English, which meant that we had some idea what we were going to eat. Jack and I were so proud of ourselves that we allowed ourselves to have a beer with our dinner. The food was great and as we rarely had non-military food we ate very slowly relishing each bite. Life was good and so were we.
As we were finishing our meal, we became aware of activity going on around us. Tables were being removed from the center of the room, which exposed a dance floor, and a band was setting up. Jack and I were amazed and confused ‘” the bar that we had avoided all day had found us. At this point we accepted what seemed our fate and relaxed. This had to be a sign that we should stay for a while and have a little fun. We did not have to be “bad” to have some fun and it looked like it would be a friendly crowd.
“Crowd” was the right word before long the place was bursting at the seams with people. All the tables were filled and people stood all around the room. There was an empty chair at our table and a Norwegian Sailor walked over to us and asked if he might sit at our table. We said that was fine with us and he sat down. He said, “My name is Jourine Johanson, glad to know you boys.” All of this in a thick singsong Norwegian accent in which every thing sounded like a question. In fact, it sounded like his name was “urine” and after a while and a beer we ended up calling him that. He didn’t care probably chalking it up to our strange accents. A good time was being had by all and then Urine noticed the beer we had been drinking. He said, “You boys is drinking the wrong beer. Bartender bring us three Han frona dua’s (clearly the name of a beer, oh and the spelling is my best guess)”. Three liter sized glasses arrived at our table filled to the brim with a greenish looking foamy brew. At first, I eyed the beverage with suspicion but soon after tasting it I was drinking with gusto. It was delicious and before I knew it I had drank three of those liter glasses of what turned out to be the devil’s own concoction. I found out as I attempted to rise to leave and return to the ship that my legs were no longer under my control. It seemed that I had gone from sober to drunk in the time it took to stand up. Having sat down again, I knew that the trip back to the ship was going to be an adventure. Jack and Urine helped me to my feet and one on either side of me guided me out the door. I, for my part continued to get drunker as the rest of the evil liquid kicked in.
On the way to fleet landing, I hit the sad stage of intoxication and got very homesick. This brought out a nasty demanding part of me that surprised me even though I was “toasted”. I became angry with Norway; after all, it was one of the reasons that I was not home. I growled at people as they passed by me blaming them individually for my predicament. It was in this state that I arrived at the landing.
There was a huge line waiting to get on a boat to go back to the ship. Well, I was in no frame of mind or condition to wait in a line. With the cunning of a drunken sailor, I set up a ruckus singing at the top of my voice. In the interest of preserving peace on the landing, I was quickly collected by the shore patrol and deposited on a waiting boat. Once the boat was in motion, my mood turned impish. I noticed that a Mid-Shipman (someone attending the Naval Academy who really had no status until graduation) was in charge of the boat. I began talking to myself about being home sick and blaming the Navy for it and as its representative the Mid-Shipman. I was careful not to say anything directly to or about the Mid-Shipman but did talk about “almost sailors” and the possibility of sailing this boat back to the US. Finally the Mid-Shipman told me to quiet down (or words to that effect) and I said, “Yes Sir?” and saluted with the wrong hand. He returned the salute before he realized my salute was incorrect. I beamed at him as we arrived at the ship.
I partly climbed and crawled up the gangway to encounter the Chief (in this case my own chief from my division). I saluted him and asked permission to come aboard. The proper procedure was to show your ID card while saluting. He said, “Where is your ID sailor?” I said, “Don’t you know me Chief? It’s me.” He said, “Show me your card!” I fumbled with my wallet and showed him a picture of my girl friend. “This is a picture not an ID card!” he said. I said, “I’m sorry but isn’t it a nice picture?” He seemed to be getting angry and an interesting shade of red, I thought. I thought it was a very nice picture but he didn’t seem at all interested. Than with great conviction he stated, “Sailor you are drunk.” I was dismayed and replied, “I’m sorry Chief, yes I am.” I tried to tell him about the “evil brew” but he did not let me. Instead, he waved me aboard with an expression of disgust on his face. I could have told him that dealing with a drunk was a waste of time but I just found my way to my rack and fell on to it. As I fell asleep, I thought after all this difficulty happening while I was trying to be “good”, I might be better off just being “bad”.