Friday, July 22, 2005

Justice, s'il vous plait?

Tonight's post is going to be just a wee bit schizophrenic.

So if you're a red-stater, keep reading, and if you're a blue-stater, skip ahead to the funny part. The one that begins with the airplane explosion that killed hundreds.

Toward the end of work tonight, we were discussing Natalee Holloway, the high school girl who disappeared on her class trip to Aruba (haven't you watched ANY news since the Runaway Bride?). Apparently, the girl's poor mother has upped the reward for finding her and/or information about her.

Let's set two ground rules.

One is, the girl's dead.

The other is, the Dutch kid in jail, he killed her.

Unless, of course, she went skinny-dipping while he lay drunk on the beach, and a giant shark directed by Steven Spielberg swam up and ate her.

OK, fill in all the allegedlys and reportedlys here.

But I've seen enough episodes of "Law and Order: SVU," or as I often call it, "Law and Order: SUV," to know how it went down.

Let's see if I've got this right: Twice at a party, she shoots the Dutch kid down (no, I can't spell his name, and I'm too lazy to look it up. he's VanderSomething). Then she gets drunk enough, she leaves with him, his buddies drive them to a beach, and she's never seen again.

My vote is, he tries to get it on with her, she sobers up enough to figure out he's a little weasel, and he rapes her. Then he kills her, to cover his ass, in a panic, whatever. Then he dumps her in the ocean.

The only way anyone's collecting that reward is if they cut open the shark that ate the body. Like Dutch Boy's weasel would-be-judge daddy said, no body, no crime.

So the kid's guilty as OJ, and he's sitting in jail, all clammed up. Meanwhile, a girl's family suffers without knowing the truth.

This is why I advocate the torture of prisoners. I mean, if the Aruban government doesn't want to do it, surely Aruba's close enough to Gitmo we can somebody over to go all Lynndie England on this little rat.

I'll tell you what, indulge me a minute, and let me tell you what I'd do if that were my daughter, God forbid.

I'd take out a second mortgage - I've got some old friends back whom who'd do just about anything for money. Then I'd take them down to Aruba, with a boat.

And I'd jump Daddy Dearest, haul his ass out into the ocean and turn him into John Bell Hood. You remember Hood, the Civil War general who lost the use of an arm, then lost the leg on the other side.

I'd think by the time you break the kneecap, he's at least thinking about talking. By the time you break the opposite elbow, he's telling everything he knows. Which would be helpful if she's in the only other place she could be: the VanderWhatsis basement.

If that doesn't work, it's time for a good old fashioned Aruban jailbreak.

(And hey, if you think the Dutch would object, last I saw them, they were in "Band of Brothers," shaving the heads of the women who slept with the occupying Nazis. They do revenge funky.)

Yeah, that's right, I'd bust little whatsisname out, and haul him out on the boat with daddy. Then I'd cut open his thigh and use him for bait. I'm thinking at the first sign of a dorsal fin, one of 'em talks.

And then, hell, if they killed my little girl, I'd disembowel 'em and toss 'em in the ocean for the sharks. Or go all Dread Pirate Roberts on them. ("No! To the pain!") Vengeance is seldom, if ever, the sole property of the Lord.

That whole school-trip-gone-to-hell thing got me thinking about another story, slightly less violent.


Remember that plane that blew up over Long Island back in '96? The one that had the high school French club on board? The one that inspired the movie "Final Destination"?

Anyway, when I saw that on the news, my jaw dropped. I remember I ended up being late for work, because all they said was the flight had a French club from Central Pennsylvania on board.

I was in a high school French club in Central Pennsylvania. Fortunately for my town, it wasn't the one from Bloomsburg on the plane. There but for the grace of God, and my sympathies to the people of Montoursville.

Anyway, I went on two trips to France with the French club - my French teacher and her husband, the gym teacher, went over about every other summer, taking kids on an "educational experience."

I really didn't have much fun either time I went, the first because I didn't speak French well enough to get around (after two years) and the second because, well, it was Murphy's trip.

And nowhere was that more evident than in Nice (pronounced NEE-sss, not NIGH-sss). And a nice experience, it was not.

(I'll keep the guilty parties anonymous, for the sake of my friends. The nonguilty parties, I'll cheerfully name.)

Let me put it this way, when we left on the tour bus, me and Johnny, one of the guys, sat in the back giving the entire city the finger out the back window.

We'll get to the part that makes the connections momentarily.

First, let's share some of the fun.

We knew we were in trouble when we got the hotel, and the French guide informed my teacher it was a brothel.

How he knew the anorexic-looking woman leaning on the front desk was a "known prostitute" was none of my business. And the guy at the front desk looked like Elvis. I mean, he had a pompadoured rug that would make Jim Trafficant blush.

As Mrs. Coy said, "This is the last time I let the tour company put us in a two-star hotel."

Turned out the place had four and a half floors. The top floor, where they put me, Johnny and Kevin (three of the five guys on a tour with 25 girls from two different states... and the only guys who got any on the whole trip were the other two guys, who unknown to anyone, were boyfriends).

Oh, aside, they combined my tour from Pennsylvania, on an "educational experience," with a tour from Georgia of eighth-grade girls, on a shopping trip. And Johnny, who immediately dodged his chaperone mother to hang with us. We mixed like oil and water. The Georgians sat on one side, the Pennsylvanians on the other. The bus aisle was like the Mason-Dixon line.

Me and Johnny, we were the ambassadors, sitting on the back seat, on the wrong sides, to show solidarity.

Bear in mind, too, on this second trip, I'd graduated the week before we left, there was really nothing they could do to me if I misbehaved (unlike the underclassmen, who'd get suspended).

