In my senior year of high school, a girl – let’s call her “Karen” – transferred to my school. She and I liked the same music and movies, had similar senses of humor, and got along well together. We became instant friends. But she was wild. Like, “on a first name basis with everyone at the local Department of Family Services office” wild.
Karen eventually got thrown out of her grandma’s house. She moved in with a friend in midtown Atlanta. She lived there for six weeks before stealing all her roommate’s cash and weed and running up a $600 phone bill. Karen then took off to Pensacola and repeated the process – lived with someone for six weeks before stealing all their cash and weed and running up a giant phone bill. She then took off to New Orleans and did it to someone else. She’d then come back to her grandma’s house in Atlanta, totally penitent, begging for “another chance”. I called this “Karen’s Triangle of Terror”, and she repeated this cycle at least 3-4 times.
At one point, Karen’s grandma became so desperate for her to stay in school that she promised Karen a brand-new BMW 325 convertible if she got her high school diploma. Karen actually responded to this, and for 8-10 weeks she stayed in school, actually went to class, kept her partying to a minimum, and generally seemed to have her shit together. So much so that her grandma allowed one of her Pensacola friends – let’s call her “Jennifer” – to come for a visit.
Jennifer was one of the most “inadvertently awful” people I’ve ever met. She didn’t mean to be terrible, she just was. I drove Karen and Jennifer to a party one night, and Jennifer passed out drunk on the way home and put two giant cigarette burns in my backseat (oh, and my car had less than 1,000 miles on it at the time). A couple days later they went to a party at another friend’s house. This friend only had one rule: her mom treasured this 200+ year old Persian rug. DO NOT GET ANYTHING ON THE RUG! Jennifer puked on it. A couple days after that, Jennifer was introduced to someone in my social circle and was like “Oh, Stacey! You’re the one who had to get an abortion ‘cos she was raped by her uncle, right?”
Jennifer (thankfully) went back to Pensacola, and I eventually lost track of Karen ‘cos of her many moves.
* * *
A couple years later I was at work, listening to local consumer expert Clark Howard on my headphones. He mentioned that US Air was going to run an unprecedented sale: $298 round-trip flights from Atlanta to Frankfurt! I called a bunch of friends and actually found one who: a) had a passport; b) had the money; and c) was excited as hell to go.
We didn’t do much in the way of trip planning. I got us a rental car and hotel room for the first night… and that was it. My Let’s Go guidebook would take us the rest of the way. So we landed in Frankfurt, got the rental car and drove to Stuttgart, where the hotel was. We saw some sites, had a few beers and some laughs, and went back to the room.
The next day we explored Stuttgart in the morning, then decided to head to Munich around lunchtime. We got about halfway there – my friend was driving this leg – and he mentioned that we didn’t have any accommodations yet. I got out the Let’s Go and went through a list of hostels and pensions in Munich; we agreed on one place because Let’s Go said it was “the preferred stop for aspiring young models”.
So we arrived at the pension and got a room. It was 6-ish by this point – it wasn’t “late”, but it was a snowy, rainy December day and the sun has gone down a couple hours before. So it felt a lot later than it was. My friend and I ate at a nearby restaurant, then hit a bar next door for a couple hours, then came back to the room and crashed.
The next day we hit a bunch of places – the Marienplatz, some Christmas markets, the Alte Pinakothek… ya know, tourist stuff. We decided to go back to the room and chill for a bit before going back out that night. As we climbed the stairs to our room, we saw that the door to the room next to ours was open, and two cute(-ish) girls were inside. Before we could unlock our door, one of the girls called out, asking if we had a cigarette. We said we did, and invited her in to our room (door open, of course).
The girl introduced herself, and I immediately asked if she was from Pensacola:
“Like, ohmygawd, like, how did you know?”
Pensacola girls in the late 80s\early 90s had this particular accent, kind of a “Southern Valley Girl” thing that was quite distinctive… especially in that they could condense “Pensacola”, normally a four syllable word, into something like one and a half syllables.
I explained that I once had a good friend who would get kicked out of her grandma’s house in Atlanta and go to Pensacola quite often. I then said that this girl – the one in front of me, here in Germany – sounded just like this girl Jennifer, one of my friend’s friends from there.
The girl suddenly went pale.
“Wait, is your friend named Karen?”
“Does she have a Mickey…”
“… Mouse tattoo on her…”
“upper left arm?”
The girl spun around and ran back to her room. She returned with her wallet… which she opened to reveal several pictures of herself and Jennifer. She was, apparently, Jennifer’s best friend from childhood.
My friend and I had booked the trip thanks to a tip from a guy on the radio. We’d planned almost nothing about the trip. We’d picked this pension almost at random from a list in a guidebook. We hadn’t requested any particular room… and just next door was someone who knew one of my former best friends.