Friday, January 27, 2017

My old jacket

This is my barn jacket. Yes, it really is a German Police coat. It’s gore-tex with a zip out liner and about 10 pockets.  How did I get this? Well, it was quite some time ago and it is almost an interesting story.

I was between jobs back in the early 80’s, living with some guys that were college friends and having monthly parties with old friends. Such was single life back then. At one of these parties one of our old classmates showed up and we were catching up on the last few years of our lives when, after a few beers, he mentioned that the work he was doing for the State Department had an opening for a temporary job.  By the way, when we went to our 35th reunion years later he had just retired after his 30 years of service. Some guys have all the luck. Anyway, he said it involved travel and was only a two month position, but had something to do with an assist to Interpol and the pay was much better than I was used to. 

I had a few irons in the fire, but really nothing solid and my savings were dwindling quickly, so he gave me his card to call and find out more. When the weekend was over I thought I should call and find out more. He set up an appointment with the German Consulate in downtown Minneapolis. I was having all kinds of James Bond thoughts going through my head what with Germany still being divided, Reagan having been inaugurated, the uprising in Gdansk, Poland, the year before, and the U.S. having boycotted the Moscow Olympics( Brezhnev was still in charge)  also in the previous year. I was nervous, but dressed up in a coat and tie as I had no idea what all this was really about.

It was unlike any “interview” I had ever had as the three people in the office asked me all kinds of questions about my life in general. Not much about any of my work experience. There was pastry and coffee and it was just like getting to meet some new friends. After about fifteen or twenty minutes I asked them about the job itself. It turns out that there was a money laundering scheme going on with a Twin Cities connection that they had infiltrated, but still needed time to properly set up the sting operation in Germany. The only reason they needed me was to accompany one of their infiltrators on a couple of quick trips to Berlin. Apparently, this infiltrator was at a lower level of the operation, but they said it was still important for appearances to be nondescript. Well, that was me, Mr. Average, nondescript, nobody knows who the hell he is and he looks harmless. They wanted me to accompany their man a few times so that I would relax and they could keep up appearances.

So it was all not really a big deal. No exploding pens, fast cars, or Playboy models, just a few trips to Germany and that was it. They said they would call me in a few days and I thanked them for their interest and got the nerve to ask them who they were. They had been introduced as Herr so-and-so and I had already forgotten their names (I’m bad that way), but they informed me that they were a diplomat, a German cop, and an Interpol cop. I thanked them and said I was still interested, had the time, and was excited to go to Germany as I had never been there. I had only recently gotten a private pilot license at Wings, Inc. at the St. Paul Downtown Airport (Holmen Field) and loved flying whether or not it was me at the controls.

A few days passed and I got a phone call that offered me the position. I asked if anyone else was doing this and they said I didn’t need to know that. Okay, then. So there was still an element of secrecy, but when I asked them what to tell my friends if they asked they said just to tell them I was a short –time contractor for the State Department and that it required some travel. It was true, but they said keep any details, of which I hardly knew anyway, to myself. For my own safety, they added. That made me a little nervous, but apparently this was not really a big deal and they said that was just standard operating procedure. So when do I start?

A couple of days later I had a knock on the door and had to sign for an envelope that looked fairly plain other than the “signature required” part. Inside it were my airline tickets and hotel information. I checked to see that the plane tickets were for a round trip, they were, and there were what appeared to be some Deutschmarks in denominations from 5 to 1000, but only two of them were 1000 bills. I think the value was around fifty cents U.S. for a Mark, but I don’t remember exactly what it was back then. They had also put a note in there that told me to keep my receipts and to try and keep my purchases to “necessities.” Of course my mind was all over the place as to what constitutes a necessity.  I “need” a new guitar and I “need” some new stereo equipment. I also “need” some new lenses for my camera.  Somehow I figured their idea of need and mine were somewhat different.  
It occurred to me that I had never asked, nor did they offer, to tell me exactly how much the job paid. I took a look at what was in my hands and thought for a moment about cashing in the tickets and converting the cash. It was about the equivalent of two months’ salary from my previous job, but this job was only going to be a couple of months. I decided to call the number they had given me for questions and contacts and ask. They wouldn’t be specific, but they said “adequate” since there were three agencies involved. At least that I knew of.  Two days later a money order for a thousand dollars came in the mail with a note to say this would help cover my day to day living expenses until my actual paycheck was written. Since my share of the rent and utilities was about $250 a month back then I figured that I was going to be okay even if the pay itself wasn’t much. The fact that I would get a few quick trips to Germany in the meantime was really what I was looking forward to.

