Monday, December 11, 2006

Assault At Sea

Have you ever cooked omelettes on a flat grill, when the ship you’re on is rockin’ and rollin’ really good?
It’s like playing Pong(TM), and Food Fight(TM), with runny eggs.
Some of the omelettes were really weird looking.

Pancakes were also rather bizarre.
Eggs easy?
Not really.

Somehow, I made it through breakfast, but it felt like the entire Marine Corps was making an amphibious landing, on my brain.
I felt light-headed again, but that could’ve been the sea. It was getting rougher, too.
At least I wasn’t getting seasick, I thought.

After a cursory cleaning of the galley (i.e. the basics only), I hurried down to the berthing compartment to catch a few z’s.
I had just gotten undressed, and was about to collapse, when an alarm went off.
It didn't brighten my sunny disposition.

“General quarters, general quarters! All hands man your battle stations,” said the ship’s 1MC.

“Damn it!” I said, jumping down from my rack and getting dressed as fast as I could.
“Ow! Dammit!”

Note to self: do not attempt to put pants on while ship is rolling withoutfirst bracing yourself or sitting down!
The exclamation of the note to self warning was the cold, hard deck.
The recipient was my ass.

I decided to stay down, so I could get my pants on without falling again.
I had just gotten said pants on, when I heard somethig sliding towards me, from behind. What the?
I turned around… just in time to see an unsecured chair sliding...into my face!

“Ow! #@^%&*!” I said, as my nose started bleeding.

I grabbed a towel, dripping blood all over, then I tried to get my boots on while holding the towel, which wasn't easy.
The chair, unfazed, went sliding off somewhere. I got a good look at it, though, so I could identify it later in a line-up.
I finally managed to get my boots on, and I made a dash for the ladder.

Meanwhile, out of a dark alley between bunks, the homicidal chair struck again, targetting my legs! This was definitely a hit job.
What are the odds? I wondered.

I tried to jump, but it was too late. The killer chair seemed to laugh maniacally as it entangled between my legs. I noticed the deck was rushing up to meet me as I fell.
I hit hard…and slid...into a steel pole (they use them for wiring).
Good thing my shoulder took the brunt, I thought, trying to get up. My shoulder protested loudly. It didn't think it was a good thing.
That chair is toast...later, after general quarters! I thought. I'm gonna deepsix it.

I tried to find my bloody towel, dripping blood all over.
I slowly got up, hurting too much to curse this time, and, making sure that chair wasn’t close by, I limped toward the ladder, all traces of dignity I thought I had was now in shambles.
Dignity is a fickle mistress.

During General Quarters, you have to move fast, before they dog (close) all the hatches and scuttles (to prevent any possible flooding or fires from spreading).
Watertight integrity only works if the hatches and scuttles are dogged.

If you're too slow you get dogged in. Then you hafta call the bridge and explain why you got dogged in and ask for permission to break the dogs temporarily so you can get your sorry ass to your battle station.
It doesn't make a good impression on the Captain or XO, or anyone for that matter.
Besides, who would believe I was assaulted by a commie chair...twice?

I made it up the first ladder before it was dogged down, but I had to get to CIC, where my assigned battle station was located.
I limped quickly down the passage taking the next ladder I saw up another level, barely getting through it before it was closed off.

I finally made it to the door of Combat, pressed the combo keys in the right order, and limped inside.

Combat was dark, as usual, and I made my way slowly across the room, to the Surface Summary status board. I picked up the headphones and put them on, quickly putting the towel back over my nose.

“Sh*t! What happened to you?” Asked OSSN Brown, stationed next to me, at the Air Summary status board.

“Long story,” I said, my voice muffled through the bloody towel.

“Surface summary, phone check,” said the voice in my sound-powered phone headset.

“This is Surf., loud and clear,” I said.

“Finally! Ok, are you ready? I have 8 contacts,” said the surface RADAR operator.

I grabbed the white grease pencil saying, “Ready.”

“Standby to mark at 0804,” said the DRT operator.

“Mark!” He said, at 0804.

“Skunk Alpha, bearing 165, 22,300 yards. Skunk Bravo, bearing 329, 16,100.
Skunk Charlie, bearing 034, 9,700. USS Ranger, bearing 198, 5,200.
Skunk Delta, …”

I wrote them down as fast as possible, backwards, so it could be read from the other side.

“CPA for Skunk Charlie is 133, 1,200 yards. Time of CPA is 0823,” said the Maneuvering Board operator, OS3 Montoya.

“I concur,” said OS3 Harrington, on the SPS-10 surface RADAR.

“Looks good to me,” said OSSN Humphrey, on the DRT.
And so it went, every 3 minutes.

“How close do you want Charlie to pass, Chief?”, asked OS3 Montoya.

