I’m A Damn Moron: The Freon Incident
By Jack Mandaville
“I actually felt more comfortable when you and your brother were in Iraq, because at least I knew you two were being professional.” –Ski’s mother during a conversation with him after his enlistment ended.
We all have our little regrets in life. Personally, I try not to dwell on these things. But sometimes there are certain events you just can’t shake. Mine was an incident that occurred during the tail end of my last stint in Iraq—something I can honestly say was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done … EVER! And it all began with my buddy, Ski.
Ski was a born and bred South Massachusetts meathead with a commanding physical presence and an unbridled penchant for trouble. The cock-strong Marine’s entire life revolved around fucking, brawling, and not giving a shit. He was a top-tier alpha in a sea of alphas—the kind of guy who escaped punishment time after time because he, when it all boiled down to it, was an outstanding infantry Marine. Even our most by-the-book leaders loved him.
All in all, he had accumulated an impressive résumé of wild incidents by the time he left the Marine Corps—things that made him legendary throughout our battalion:
- Led dozens of Mexican police officers on a thirty minute high-speed car chase around Tijuana, eventually making it safely over the border with a juice supply that could humble Alex Rodriguez.
- Got blackout drunk in the middle of a month long training exercise and delivered a stallion-like downpour of urine on his platoon sergeant as he lay sleeping.
- Drunkenly stumbled onto a US naval vessel and took not one, not two, not three, but four steaming dumps around numerous common areas of the ship.
- Tossed four MRE bombs in a Quonset hut filled with all of our company’s staff NCOs and officers, then proceeded to block the doors as they furiously attempted to escape the vomit-inducing fumes.
And that’s just a few examples out of hundreds.
Perhaps the most dangerous component in Ski’s arsenal of madness was the fact that he was highly intelligent. Not Rain Man, number-crunching intelligent. I’m talkin’ Hannibal Lecter intelligent—the kind of manipulative personality who can make you question if you’re dealing with the antichrist. He just had this uncanny ability to convince the most rational of people to indulge every impulse.
Enter me, your narrator: Jack.
Raised in the sheltered suburbs of an affluent Midwestern city, I generally abstained from this kind of behavior. That is until I joined the Marine Corps and came in contact with the likes of Ski. If there was ever a candidate to fall victim to his conniving lunacy, it was me.
It was April in the Arabian desert. Our platoon was gearing up to leave Iraq. But before we could all make it back to safety, there were some logistical issues that had to be taken care of. They needed three Marines to head up an advance party in Kuwait. Our platoon commander chose Ski, a pint-sized firebrand by the name of Mini, and me.
The plan was simple: show up to the battalion staging area in Kuwait, find a tent for the platoon, and wait until everybody else shows up. We got the first two parts taken care of pretty quickly. Next came the waiting—maybe a day or two.
The three of us were sitting around our cots, bullshitting the only way a substantial amount of Marines know how: by talking about how drunk we were going to get when we got off deployment. Of course, when bored Marines start talking about these things, they inevitably start getting the urge to go out and find ways of inebriation. Here you’ve got three unsupervised low-ranking Marines with an entire tent to themselves. Yeah, shit was about to go down.
Jack: “Do you wanna go see if one of the Hajjis can get us some booze or something?”
Mini: “Nah, man, this country is so fuckin’ dry. We should have gotten that shit before we left Iraq.”
Ski: “I know how we can get fucked up.”
Ski, while keeping his eyes locked on Mini and me, took his right arm and pointed to the end of the tent with complete bearing.
Jack: “There’s nothing over there.”
Ski: “Look harder.”
Mini: (Chuckling) “Oh yeah, bro. I know exactly where you’re going with this.”
Jack: “It’s a fuckin’ air conditioner.”
Ski: “… And it’s going to get us fucked up. How are you not getting this, dipshit?”
Jack: “You tell me.”
Ski: “God damn it. Jack, have you ever heard of Freon?”
Jack: “Uh… no?”
Ski: “It’s a chemical they put in these A/C units. If you suck it in you can get, like, loopy as shit… like seein’ stars and shit.”
Jack: “NO FUCKING WAY, BRO!”
Look, like a lot of Americans, I had experimented with alcohol and marijuana as a teenager. But Jesus Christ, there were some things I wasn’t willing to try.
I initially resisted his idea. But again, this is Ski we’re talking about. He’s both relentless and extremely calculating. The dude always had this rampant determination to bring me in on his bad ideas—and I usually went along with it because I’m a FUCKING IDIOT!
Ski: “Dude, you’ll be fine. It’s just one time. It’s not like you can OD on the stuff.”
Stupid me. I gave my inch. It was all over from there.
Ski: “Yeah, man, it’ll be fun.”
