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Losing Our Way in the USA

The following headline appeared in the Tuesday, June 26 2003 edition of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times (Texas):

7 FIREFIGHTERS WHO TOOK TRUCKS TO BAR PUNISHED

Captain is Fired After Visit from Running Club Degenerates into Flashing

You can probably picture what happened just from reading the headline, but if you’re curious, the entire article’s at the end of this rant.

The firefighters screwed the pooch, no doubt about it. They got involved in down-downs and distracted by a little T&A, then decided they were having such a good time they took a fire truck and followed the hashers to on-afters at a nearby bar. As a result, seven firefighters are out of work: one fired, two forced to resign, and four suspended without pay pending further investigation. And you know what? They probably got exactly what they deserved.

So what did the hash get? A good laugh? God, I hope not. I hope they took it as a wake-up call. I hope they appreciate the consequences of what they did. I hope they don’t get hauled into court. I hope they didn’t give hashing in the USA a coast-to-coast black eye.

I know I’m a broken record on this subject, but I believe hashing is an underground activity, and that’s where we should keep it: underground and out of sight. How many times have you seen potential trouble brewing when hashers start interacting with the public on trail? What about down-downs? Have you ever done down-downs in a public area, with outsiders looking on? How many times have you seen hashers behave outrageously in public – singing dirty songs, flashing, and (literally) disturbing the peace – in order to show off? How many times have you laughed about chasing horrified civilians out of a park, a restaurant, or a bar?

Pre-hash and sober, none of us intentionally set out to piss off outsiders or highlight our activities to the authorities. And (still sober) few of us would ever consider forcing our brand of fun on non-participants, far less get them involved, thereby putting their jobs, marriages, and reputations in jeopardy. Drunk, it’s a different story.

I think hashers – American hashers specifically – are beginning to lose their way. Too many American hash groups have evolved into drunken frat party-cum-sex clubs, with the emphasis on drinking to the point of puking and passing out, accompanied by nudity whenever possible . . . co-ed nudity if the harriettes play along (and increasingly, they do). But that’s not what “no rules” means, and never was.

As a matter of fact, let’s put that “no rules” nonsense where it belongs: in the shitcan. There are rules and there always have been rules, and they are the rules of civilized conduct. We don’t hurt each other, and we don’t hurt outsiders. None of the original hashers – Gispert and company – ever uttered the phrase “no rules.” I don’t know when these meaningless words entered the hashing lexicon, but I suspect it was around the same time “no poofters” appeared – some silly-ass catch phrase taken from a TV show that had nothing to do with hashing but which some hashers thought cute. Note to self: ask Bill Panton or Ian Cumming when they first heard the phrase “no rules.”*

In my hashing travels, I’ve learned that hashers in other countries are generally quite modest, and that they stick pretty close to the original spirit of hashing when they get together. They come to the hash to run a good trail, work up a decent sweat, drink a few beers, and see their mates. They often have a poor impression of American hashing . . . they think our hash names are unnecessarily gross and that our reasons for hashing have more to do with drinking and sex than anything else. I worry that if our reputation gets much worse, we’ll never see an InterHash in the USA, but that’s a subject for another rant.

If you’re part of the adult leadership of the hash . . . a member of mismanagement, an experienced hare, a respected elder, or just someone who cares . . . help keep the hash out of the public eye. There’s no reason we can’t run our trails in public (and many city-bound hashes have no other options), but we don’t need to inflict down-downs and songs and shouting and nudity and public pissing upon the public. A little planning will prevent this. A little less drinking will go a long way too, but I realize I may be asking too much.

As far as what goes on inside the hash, I’m not near as much of a prude as I seem. I’ve sat in my share of hot tubs, surrounded by naked harriettes and naked myself . . . I have seen the elephant, as they say. But even here I have reservations.

If a hash lets potential recruits know that “adult” behavior is the norm within that group, great . . . no one can say they didn’t know what they were getting into, and if it’s too much for them they can bloody well leave and start a family hash. Ditto for events that are traditionally on the debauched side. Sometimes, however, hashers at a normally straight-laced hash or event get drunk and crazy, and when the harriettes start taking their clothes off, harriers who’d normally know better start letting their dicks lead them around. I’ve seen more than one marriage broken or seriously stressed in situations like that. As always, the devil is in the drinking. When hashers drink too much, good intentions and judgment go out the window.

That’s why we need adult leadership, whether we like it or not. There are rules, and they’re just as much in effect when we’re drunk as when we are sober. I hope the incident in Corpus Christi gets the attention of every GM and every RA. We have to start acting more responsibly when we’re in public, and we need to remember that there are consequences to our actions even when we’re not in public. We need to get our hashing back on track before we morph into something unrecognizable.

