It happened way before I gave much thought about the consequences of my careless teenage actions. It was also several years before the movie "Midnight Express" would put the fear of drug smuggling into me for life, and it was just before I hit 20 that I got busted at the German border.
In 1974, thirty unkempt classmates and I flew to Germany for a semester abroad. I was a sophomore at Windham College in Vermont, and there were several meetings with the professors beforehand warning us that American hippies were not exactly the guests of honor in Germany at this time, that our unruly hair and patched denims would cause us trouble. It was even suggested that we sew Canadian flags on our backpacks, as Canadian students were preferred. Offended, many of us carried on with our American flags sewn boldly onto the seats of our jeans. Either way, we were ordered and even begged to leave all drugs behind to avoid incident, so we did.
But there was to be no incidents, as we danced through customs like nuns. Weeks passed and we crossed myriad borders without one check, frisk or search. It was as if we didn't matter, which really irked us. Like paying for health insurance your whole life and never once getting sick, eventually you drop the insurance, start smoking and snarfing cream doughnuts.
Soon after settling into Munchen, we all relaxed our paranoia, stopped heeding the preemptive warnings from the professors and began seeking out hash sources. The source turned out to be an American Army base in Augsburg.
Hash was smoked one of three ways at the time in Germany; either shaved and sprinkled in a hand-rolled tobacco spliff, in a man's tobacco pipe with a makeshift tinfoil bonnet or in a hand twisted foil pipe which looked more like a deformed Christmas ornament.
About a month into our German bier-drinking and hasch-smoking tour my roommate and I thumbed up to Amsterdam to seek a better class of high. After our weekend binge, we hitched a ride back to Munchen with two mangy-looking Vancouver hippies driving a ramshackle van. We called them Mutt and Jeff as they were hairy enough to be Americans. By the time we boarded the retired love bus, another co-ed named Kathy joined us and the five of us left Amsterdam heading down the road, puffing spliffs while listening to Canned Heat. Within an hour we were best friends, a merry band of soul travelers.
As we pulled up to the border station, we aired out the smoky van while Mutt or Jeff asked quickly, "Nobody's carrying, are they?" An afterthought, really.
"No!" I snapped, forgetting all about the dirty hash pipe that was carelessly splayed right on top of my pajamas in my suitcase. Yes, I had gotten sloppy; I'd cancelled my insurance.
Perhaps we looked like a heap of trouble, or maybe our number was just up, but our van hadn't even come to a full gestalt when the German border guards ordered us to get out of the van.
"Oussen!" they hollered.
Before we were even de-vanned, the Gestapo started unloading suitcases and backpacks, carting them off to a back room in the border station. My heart started to sink below my hip-hugger bell bottoms as someone barked at us in guttural English to take seats against a sterile grayish wall in the border station.
It all happened so fast it; we had hardly even sat down when a guard ran out, waving my tin-foiled pipe in a Hogan's Heroes kind of accent, "Aha! Das ist eienen haschpfeife!"
Another man, apparently the boss, narrows his eyes the way Germans do in the movies and says, "Who is da owner of dis hash pfeife?" he said in a strange mix of Germanglish.
I stood up, and raised my hand, "Das ist meinen. Der haschpfeife is mein." I was self-impressed. I wasn't sure I'd been paying attention in German class, but here I was, negotiating at the border!
"Aha!" said the man who suddenly looked like Colonel Klink without the monacle.
Within five minutes, there was a team dismantling the van; removing arm rests and unscrewing bolts that held the seats in. A man showed up with the German shepherds who went to work with their noses. It all seemed so over the top when the German Fraulein arrived. She pointed at me first and led me into a small room, ordering me to take my clothes off. Knowing the dirty hash pipe was all they were going to find, I started mouthing off, "But we just met!"
She wasn't amused—of course, Germans rarely are. After she found nothing on my body, she sent me back to the line and pointed to Kathy. As I sat back down, Kathy stood, turned around to face me, reached into her bra, pulled out a nickel bag of pot and dropped it on my lap! I was shocked, but my reflexes threw my hand over my crotch to conceal it. Kathy headed into the strip room behind the butchy woman. When the body inspector came for everyone else, they all followed suit; passing the nickel bag off to one another, and it was never to be found.
The Germans seemed frustrated they couldn't find anything else on any of us, so I was taken into the interrogation room and Colonel Klink barked, "Sitenzie!" So I sat-en-zie. Colonel Klink began to ask me ridiculous questions as he filled out a form, licking the pen between answers.
"Where did you get da haschpfeife?"
"From a guy at Oktoberfest."
"Aha! From a guy at Oktoberfest," he repeated as he wrote.
"Vat vas his name?"
"John Doe," I replied without pause.
"Aha! John Doe!" he writes down.
"Is this the first time you have smoked hashish?"
"Oh, no. My brother Reid turned me on back home."
"What is your brother's name?"
"Reid Kasper. R-E-I-D." I helped. He lives in New Jersey.
He continued with his ridiculous questions, asking where New Jersey was and how old Reid was, licking his pen and writing down slowly everything I said. At the end of the buffoonish interview, Klink handed me the violation with purpose and sent me back to my group, where nobody was speaking to me. I found the Germans to be warmer than my soul travelers at this point.
After about eight hours into the detention, the clock was heading towards midnight, when Colonel Klink entered the main room, and announced to Mutt or Jeff that we couldn't come into Germany because the front tires on the van didn't have enough tread on them!
We all headed back to Holland, exhausted and spent the night at the apartment of a gracious Dutch couple we met at a bar. They enjoyed our story, helped us smoked the nickel of pot that had been in everybody's underwear and we all mocked the meticulous Germans who missed the obvious. The dogs, the inspectors, the body searchers, Colonel Klink with the hash pipe in the office, they all missed it.
The next morning, we took up a collection to help the Canadians buy tires, with my chip-in being the biggest. I've never smuggled anything again in my life, eight hours with border Polizei was enough for me. I've never been back to Germany since, and when I got back to the States, I warned my brother, Reid, "By the way, don't go to Germany!"