In 2005 I was enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and stationed at Sembach Air Force Base, Germany. The experience was culturally amazing and freezing cold.
Halfway through my two-year tour, my supervisor informed me I’d been selected to receive an all expense paid trip to the largest beach in the world. That was his way of telling me I was getting deployed to Ali Al Salem Air Force Base in Kuwait.
Part of me was relieved to escape Germany’s endless subzero winter nights, but the other part of me was equally dissatisfied with Kuwait’s perpetual 120 degree sand storms. I guess I’m just a spoiled American like that. In retrospect, both experiences were adventures, but I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life in either scenario.
I’m confessing these emotions so you’ll understand how euphoric I felt when I was sitting at my desk in Kuwait and got an E-mail informing me that my next duty station would be at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.
I re-read that E-mail 20 times before I believed it was real. Then, I printed out 20 copies and laid one on every person’s desk I worked with to rub it in their faces that God anointed me with orders to paradise.
For the next few months in Kuwait, and for the rest of my tour in Germany, I fantasized about my upcoming life in Hawaii. I imagined grass huts, luau festivals, surfing, cocktails served in hollowed out pineapples, and sex on the beach. God, I couldn’t wait!
These visions were reinforced when I finally arrived in Hawaii, inprocessed into my new squadron, and learned that I would be given a $1,200 per month housing allowance (in addition to my regular salary) to rent a home.
However, reality shattered all those dreams the moment I started house-hunting.
While I was still living in Germany, I invited my identical twin brother to come live with me. Then, when I got orders to Hawaii, it went without saying he would follow me there. So I needed to find a two-bedroom apartment. However, in 2006, the only city in Oahu I could find a two-bedroom apartment for $1,200 per month was Waipahu.
When you imagine Hawaii, you probably conjure up all the same heavenly tropes I did. In reality, Oahu is overpopulated and mostly covered in suburban sprawl and traffic jams.
When I describe Oahu to people, I say, “Imagine if you cut out New York City and put it on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and declared it to be paradise because it’s on an island where the average temperature is 83 degrees.” This analogy is admittedly over-dramatic, but it’s close enough to the truth to be useful.
There are some places on Oahu that can be legitimately considered paradise, but it costs $2000+ per month to live in those gentrified neighborhoods. Waipahu is a straight up ghetto. The whole time I lived there, I never dared to walk down the street after dark because it went without saying that I would get stabbed and robbed.
After leaving Hawaii in 2007, every time I’ve encountered people who lived there, when I tell them I lived in Waipahu, they cringe and ask, “Why the HELL did you live THERE?”
Well, why does anyone live in any ghetto? Because it’s affordable.
The apartment complex I lived in was protected by 8-foot-tall fences and gates that required a key FOB to enter or exit. Plus, there was a guard stationed at the entrance who would ask to see your resident I.D. card during business hours before letting you enter.
One night, I drove up to the front gate in my $2000 convertable Miada and was stopped by a 350+ pound, drunk Hawaiian pretending to be a security guard (even though he wasn’t wearing any kind of uniform). He was obviously friends with the gate guard, who was sitting in the guard shack laughing his ass off and obviously drunk as well. Being a scrawny tech nerd at the time, I had to endure the Hawaiian giant’s abuse of power and tell him whatever he wanted to hear while my ex-wife sat in the passenger seat and judged me for being a submissive beta male. That’s just the kind of place Waipahu is. As they say in the islands, “Might makes right.”
One lazy Sunday morning, I was sleeping in my king-sized bed with my ex-wife. A few feet away, my twin brother was sleeping off his nightly hang-over in his room. Around 9:30 AM, we were all awakened by the sound of semi-automatic gun fire directly outside our apartment followed by a man screaming, “JOHN! JOHN! YOU FUCKING MOTHER FUCKER! COME OUT HERE, JOHN! I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU!”
BANG BANG BANG
Even though I’d been stationed in a war zone, I’d never seen combat. I also didn’t own a gun. However, I knew enough about these things to know that when bullets start flying, your best survival strategy is to lay down flat on the ground. So, as soon as everyone in my house jumped out of their beds and started running around like chickens with their heads cut off, I used my most authoritarian voice and ordered everyone to hit the deck and stay there.
I plastered my face to the carpet and dragged my ex-wife next to me, but my brother ran straight to the window to see what was happening. Despite my vociferous advice, he stood there, fixed to the glass, giving us a play-by-play narrative:
“Oh shit! There’s a big, fat, Hawaiian guy out there with a fucking Ak-47! Oh man! He’s going door to door, knocking on them with the but of the gun and asking random people if John lives there. Oh, shit. He’s knocking on Koa’s door. He’s not going to find John there. Uh, now they’re talking. Now they’re shaking hands. Koa’s going back inside and shutting the door. It looks like they’re all good. Now he’s pacing around aimlessly.”