Thanks to Fort Eustis hasher Gopher for sharing some well thought out points with me, like this one: “Mismanagement bears the onus of ensuring that our behavior is consistent with the setting in which we find ourselves.”

* From Ian Cumming:
A good question, probably unanswerable. Did G and his bored bachelor buddies say “No rules?” According to Euclidian logic it would make no difference if we answer either way. Either they said it (in my opinion, unlikely) and then no activities were recommended or otherwise, or they didn’t say it and no activities were recommended or otherwise.
To support the latter, I quote John Vincent, Hash Honsec in 1962, in response to the question as to the reporting responsibilities to Mother from the second Hash (or if you accept the Apocrypha, the third.) His answer was clear and plain. It demonstrated a stroke of genius that has guided the spreading of Hashing worldwide, to the envy of countless other athletic clubs, churches, governments, businesses and any organization venturing into the no-man’s land of expansion ever since.
He said: “I dunno. Nothing to do with us in KL. Let us know how you get on from time to time.” Note no mention of “no rules.”
He also sent a copy of KL’s Charter, which we amended in the membership section on the advice of the Emergency Societies Registration Department. We deleted “Dogs, women and other bad characters shall be excluded from Membership.” This was replaced with: “Dogs shall be excluded from Membership. Women and other bad characters shall be excluded from Membership.
I’m sure many of us have encountered rules that have outlived their usefulness, but that does not justify defiance of civilization’s guidelines.
See, I can pontificate sometimes.
Enough – micturate on ya! – yrs aye – Ian

- Flying Booger

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times (Texas)

7 FIREFIGHTERS WHO TOOK TRUCKS TO BAR PUNISHED

Captain is Fired After Visit from Running Club Degenerates into Flashing

By Sara Lee Fernandez
Thursday, June 26, 2003

A stop by a runner’s group at a downtown fire station that deteriorated into a drinking party with bare breasts and buttocks at a nearby bar led to the firing of a 19-year fire department veteran, the resignation of two others and the suspension of four.All of the firefighters were assigned to Station No. 1, which is located downtown near the old county courthouse next to the Harbor Bridge, and have been accused of misconduct for using two city fire trucks to attend a party while on duty.

The accusations have led to the termination of Capt. Joseph A. Mihoin, a 19-year veteran of the department, the resignation of a second captain and a firefighter – both unidentified by city officials – and the suspension of firefighters Patrick M. McBride, Lionel S. Mendoza, Ernest L. Trevino and Joe Flores for 30 days without pay. None of the firefighters could be reached for comment on Wednesday.

“We hold our supervisors responsible,” City Manager Skip Noe said Wednesday.

He said the suspension of the four firefighters was the maximum allowed under the firefighters’ union contract.

Carlos Torres, president of the Corpus Christi Firefighters Association, said there isn’t much that he can say about the investigation or its outcome. He said he was advised by the international and Texas firefighter unions to refrain from comments because of a possible appeal by Mihoin.

Mihoin has 10 days to appeal his termination. Torres said it could take several months after that to select an independent arbitrator and to schedule a hearing.

According to city documents, Mihoin met with a representative from the Corpus Christi Hash House Harriers at about 6 p.m. May 7. The club, whose Web site describes its events as including beer and occasional nudity, wanted to use the station as a stopping point in a race. Members of the club reached Wednesday would not comment.

The documents accuse Mihoin of allowing firefighters to participate in activities related to the race and of taking a fire truck to Dr. Rockit’s Blues Bar in the 700 block of North Chaparral Street after the race.

The firefighters reportedly hosed down male and female runners and threw ice and flour on them as requested by the runners’ representatives. One of the female runners also exposed her buttocks at the station, according to the documents.

After the runners left the station, Mihoin and several firefighters reportedly went to the bar in a fire truck, and a few women exposed their breasts or buttocks to the firefighters. The crew went inside the club while in uniform, according to records.

The firefighters stayed in the club, took pictures with people drinking alcohol, and mingled for about 90 minutes before returning the truck to the station, according to officials.

Records accuse Mihoin of allowing his crew to change their assignments to go to the bar and of not informing his supervisors of what occurred.

Mendoza and Flores were accused of spending more than an hour in the club and taking part in the activities at the fire station. McBride and Trevino were accused of allowing four women, who reportedly had been drinking, to ride in the back of a fire truck as it was driven around the block. They allowed the women to hug them and took pictures with them on the truck. McBride was accused of allowing one of the women to jump on him and wrap her legs around him while he was standing on the sidewalk outside the club, according to the documents.

Fire Chief J.J. Adame said the firefighters’ actions should not reflect on the entire department.

“We provide a great service to our citizens and the guys work very hard to provide outstanding service to the community,” he said. “I’m proud of them.”

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