25 September 2006

Watchstanding IV

[Previous posts on watchstanding were here, here and here.]

Standing JOOD on Simon Lake could get boring, especially on the midwatch (what midwatch isn't boring?), but I found a few ways to keep myself amused.

The basic idea was that someone desirous of leaving the ship would come up, present his/her ID, salute, and say, "Request permission to leave ship." Similarly, someone who wanted to come aboard would salute (having already paused at the top of the brow to salute the ensign), present ID, and say, "Request permission to come aboard." I would inspect the ID, front and back, to verify that it was valid, return the salute, and say something to indicate that permission was granted. (When I first started standing the watch I would say "Hai!" - a habit picked up during two WestPacs on my first boat - but there was a master chief who was very insistent that all official conversation on watch had to be in English, so....)

Each watchstander had his own quirks. Ship's policy was that any male who left the ship in civvies had to be wearing a belt, and there were actually some people who enforced that; I didn't care that much about belts (though I always wore one myself), and the lectern I was standing behind blocked my view of people's waists anyway. My two sticking points were liberty cards and hats. Policy was that every E3-or-below was supposed to be carrying a liberty card, as proof that (s)he was permitted to go on liberty, when leaving the ship in civvies, and I always insisted on seeing it. We had a JarDet (Jarhead Detachment) on board, and the jarheads always objected to having to show liberty cards, but I knew they were issued such and always made them go back to their berthing space to get the cards; the only exceptions I allowed to the liberty-card rule were the sailors off the boats we had alongside.

As for hats, there were of course a lot of people who walked around in uniform with their covers pushed back; this being rather obvious when I looked at them to compare their faces with their ID photos, I always told them to square them away. Boat sailors were constant offenders, of course, with the result that one day I had a master chief standing up on the quarterdeck watching me. He was there about twenty minutes or so before departing, and I found out later that he was the COB off the boomer we were tending at the time. His people had complained about me, and he had come up to see what was going on, but after seeing that I was making everyone fix their covers, and not just picking on his people, he was satisfied and left.

But that was just basic watchstanding, as practised by me, not the fun stuff. One bit of on-watch amusement was purely unintended. It was an afternoon watch, and I had a good-sized queue waiting to hit the beach, when an officer approached from my left and requested permission to depart. I looked at him and saluted, and sonofagun, it was the old Weps from Ustafish. Taken totally by surprise, I said, "What the hell are you doing here?" Out of the corner of my eye I could see some very shocked expressions in the queue (An E6 isn't supposed to talk to an O5 like that!) as he explained that he was now the XO of the boat alongside.

After a year or so of doing this, as I said, it started getting boring. So on slow watches, I started saying "No" when people asked to come aboard/go ashore. When they looked surprised I explained that I was tired of saying "Yes." One kid believed me, and turned around and started back into the ship, but I called her back and said, "Oh, all right - go ahead."

And then one day I found a Magic Eight Ball at Woollies. You know Magic Eight Balls - a black ball with a flat spot so it will stay still on a table, full of liquid, with a polyhedron inside with different "answers" written on it - "Yes," "No," "Ask Later," &c. I bought it, of course, and took it with me the next time I had the midwatch. As expected, I got some good laughs out of people's faces when they requested permission to go ashore and I whipped out the ball, shook it up, plopped it on the lectern and read them the answer, pointing at the ball for authority. The OODs generally thought this was pretty amusing, too.

The ultimate bit of on-watch amusement, though, came from an A-ganger named Bernie, who worked somewhere in Repair - R-9, I think. The ship had a full-time Safety Officer, and at Captain's call (held weekly on CCTV, with all hands required to watch) the Safety Officer always had something to say. When I first got to the ship, the Safety Officer was of Middle-Eastern extraction, and had a heavy accent. His successor talked funny, too; he had a speech impediment, and talked just like Elmer Fudd. ("I'll get you, you wascally wabbit!") And so it came to pass that early one morning, at the appointed hour for reveille, Bernie picked up the 1MC and made the announcement: "Weveiwwe, weveiwwe! All hands heave out and twice up. The smoking wamp is wighted in all authowised spaces. Bweakfast for the cwew."

Ten seconds later, of course, as soon as the OOD got over his shock, Bernie was disqualified the watch. Unfortunately, it hadn't been my duty day, so I wasn't on board to hear it, but apparently his announcement was met with great joy all through the ship. Don't know if he had to apologise to the Safety Officer or not....

1 comment:

sound_man said...

Great post, I remember those days (crossing over the tender to get to the boat) all too well.
The magic 8 ball story rocks. Too dang late for me to try it, I'll send that along to my (still) active duty counterparts.