“Compute a course at this speed, 18 knots, to avoid Charlie by 2,000 and keep an eye on the Ranger”, the OSC said.

“Recommend turning port to 331 at 18 to avoid Charlie by 2,000 on our starboard quarter,” said Montoya, 15 seconds later.

“Roger, mark the Ranger every minute, they’re at flight ops,” said the Chief.

“Roger, standby to mark at 0806,” said Harrington.

And so it went, for 2 and a half hours, with a Man Overboard drill, and a simulated gas attack (where we wear MK V gas masks) thrown in for good measure. Fortunately, my nose had stopped bleeding by then.

After GQ I went down to the compartment to wash up, avoiding all the questions everyone was asking as to why my nose was swollen and what the bloody towel was for.
As it was I would never live this down once word got out, and it always does on a small ship.

“Conrad! Are you down here?!” I heard Eltee shouting.

“In here Sir!” I called, from the sink.

“Good God, man! What happened to you?” Eltee asked.

I had a good shiner going as well as the swollen nose.

“Killer chair sir. I think it’s a commie spy,” I said, wryly.

“Damn,” said Eltee, with a puzzled look.

“My sentiments exactly, sir,” I said, sounding like Rocky Balboa.
“Adrian!” I shouted.

The Lieutenant laughed.
“At least you still got your sense of humor,” he said.

Yeah. That and a quarter will get me a cup of coffee, I thought.

“Mac is still sick, so uh…can you do lunch?” Eltee asked.

“I don’t know, sir,” I said, not having to act pathetic.

“C’mon Rock! You can do it!” Said Eltee, trying to imitate Burgess Merideth as Mickey.

“Aye sir,” I said, wearily.

“That’s the spirit, Rock!” Said Eltee, punching my shoulder…the same shoulder I damn near seperated on a steel pole earlier, when I was attacked by the commie ninja chair.

“AAhhh!” I yelled, in white hot pain.

“I’m sorry! Are you Ok?” Eltee asked, backing up.

“Hurt…shoulder…earlier,” I managed to get out, through clenched teeth..

“Uhh, maybe you should get that checked out…after lunch,” Eltee said.

“Not…a chance!” I said, too loud.

“Right. Um. Ok, then. See you soon,” the Eltee said, leaving abruptly.

I slowly made my way up to the wardroom galley, checking the menu again.

“We need some more coffee,” said LTJG Spaz, sticking his head into the galley.

“Aye sir,” I said, leaving the galley and entering the wardroom.

I picked up the pot, and pain shot through my shoulder again.

“What happened to you?” Asked LTJG Spaz.

“Long story, sir,” I replied, in no mood to think about my losing battles with gravity, moving seas and the commie chair.

“You didn’t get into a fight did you?” Asked LTJG Spaz, suspiciously.

“No…sir,” I said leaving the wardroom and entering the galley.

I filled the pot with water, and put the filter and coffee in.
As I lifted the Coffee pot, my shoulder rebelled, and I dropped it on the galley deck.


“Sh*t!” I yelled in pain and frustration.

LTJG Spaz opened the galley door. “What happened?” He asked, looking at the mess.

“Bum shoulder…sir,” I said, holding it gingerly.

“Well, hurry up and get this cleaned up,” he ordered.

If looks could kill…
LTJG Spaz noted my look, and decided to take issue.

“You have something else to say?” Asked Spaz, crossing arms the color of a fishes belly.

“Yes! Sir! Please get out of my galley!” I shouted. “I have work to do,” I finished.

“Are you trying to tell me what to do?!” Spaz shouted back.

“What’s going on here?” Said Eltee, walking up beside Spaz and surveying the mess.

“He’s trying to…,” began Spaz.

“Shut up, I didn’t ask you!” Said Eltee firmly, cutting Spaz off in mid-sentence.
Spaz turned beet red, which was quite a feat for someone so pale.

“But he…fine!” Said Spaz, stomping off.

“Shoulder,” I said. “Couldn’t carry… the coffee pot,” I managed to get out.

“No worries, I’ll get it,” Eltee said, picking up the pot and rinsing it off.

Eltee made the coffee and even swabbed up the mess, while I prepared lunch.
After Eltee finished he said, “I want you to go see Doc as soon as lunch is finished. That’s an order,” he said leaving.

“Aye Aye, Captain Blythe,” I said, hoping Doc wasn’t open.

“Good thing I didn’t hear that,” said Eltee, closing the door. "Why are you so reticent to go to sickbay?" He asked.

"Polka," I rasped. "Doc likes...polka."

"Seriously?" Eltee asked, smiling.

"It's horrible, sir," I said.

"Well, I don't particularly like polka myself, but you need to get seen," Eltee said, stifling a laugh.

"I suffered through hours of that devil music," I replied. "I deserve a purple heart for that, Eltee."