BANG BANG BANG.
Then we could all hear Mr. AK-47 shout, “JOHN, WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU!!!!?? I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU, YOU MOTHER FUCKER!!! YOU RAPED MY FUCKING SISTER!!!!”
BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG
Obviously, someone (possibly) from my apartment complex named John raped this guy’s sister, and he came to murder him at 9:30 AM on a Sunday, but since he didn’t know where John lived, he had to go door to door asking everyone if they wanted to volunteer to be murdered for raping his sister.
After the next gun shot, my ex crawled to her side of the bed, grabbed her phone off the night stand, and dialed 911.
Her conversation went something like this:
“911, what is your emergency?”
“There’s a man outside my apartment firing an AK-47 in the air. He keeps shouting that he’s looking for a man named John who raped his sister.”
“Can you describe the man?”
“He’s large. He’s Hawaiian, and he’s carrying an AK-47.”
“Ma’am. I need more details than that.”
“I can’t tell you anything more because I’m laying flat on the floor so I won’t get shot by a stray bullet.”
“Then how do you know the suspect is Hawaiian or that he has an AK-47?”
“Because my husband’s brother is standing at the window looking at him.”
“Well, ma’am. That’s just not enough information for me to go on.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not giong to get up and go look at him.”
“Ma’am, I can’t help you if you can’t give me a better description of the suspect.”
“Uhhh…. can you just send someone to our apartment complex and look for the guy shooting an AK-47?”
“Ugh. I guess we’ll send someone.” Click.
My ex looked at her phone in amazement and said, “I can’t believe that just happened. She literally said, ‘I guess we’ll send someone.'”
For the next 15 minutes, we waited on our bellies while my brother watched the meth head circle the courtyard and interrogate any tenet who opened their door when he knocked. We were holding our breath hoping he wouldn’t make it to ours when finally two Hawaiian police officers drove up and asked him to surrender. He immediately gave up his gun without resisting and allowed himself to be put in the back of the squad car.
When it was safe, all my neighbors and I came outside and started talking. It turns out the gunfire and shouting had woken up everyone, and we had all called 911.
A few minutes later, one of the cops walked up to us and asked who called the police. We all raised our hands, and then he told us, “We need each of you to come to the squad car and look in the window so you can positively I.D. the suspect.”
My outspoken Mexican neighbor told him what we were all thinking, “Hell no! I’m not going near him. I don’t want that crazy meth head to know my face so he can come back and shoot me!” The rest of us shook our heads in agreement.
The officer retorted condescendingly, “Then how can we know we have the right person?”
My neighbor replied, “You found the guy who was walking around with an AK-47, right!? So why do you need anyone to identify him?”
The officer scowled and said, “I guess we’ll take him in anyway,” then walked away.
Everyone stood there looking confused, hurt, and angry. After that, life went on, and we never heard anything else about the Sunday morning AK-47 avenger or John the rapist. We never found out if either of them ever got the punishment they deserved.
It goes without saying, I hope John was brought to justice eventually. Part of me suspects the police officers who arrested Mr. AK-47 just dropped him off at his house without booking him, and given the circumstances, part of me wouldn’t fault them too much. However, we can all agree that shooting an AK-47 in the air in a densely populated urban area is bad. I hope at least they took his rifle away. In addition, I hope he got the drug abuse intervention he needed. I don’t know for a fact he was an addict, but I’m pretty confident you don’t go wandering around an unfamiliar apartment complex at 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning firing an AK-47 indiscriminately into the air unless you have a meth problem.
A few years later I left the Air Force and moved back to Texas. I told this story to an old hometown friend of mine and ended it by asking rhetorically, “Where does someone even get an AK-47 from in the first place!?!? Hahaaaaa! AmIright!?!?”
He didn’t laugh at the punchline at all though. He just looked me dead in the eye and said matter-of-factly, “Dude, if you have $300, I know where you can get an AK-47 right now.”
Then I moved to New Zealand.
If you liked this story, you may also like these:
My Life Stories (in chronological order)
- What’s it like to be a twin?
- The eggnog story
- The cow-poline story
- The time I got shot
- My ghost story
- The “good porn” story
- My UFO story
- How I became a Christian and then lost my faith
- My first massage
- Piancanvollo’s traveling snail
- The time I got HIV
- The very gay cabaret
- An American Expat Visits the “Occupy Auckland” protest: Part 1, Part 2
- The time I worked in an apple orchard
- The time I worked in a vineyard
- My experience with the TSA
- This is how we live now: Part 1
- This is how we live now: Part 2
- This is how we live now: Part 3
- What it was like in Houston during Hurricane Harvey
- The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston
- An imagined conversation with my abusive, narcissistic father (Comic)
- What happened to The Wise Sloth?