When I was young I used to feel guilty going into a bank It was some personal aberration that I could never nail down. Some free floating angst. Maybe in some previous lifetime I robbed banks and as I approached the teller I felt those butterflies of anxiety that would precede my doing something immoral.
Or maybe I was just freakin' weird.
But when I head about Otto Warmbier I got a shiver. It could have been me. We were in Hong Kong and although it was when the Brits were in charge in my mind still too close of a call. There was a friend of mine on the ship. He was enlisted and I was an officer so it was really not kosher for us to fraternize off the ship. At one point he worked directly for me but he requested a transfer to a different position in the ship and I grabbed at the chance so as not not to be writing his evaluations. Anyway, it was just one of those things. We were simpatico. He was a bit more of a risk taker than I was and once ashore in civilian clothes away from anyone on the ship we were two kids on a lark. Shipboard life is so stressful and so totally engaging it was like releasing a cork from a champaign bottle. We just flew off.
In Hong Kong one late night we were headed back to the ship along a fairly empty stretch of a public bridge leading to the docks when I saw a lovely poster. It encouraged the public to stop littering. I remarked on how cool it would look on my wall at home when, before I knew it, Phil (he is long dead now.. another story.. so that was his actual name) had grabbed the poster, rolled it up and handed it to me. It seemed at the time to be not so very dangerous a thing to do but was a little edgy. Now, of course, even in the safe environment of Hong Kong at that time it was an insanely dangerous thing to do.
So I feel for Otto. And in my heart apologize for getting away, as I always have, with doing something that ended up killing him.
The poster hangs outside of my office. It says, in Chinese, Hong Kong is watching you. Indeed.