Anyway, we're in Nice, in the brothel, and Kevin goes up to our room on the top floor. Kevin's about 6-foot, Johnny's 6-4, and I'm 5-9. Kevin's in the dark, in the hall, when runs forehead-first into the expansion. I shit you not, he knocks himself out. He says he woke up minutes later, in the dark, on his back. This was an omen.

The expansion floor, the half-floor, was so short Johnny showed us - fully clothed, you perverts - that he had to bend almost double to get his hair under the showerhead.

That night, while we were exploring Nice (more on that in a minute), Johnny's mother and her roommate (the two Georgia chaperones) got their room robbed. So Johnny actually ended up staying in their room, while Kevin and I blocked our door with a piece of furniture. We had a special knock and weren't going to open for anybody but him. So we spent the night in an armed camp.

The next morning, at breakfast, before we checked out, the waitresses were in French maid costumes. Literally. A shame we didn't call room service.

I told you it was a brothel.

But now to the relevant part of the story, the part that I think of every time some tragedy happens on a school trip (there was one a few years ago where a Jersey cheerleader fell from a hotel balcony, too).

That one night, we all went out on the town - teenagers can drink in France, but even we weren't that hardcore; the first trip (from which I was the only returnee), one of the girls got sloshed the first night on wine so bad we had to drag her back to the hotel, fear of future suspension or worse, a plane ticket home on mom and dad's dime, running through our heads.

Anyway, the chaperones tell us not to go ANYWHERE alone. So the guys, being high school guys, ran in a pack. The girls, being girls, paired up. (Like they do in bars, on the way to the bathroom.)

We're hanging out down by the beach, taking in the breeze off the water. Well, actually, we're up on the street, which is way above the beach, connected by big stone stairwell. It's nighttime when one of the girls comes rushing up in a panic. Turns out, she lost her partner. While we're trying to figure out what to do - that is to say, how to find her without alerting any chaperones - she goes walking by. With a guy. A strange, suave-looking, older guy. Who's just talking her up.

So three of us follow at a relatively discreet distance. They're headed for a parking lot, and we're thinking if she gets in that car, they're going to be off to Monte Carlo and we're never going to see her again.

Now you see the connection to the first part of the story?

Eventually, she catches us and comes back to (angrily) ask why we're following her. We point out she's like 15 or 16 and he's like 30. And she's in a foreign country. Wandering off alone with a stranger. Maybe we overreacted... but then he got squirrelly. And took off. That's when she started crying.

So, feeling good about ourselves (line of the day: "I may not be big, but I can fight," said one of the guys), we amble on back to the rest of our party. Only to discover, they've lost the first girl.

In a word (or four), "merde. Merde. MERDE. MERDE!"

So we're looking around, re-frantic-ing ourselves, when we hear her. Down on the stairwell, sitting on the landing. In the dark. With a guy. Another stranger.

Usually, we learn from others' mistakes, we don't try to out-fuck-up them.

But she did.

So we drag her out of the stairwell, and ask her the obvious question: Did you learn nothing? She says, she was right near us. Which, to her credit, she was. Fifteen feet down, in the dark, out of sight, with a stranger, unknown to any of us. To her discredit.

So she's pissed, and as we're trudging back to the hotel, she's telling us over and over how nice this guy was and how there was no harm in it and how we're overreacting.

The response?

"Then why's he following us?"

We bolted. Running through the streets of Nice, splitting up (into groups), cutting through alleys, etc.

We'd shaken him by the time we got to the hotel. A couple of the guys hustle the girls upstairs, and Johnny and I hung out at the next-door McDonald's, where Johnny could practice his (nonexistent) French, and we could make sure the mystery man just walked on by.

Harmless fun, a story I've entertained friends and family (and now you, dear readers) with for years. But when I actually think sometimes how close we might have come to being the poor bastards on CNN, maybe it's not quite as funny.

What can I say? Of all the places I've been, the one I'm least likely to go back to is France. I'm not going for pleasure, Paris isn't that fun. And the odds I'll be leading a German army anytime soon aren't good, either. So that's that.

Natalee Holloway, and here's hoping they find her
Aruba, which is undoubtedly sorry they let the school trip get through customs to begin with
The latest from CNN on the Holloway case
Torture, Wikipedia-style
"The Princess Bride," for those of you who don't get the Dread Pirate Roberts reference
Nice, France - I wish I could remember how to swear in French so I could adequately express my feelings toward the city

Let's end with a joke: Why did France and Germany oppose our invasion of Iraq? France didn't want to lose to a country that small, and Germany didn't want to bother conquering a country that small.


fnordboy said...

Well I stupidly read the Red State part. Kill me. :P

How could you condone torture being a good way of getting info out of someone? Punch me enough times in the face and I will tell you anything you want to hear, inbetween spitting out my shattered teeth, regardless of it's truthfulness.

If by the off chance this kid is actually innocent and he "confesses" under duress or pain then you just put another innocent person in jail for god knows how long and the real killer/kidnapper goes free. Congratulations for further adding to the prison problem.

Ace said...

Ground rule No. 2, fnordboy. Presumption of guilt.

If he tells me what I want to hear, and he's guilty, well, that's the whole point. Finding the girl.

fnordboy said...

But what if he doesn't tell you anything true and he was an innocent person? You have now damaged him physcially and psychologically.

Anybody you know could happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ace said...

But I'm not even considering the possibility that he's innocent. That's the Aruban government's problem. I'm talking about what to do with a guilty person to get information. And letting him sit in jail isn't it. So as far as the reality of my hypothetical (I can't believe I actually have to use that phrase) is concerned, he's guilty. Ground rule No. 2. You can't debate the point if you ignore the ground rules.