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31 LESSON 5 FOLLOW MOST, BUT NOT ALL, OF THE RULES If there’s a fork in the road, take it. yogi berra What might seem to some an insignificant issue loomed large at this moment. In the hastily arranged evacuation, we learned, dogs were not allowed to accompany evacuees. What were we to do with Bacchus, our six-year-old Cairn terrier? To leave him behind meant certain agony—his and ours. Dogs were not well treated by the Muslim population, by whom they are considered unclean. In addition, most of the residents of East Pakistan were poor and frightened. He’d become an abused, mangy “pye dog,” if he survived at all. We couldn’t bear the thought. I sent Jill and Charles upstairs to a bedroom while I attempted to give Bacchus a lethal injection of lidocain to stop his heart. I was feeling dreadful and consequently I bungled the execution. Bacchus pulled his paw away in fright, sensing my emotional state. Poor Bacchus whimpered uncontrollably . Half anesthetized, he dragged his way across the hall. Moving after him I glanced up, to discover Jill and Charles staring down from the second floor balcony in horror. I was 32 TEN LESSONS IN PUBLIC HEALTH in absolute misery, and I lost my nerve. I found Jon Rohde at home, next door, and begged him to do the deed. We buried Bacchus in a secluded part of our garden. Jon and Candy’s cat fared better. After he was anesthetized, Candy “wore” him, as a stole, aboard the evacuation flight. It took six flights to evacuate all of the Americans. A group of us volunteered for the last flight out, on April 6, because we planned to stage a protest once the plane landed in Sri Lanka to refuel. If we were on an earlier flight, doing so might endanger the lives of Americans still in East Pakistan. Someone clearly spilled the beans about our plans. Our passports were confiscated as we boarded the evacuation flight and the plane never opened its doors during refueling in Sri Lanka. The U.S. government (always “tilting towards Pakistan”) subsidized the cost of flying Pakistan’s troops from the west wing to the east wing, by paying Pakistan to evacuate us in the otherwise empty planes flying in the opposite direction. We were outraged. It meant a much longer flight than the originally planned trip to Bangkok (using U.S. Air Force planes), and worse, we were being sent to the west wing, the “enemy” (in our view). We protested loudly upon landing in Karachi, so the next day we were flown, by chartered Pan Am 707, to Tehran (which shows just how much has changed—Tehran was then a safe haven for Americans!). As the plane took off from Karachi headed to Iran, the pilot said, “Welcome home to America.” There was a loud cheer—and then handkerchiefs and sobs. Few of us had recognized just how much strain we’d been under until it was suddenly lifted. Bright lights and movie cameras from all the major television networks greeted our arrival in Tehran. Candy Rohde was captured on the newsreels descending the jetway elegantly attired in her (once again anesthetized) cat stole. FOLLOW MOST, BUT NOT ALL, OF THE RULES 33 Jill’s parents and mine saw us deplane on the evening news. When they called the embassy the next day to check on our well-being and chat, they were informed that “Dr. Sommer and his family have apparently gone off to a remote area to attend a camel market.” Indeed we had, and it was a twenty-hour train ride away. We stayed at a local hotel overnight and took a taxi to the barren plain on which the monthly market was held. There were no camels, but an ancient, elaborately turbaned trader was sitting cross-legged beside six lovely pieces of tribal jewelry. One silver pendant, with large rough-cut stones, caught Jill’s eye. Having learned to be a canny bargainer, she asked what I thought it was worth. I asked her how much she was prepared to spend. We agreed our limit was $5. Jill asked his price. He replied, “75 cents.” Jill bargained, as was the custom. He wouldn’t budge. She walked away—and never bought it! “Why not?” I asked her. “Because he wouldn’t bargain,” she replied. I said, “So what? He wants less than a fifth of what we were prepared...


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MARC Record
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