The next evening
at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu they "debriefed" us. "Men, we
have no backlog of passengers at this station, and you should be out of here
within 24 hours. Don't worry about extra baggage. Just fill in your flight
cards and be sure to give your priority. If anything comes through during the
night we'll wake you."
Hugo and I were
traveling with an A-1 priority. Only emergency leaves and generals had higher
so Hugo went to sleep confident of playing, for the 500th time, in the regular
Friday night tournament at the Club. At 2 a.m. we were awakened by an airman
calling out names and knocking on doors of the transient billets. There was a
plane to Oakland in an hour. "Jones, Kelly, Schultz, Batzlinger...."
That man called 50 names but he didn't call mine. I checked the roster on his
clipboard. I wasn't on it. Hugo was packing his toothbrush.
pleaded, "you're not leaving without me, are you?"
packing. I threw a coat over my pajamas and ran the half mile to the terminal.
At the MATS passenger desk an airman was reading The Stars and Stripes.
you've made a mistake," I informed him. "I've got an A-1 priority, and
you've booked everyone in Honolulu on that plane to the States except me. I
have to travel with my partner!"
"Ya happen ta
have a copy of ya travel orders, suh?"
He looked at them
hard. "Suh, I reckon we did make a mistake. If ya really gotta git back, I
guess we'll just have ta bump someone."
I didn't argue. I
ran back to the billets and found Hugo in the shower whistling. "I'm with
you, Hugo," I said. "They're bumping someone."
Half an hour
later at the terminal, as Hugo was perusing a gigantic map of the world and I
was sipping pineapple juice, we heard a drawl through the loudspeakers:
"Attention please. Will Mistah Hugo Batsingah please report to the MATS
passenjah desk? Mr. Hugo Batsingah, please."
As I climbed the
ramp to board the plane I could still hear Hugo vainly protesting: "But
I've got an A-1 priority! Don't you have a system? My priority is A-1! Why, if
General Motors was run the way you guys run the Air Force they'd be busted in a
year. This is ridiculous. Ridiculous."