Ski ripped a small tube from the back of the A/C unit and sucked it in. He shot his head up and had this glassy look on his face—much like someone who just took a rip from a bong. Then Mini went in for the second hit.
There I was, staring at two zombies who had these dense looks plastered on their faces … and in crept that bit of wonder I struggled with my entire youth.
Mini: “Ha, ha, ha… Okay—Okay, you go now, Jack.”
I plopped down, put my mouth around the nozzle, and let that shit rip.
So let me paint a picture of how my first hit appeared. I was bent over on my knees with my mouth around a phallic-shaped device, staring up at Ski with one of those Am-I-doing-it-right? looks on my face. Ski’s was standing directly over me with one hand on his hip, a sinister smirk on his face, and a wild glaze in his eyes—probably from the Freon that had overtaken his brain. Yeah, people, you know exactly what this looked like. All we needed at this point was a few strategically placed cameras and it would have looked like we were shooting a scene for a military-themed gay porn called Semper Guy.
A few seconds later my head violently popped up and my brain … was … totally … FUCKED! I was straight up giggling harder than I did when I learned how David Carradine died. These tiny little dots began dancing around my eye sockets and a constant noise was puncturing my brain.
The symptoms of the Freon only lasted thirty seconds or so and, of course, we went in for round two.
By the time we got to our fourth or fifth rip, things had gotten out of control. I was holding Mini—who is a 5 foot 1 inch package of Napoleonic fury—up by his legs like I was some sort of cliché school bully emptying lunch money from a younger student.
“OKAY, ME NEXT!” I screamed as I dropped Mini to the ground like I was a kid anxiously waiting his turn for the videogame controller.
Ski and Mini lifted me up by the legs and I let ‘er rip. Yep … we were doing A/C-stands (the disgraceful, inbred cousin of the keg-stand). It was some real sick shit, friends. The kind of stuff that makes me wish I had a time machine so I could go back and sucker punch myself.
Then things got real cray.
All of a sudden Ski walked over to the light switch and shut it off. We were standing there in the dark for a few seconds when I heard this cracking noise go off near Ski’s pack.
I knew exactly what was going on: Ski had just broken into the stash of chem-lights. Next thing I know, this bright green glow appeared and Ski started dancing around while making these techno beat noises.
Before I knew it, Mini and I were doing the same thing, all while intermittently getting ourselves refueled on the Freon. Now we had a full-blown party going on. We were out there waving the chem-sticks around like a bunch of teenage E-tards at a back lot rave.
At that time Ski upped the ante and split one of the chem-lights open with a knife. The guy proceeded to rub the chemicals all over his body as he gracefully continued his dance. (The chem-lights were non-toxic, of course. Not that it matters. You know, considering we’d been ingesting FREON!)
Following Ski’s genius idea, both Mini and I followed suit and before we knew it we had the most pathetic looking glow party on God’s green earth.
Now we had all our shirts off and were caked in this stuff. Mini was climbing the center tent pole like he was Tarzan, Ski was in full ballerina mode, and I was in the back at the air conditioner going for yet another round. It was complete mayhem.
Aaaaaaand that’s when the lights turned on.
The three of us stopped dead in our tracks and turned our heads toward the main entrance. There stood one of the local Pakistani contractors coming in to clean the place. Holy shit, the look on his face was priceless. The guy was probably having a normal, monotonous night at work and he walks in to see three young Americans greased up from head to toe with nothing but silkies on. Ski was awkwardly standing in the middle of the floor, Mini was dangling from the beam by one hand, and I was in the back—on all fours—with my face in the A/C unit and my ass sticking up in the air.
You would assume most people would probably get freaked out over a scene like this. Not this guy. He started to get this giant grin on his face like he was just waiting for us to ask him to join the party.
It was right then and there we realized things had gotten out of hand. Ski escorted the guy out of the tent and we decided to go to bed before word spread of our haphazard party—though falling asleep was extremely difficult due to the fact it looked like we had just taken a bath in a nuclear reactor.
Now that I’m over thirty I can see, with absolute clarity, how close we came to being victims of Darwinian justice. But when you’re a young lance corporal—who is constantly dealing with the miserable reality of your existence—you just make stupid decisions sometimes.
I woke up the next morning with most atrocious headache you can imagine. As I pulled myself out of my cot, I was confronted with the fact I had puked all over myself in my sleep. Heave everywhere—a disgusting spectacle that looked like a mixture of shit, piss, and guacamole. The vomit wasn’t a result of some wild night of excessive drinking. People, I had a Freon hangover … and I deserved every bit of pain I was feeling.
“Hey, Jack, you need to nurse that hangover,” Ski said as I rolled out of my cot. “Go hit up the air conditioner again.”
“… I hate you, Ski.”