"I'll be sure to put you in for one," Eltee replied, about to pat me on the shoulder and stopping himself.

After lunch, I made my way to the infirmary.
Unfortunately, it was open.

There was 5 sailors waiting outside, in a line.
All of them had plastic bags, and one was filling his, as I approached.

I slowly sat down on the deck, at the end of the line, with my back aganst the bulkhead.

“What happened to you, man?” Asked the Sailor ahead of me.

“Chief Cook lost his cool,” I replied.

“Really? He kicked your ass? Why?” He asked.

“I said something bad about his cooking, and he heard me,” I said, wincing.

“Dammnnn. That’s messed up homes,” said the good samaritan.

“Yeah, and get this,” I said, whispering, “the last sailor to piss him off disappeared out at sea. Without a trace.”

“No sh*t?” He said, eyes widening.

“I sh*t you not,” I said, seriously. “He’s crazy, man,” I said, looking scared.
“Watch what you say on the mess decks,” I said, looking around.

“Thanks for the warning, homey,” he said, looking at my face.

“Don’t tell anyone,” I said, knowing he would.

After about 30 minutes, Doc had seen all the patients.

“Next,” he said.

I slowly got to my feet, and walked in.

“Conrad? Is it true that the Chief Cook beat the crap out of you?” Asked the Doc, looking at my face.

“No, of course not,” I said, “who told you that?”

“My last patient. He said you told him,” Doc said.

“He’s probably messing with you Doc,” I said, smiling.

“Yeah. So what really happened to you?” Doc asked.

I explained about the chair.

Doc laughed for a long while. Then he stopped, looked at me, and broke out laughing again.

“Sorry…ha ha…really that’s…ha ha…alright, lets take a look at you,” he said, grabbing his favorite torture device and shining it in my eyes.
“Does your head hurt?” He asked.

“It does now,” I replied, feeling snarky.

“Oh! The light! Hurts eh?” Doc asked.

“Only when you click it on,” I said.

“How many fingers am I holding up,” he asked.

Not again! I thought.

“Four!” I said, immediately.

“Right!” He said, too cheerfully.
“Now let’s check out this shoulder. Does ths hu…,” he began to say, before my scream cut him off.

“I’ll take that as a yes. How about when I move it th…,” he didn’t finish, before I yelled again.

“Hmmm,” he said.

“What?” I asked, trying not to pass out.

“It’s dislocated, I think,” Doc continued.

“Are you sure?” I asked, skeptically.

“Well, probably…I’m not 100% positive, but it looks like it,” he said, obviously unsure.

“So what now?” I asked.

“Hmm? Uh, sit tight for a minute,” he said walking into his adjacent office and grabbing a thick book.

He leafed through the front pages, and opened it up to the page he wanted, and began to read.

He better not start another polkafest, I thought.
Ten minutes later he slapped the book closed, and came back over.
He must have found out what to do, I thought.

“You better lie down for this,” he said, frowning.

“Why?” I asked, suspiciously.

“Because I need to…,” he began, “just do as I say,” Doc ordered, looking nervous.

I laid back on the table, resting my head on the pillow.

“Now…turn your head away from me, and close your eyes,” said Doc, grabbing my arm.
"Your'e going to feel some...pressure."

“But Doc,” I began, before he cut me off.

“That’s an order!” He said.

“That’s the wrong arm!” I said, quickly.

“Oh. Heh heh. I knew that,” Doc said, turning red, and moving over to my other arm.
“Now turn your head…,”

“I know, I know,” I said, before he could finish.

I closed my eyes as he grabbed my arm.
I was so tired, I started to doze off.

“I’m going to place my foot on your chest wall for countertraction, so don’t move,” Doc said.

Right, I thought, drifting off, countertraction.
It was at that point that Doc pulled my arm and…

For those familiar with dislocated shoulders, I don’t need to explain the intense, bone-wrenching pain that came next.
For those that aren’t, let me say that you will survive if this happens to you.
Oh! And ask for morphine! A lot of morphine!

It was soon over, and I wished I could’ve passed out, but I didn’t.
My eyes filled with tears of pain.

“Here is some pain medication,” Doc said, handing me a packet of pills.
“They are strong, so take no more than 1 every 4-6 hours,” he said.
“Continue to use that arm, but don’t do anything really strenous. When we return to port I’ll send you over to Balboa Naval Hospital for some X-rays, and to see an orthapedic doctor,” said Doc.
“Come back to see me if you need more pain meds,” Doc continued.

“Okay,” I whispered in a hoarse voice. "Thanks."

I took a pill as soon as I left, chewing the bitter tablet to get it to work faster.

“Ugh!” I said, hating the taste. "That was dumb."

It was around 1330 when I got to my bunk.
How was I going to get up there? I wondered.
Better go get some coffee until this pain med kicks in, I decided.

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