Three days later I was at the Minneapolis Airport (MSP) finding my way to the right concourse and to meet “my man” as he was referred to and begin. My passport was in hand and I found my way to the Lufthansa counter to check in my suitcase. It was a smaller one since the trip was only for a few days and my carry on was just a soft-sided briefcase. I was dressed casually as I waited in the short line to check in. When my turn came and I put my bag on the scale the uniformed woman at the counter informed me that my travel companion was waiting for me over there, pointing to an empty row of seats with a woman sitting at the end. She was an attractive, casually dressed woman with a large purse. As I approached her and began to extend my hand she got out of her seat and gave me a big hug which pleasantly surprised me. “I am Heidi,” she whispered in my ear. “Of course you are,” I thought, “I'm J...”, “Ssshhh, I know all about you," she whispered. I decided right then that this might be the best job I ever had.

To be continued...


  1. If not James Bond, perhaps Matt Helm?

    Are you going to be as mean as I am and make us wait a whole week for the next installment?

  2. "Almost an interesting story" eh??? Way to understate things :)

    When do we hear more?

  3. An undercover mission with an attractive German agent called Heidi? Man, you really lucked out. I hope you asked her whether Heidi was her real name.

  4. (bounce bounce bounce)

    and and and what happened NEXT, jono?

  5. Oh my, can't wait for the next part!

  6. More like Austin Powers is my guess but continue. Heidi. If she had been Russian, it would have been Natasha.

  7. I have taken jobs without knowing the pay - sometimes the job is intriguing enough on its own. But then I received $65 a month hazzardous duty pay in Vietnam - so I obviously don't set a hold a high standard for work incentive or my life.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  8. Great story, by the way. Would like to hear more.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  9. Oooooo, very cloak and daggerish! Heidi, eh?

  10. You're a fibber. No way this qualifies as "almost an interesting story," dude. It's VERY interesting, and you tell it well. Gotta say, though, I hate that whole "to be continued" stuff at the end. I'm an old broad, ya know. Finish SOON, okay???

    Have a super weekend.

  11. Elephant's Child, Soon.

    Professor, How many times have you made ME wait a week? There was a post on Facebook last week about an Aston Martin in the parking lot of one of our local hotels. "Bond. James Bond" was my comment. I think most of the readers were too young to get it.

    jenny_o, I think about next Friday would be good.

    Gorilla B., It occurred to me that it wasn't her real name, but if she let me spend time around her, who was I to question it?

    anne marie, You'll just have to wait and see.

    Cat Lover, You'll just have to wait, but it is written.

    Blog Fodder, Or Sophia if she was Italian. The last time I met three German women was in Iceland was back in '07. They were Kristina, Kristine, and Miriam. They were delightful.

    Ol'Buzzard, I never thought hazardous duty pay was nearly enough, especially when people are trying to kill you. More next week.

    Debra, Heidi is what she said, but I'll never know what it really was.

    Susan. Thanks! I understand the soon stuff. Heck, I don't even buy my bananas green any more.

  12. What a fascinating story... and now we have to WAIT for the ending?!? Well played, Jono, well played! Ever thought of writing a suspense novel? :-)

  13. Jono, if you don't want to write the fiction novel based on this event, can I have the rights, please? I already have a title. ;)

  14. C'mon man, don't leave us hanging!

  15. duuuuuuuuuuude...finish the damn story already.

  16. Diane, I have thought of lots of things. Actually doing them means I have to wake up. I'll never be able to write a hot spy love scene like you, though.

    AK Coldweather, They say the best fiction has its roots in reality. We'll talk soon.

    Jennifer, How else will I get you to come back?

    JACKIESUE, Don't worry, I'll finish it while we're still on this side of the dirt.

  17. I always come back! Your blog is on my sidebar so I see updates immediately!

    (I was happy to see we're both rabbits, btw!) 🐇

  18. You are a natural storyteller, Jono. You've got a book in you.

  19. Jennifer, Thanks, fellow rabbit.

    Agi Tater, I must get that from Otto and the bedtime stories he told me when I was a small child. A whole book? I can always fantasize about that.

    Jenny, I hope it's the Sean Connery version.

  20. Oh come on, you can't leave us hanging like that. Yeah, color me interested. Also, that IS a cool jacket. Also, I giggled when you mentioned that it was gore-tex, because the only thing I can ever think of when I hear that is George Costanza and his big ridiculous jacket.

  21. ABFTS, It won't be long now. I remember the first gore-tex jacket I had didn't live up to its promises. Later versions were noticeably better. George looked like a hand grenade with legs.

  22. what an interesting story , the way they took your interview was very different yet interesting.
    i can feel your excitement for the travelling to Germany !

    there is much suspense in your story when i look the way they were being mysterious .
    i found this so amazing to assist a charming lady who was warm in her behavior!
    waiting for the next part eagerly!

  23. Jono--This would make a marvelous short story. Think about it...