Friday, November 12, 2010

A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for

I can make things better than they are. It's a mostly true statement. I definately believe it. I am kinda like a bona fide, living and breathing spell check. A lubricant for getting things done. I am an idea guy. Or, as I like to put it, a de-gooberizer. So where am I going with this? Besides a healthy pat of my own back. I am going to China. Or rather, I am NOT going to China and should be.

We have customers who want and/or need our services. By having the poor foresight of being born in one of the countries on the ever expanding list of them that we figure are all trying to kill, maim, or at the very minimum, highly inconvienence all us patriotic Americans who just want to sit peacefully in front of the TV, munching our tater chips, these folks have all manner of difficulty getting a visa. Nearly as much trouble as I had finding an ending to that last sentence. So we schedule, cancel, repeat. It's not their fault. It's just the way it is. And it's been like that for a long time now.

So I said, "Then why don't we just go there?" And I sat down and looked at what we do. Then I figured out what could be exported. Then I looked at what they would not need, as it is a domestic requirement, and swapped those things for information they would need that we get locally but they probably don't. (Sorry to be vague, but I don't like to do details when it comes to my work.) I thought about how to get the materials there and how long to clear customs in the various parts of the world. Then I wrote a syllabus, lassoed all the lessons into one place and sent the email to my boss that we had a new product to offer, there was a real need for it, and go out and make some money with it. To which he replied, "Nobody will want that. Too expensive." Not exactly, the thanks I had wanted, but more or less the thanks I have come to expect.

One week later, he calls me up and says that China wants that new training. And a little something else, too. So it's a good thing that "we" have developed that training and for me to give it to this other guy so that he can go there and deliver it.

Exactly like when I saw a need for on-site refresher training for our field techs. Despite the loud protestations of my former manager that he would never allow training to take place anywhere but the factory, I developed the course anyway and just sat on it. A year later, things change, TSA writes us a new contract that includes....wait for it.... a provision to allow on-site refresher training for our field techs. It is quickly pointed out that luckily "we" have developed just such a course, but TSA will have to pay for us to hire another trainer. TSA agrees, we interview for the position, hire a new trainer and then give him my course to run.

I can no more resist tinkering with the way we do things than porcelin can, ....doing things ...... that are glass-like. Anyway, I see ideas like the spooky kid sees dead people. I've got crazy mad energy in the mornings, so I pound these things out. And I'm already working on my next idea. Because we'll eventually hire someone else.

So, kinda a segueue from there to here, though more humorous and less bitchy. And just as true. It concerns my ship, the USS Antietam, her Commanding Officer, and the 1MC. The 1MC provided helpful reminders throughout the day to help us sailors, as I used to point out, do more before 8 AM than we had wanted to do all day. Here's an example: "Sweepers, Sweepers, man your brooms. Give the ship a clean sweep down both fore and aft! Sweep down all lower decks, ladder wells and passageways! Dump all garbage clear of the fantail! Sweepers." Ah yes...the glitz and glamor of the seagoing life. So, the story begins....

We were the pre-commissioning crew for Antietam, which means we moved onto the ship when it still belonged to (what was then) Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi . Later we sailed her to Baltimore (Antietam Battleground is landlocked, most land battles tend to be fought on land as it turns out, but Baltimore is not) for the commissioning ceremony and to bring the ship to life. So yes, I am a plank owner.

Because we were a new ship, in a new class of ships, almost everything we did, we were doing for the first time. That's why the CO and XO would have to spend a lot of time on the 1MC. To tell us what was going on, what we were expecting to do, how we expected to do it, etc. However, and this is a big however, they were both prone to long pauses when they talked.

Now, if you have ever been on a ship at sea, you know that when the CO takes the mic and starts talking, everyone stops and listens. Because he has news. Be it a port added, a port taken away, news of a new inspection, news from home, or announcing that have been tasked with escorting US flagged Kuwaiti tankers therough the Straits of Hormuz (true), if he's talking, it is something worth listening to. So we stop and listen, which also entails, for some strange reason, staring up at the 1MC speaker as he talks.

The CO would announce something, we'd listen, he' d stop talking and we'd go back to work. But with this guy, as we'd all start moving along, he'd pick the announcement back up and we'd all kinda lurch back to a stop and assume the position staring up at another 1MC speaker. Then he'd stop, we'd all start moving along, he'd pick the announcement up yet again, we'd all lurch back to another stop and assume the position staring up at yet another 1MC speaker. And this would happen numerous times. Until, at some point after we had all been staring up at a silent 1MC speaker for a couple of minutes, looking for all the world like curious, stoned lemmings (dungaree clad lemmings at that), we would realize that he was actually finished now and we could carry on.

The CO has a suggestion box.

I am full of suggestions.

So guess what.

I suggested to the CO that, and this is really what I wrote as we were a close knit crew, "when you are making 1MC announcements you should say thank you, or 'out', or something so that we the crew would know the announcement was over and could stop staring up at the 1MC speaker and go back to work". And that was that.

A few days later the CO again came on the 1MC to announce something. We all stopped and listened. And, after a few minutes he unexpectedly spake these words: "Abernathy, that is all."

I broke into a huge smile. Everybody just looked at me and you could see the little cartoon thought bubbles that said What the HECK?? I thought it was a one time payback deal for pointing out the pauses, but for the next couple of months after that, whenever the CO, XO, or Command Master Chief made a 1MC announcement, all across the Long Beach, CA waterfront you could hear it end with, "Abernathy, that is all."

(Go here - see page 3)

USS Bunker Hill used bugles. Tell you about that sometime.

If God wanted us to fly, He would have given us tickets, out
Ramblin' Ed


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