If you were alive between the years of 1974 – 1983 and a fan of PBS, you might have come across the TV show ‘Big Blue Marble’. I was a big fan and watched it every week it was broadcast (with the exception of the 4 years we didn’t actually have a TV after my brother Wily Fox put his foot through it and broke it). I found the content very educational and entertaining. One thing it featured was an opportunity to obtain a pen pal. At some point during each episode, it would provide an address and ask viewers to send a request to the address if interested. Of course, I wanted a pen pal! Who wouldn’t want a pen pal? When I sent in my first request, I couldn’t wait to see whether they would actually grant it and if so, who it would be. As promised, the show came through and linked me up with a girl (slightly younger than me) that lived in Denmark.
I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was! This was before email and social media and cell phones. This was when the United States Postal Service and ‘Ma Bell’ were the only means to contact anyone. ‘Ma Bell’ wasn’t cheap back then, especially for long distance calls, not to mention long distance, out of country calls. For a kid in middle school, who only earned a dollar an hour babysitting, long distance phone calls were out of the question. That left me with one option, the United States Postal Service. Despite the fact that mail delivery was slow, they call it ‘snail mail’ for a reason, it was what I was accustomed to. For a letter to take two weeks to go from sender to recipient was not unheard of. It was practically expected. And the longer it took to receive a letter, the more the anticipation built up, making the day when it arrived that much more special.
Each time a letter arrived addressed to ‘yours truly’, it was exhilarating. I would barely finish reading it before I got to work penning a response. I hungered to learn more. My first pen pal and I hit it off right away. We corresponded for several years, sharing our interests, things about our daily lives, and whatever else seemed relative at the time. I found her to be delightful. When I turned 18 and my mom offered to take me to Europe (before I left for the military), I asked her if I could make a special trip to visit my pen pal in Denmark. She had no problem with it, I just had to make sure I returned on time and as scheduled so we could catch our flight back to the States. Before I continue to take you on this ‘journey’, let me forewarn you that I was (at the time) like a hormonal teenager on steroids. It may help explain some of my ‘behavior’.
When the day finally arrived to board the train to see her, I was so excited that I was nearly out of my mind! Finally, after so many years, I was getting the chance to see this person up-close-and-personal that I’d come to know through ongoing correspondence. I could hardly wait. After waving goodbye to my mom and brothers at the train station in Frankfurt, I settled into a seat and counted down the hours until the train was to arrive in Denmark. When I reached the station and stepped off the train, there she stood, a 3-dimensional, flesh-and-blood version of the person that I had previously only known through letters and a handful of head shots from school. It all seemed so surreal. Right away, we went back to her home and I was introduced to her family. They were all so lovely and kind. That evening, we all dined together and enjoyed a home cooked meal at their dinner table.
Once dinner concluded, there was only one thing left to do. Go clubbing! Yes, I was still very much into the ‘club’ scene and dancing every time I got a chance and as luck would have it, there just happened to be a nightclub within walking distance of my pen pal’s house. And, my oh my, once I stepped inside and my eyes adjusted to the lighting, I became aware of all of the ‘beautiful boys’ and I got ‘the fever’. The fact that I was a newcomer and an American seemed to set the place abuzz and I had no trouble finding dance partners. By the end of the evening/early morning, I had settled on a gorgeous Danish ‘boy”. I completely forgot about my pen pal. While she made herself ‘invisible’, he and I ended up sitting out on a curb until the sun came up, engaging in some heavy petting while locking lips. Eventually, we parted ways and she and I returned to her house.
Hours later, I was supposed to arrive in Frankfurt to meet up with my mom and brothers. Our return flight to the States was scheduled for that evening. When it came time to leave for the train station, I hurriedly gathered up my things at my pen pal’s house, and headed out the door. I made it in time to board the train and moments after finding a seat, it lurched forward, starting its journey south. The German border was only about 45 minutes away. An announcement was made over the intercom system that a crew member would be stopping by shortly to ensure everyone had a valid passport. No problem. I opened up my purse and reached in to retrieve it, but it wasn’t there. Oh, crap! I went through my jacket pockets and my pants pockets and then I checked my purse again. Double crap! I then looked through my overnight bag. It had to be there! Nope, not there either.
Where on earth could it be???!!! I looked down the aisle and saw the train crew member slowly approaching, checking passports, one row at a time. What did I do? Just like any rational 18-year-old would do, I walked straight to the nearest available restroom, stepped inside, and locked the door. Surely, if I remained perfectly quiet, no one would notice and I’d be able to eventually return to my seat and safely arrive on time and as scheduled in Frankfurt. Wishful thinking! Apparently, I’m not the first person to try this ruse because it went over like a lead balloon. As soon as the crew member reached the bathroom, he tried the handle. When he realized it was locked, he started knocking and demanding that I come out and show my passport. I sat there for a few seconds trying to hatch another plan but after enough feverish knocking and continuing demands, I finally relented and opened the door.
Embarrassed and humiliated, I sheepishly stepped out into the aisle and fessed up. I had a passport but I had no idea where it could possibly be, I had looked everywhere. As convincing as I was and as pitiful as I appeared, he wasn’t buying it, and he forced me off the train at the next station. I was informed at that time that unless I had a passport, I would not be able to cross the border into Germany. It was as simple as that. Oh my goodness, my friends! I’ve been ‘blabbing’ and I’m not even halfway through my story and I’m already 8 paragraphs in. I’m going to leave you in suspense just a little while longer and finish up with ‘Part Two’ tomorrow. Thanks so much for stopping by. I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.