Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Armed Decision, and What Not to do with a Blender

Okay, so here we were sitting there, and waiting to see the ortho man:
"Sir? Yeah you! You need to fill these out before your wife see's the doctor," the secretary said, handing me a pile of papers.

"Alright," I said, getting up to grab the papers. "Honey, here are some papers they want you to fill out," I said to my wife.

"I'm hurting and I'm nauseated. You fill them out," she replied through clenched teeth.

"Um, sure. No prob.," I said, reading the first paper.

Last name, first name, MI, DOB, address, blah blah. After I finished the easy information they ask about medical history: Hmmm. Yes.

Next question, "What is the problem?" Broken wrist and base of thumb thingy.
So far so good.

"What irritates the hurt body part?" Lessee, tennis, dodgeball, push-ups, falling on it, etc..

I hate stupid questions...let's see how they like stupid answers.

After I finally finished the medical information manifesto, my wife was called to talk to another secretary.

"You go," my loving wife curtly says.

Right. I go. Sigh.

"Does your wife take medications?" The other secretary lady asks.

"Yes," I replied.

"What are they?" She asks.

"I don't have them memorized. She's here for a fractured wrist and thumb thingy," I said. Doesn't she know this is orthapaedics?

"We still need to know. Just tell me the one's you remember," she said, smiling.


After reciting what I recall, she asks me if Patti had ever had surgery.

"Yes," I reply.

"How many, what kind, and when?" The other secretary lady asked with a straight face.


After the long interrogation, which had nothing to do with my wife's arm, we waited
again (actually, we never stopped waiting).

Finally we get called in, only 45 minutes after the appointed time...

...To see a nurse. The nurse asks more stupid questions.

It took me awhile to realize she was asking follow-up questions to the papers I filled out.

"What is this about tennis and dodgeball?" The nurse asked, clueless to the painstakingly crafted humor I had written.

"Those activities irritate the fractured wrist," I deadpanned. A joke isn't funny if you have to spell it out. Not to nurse humorless at any rate.

"I don't know why you wrote this," she replied, no trace of a smile showing.

"He was joking," my Wife offered.

Nothin'. No reaction.

"I was jokin' know?" I said to drive the point home.

Still nothin'. Okaaay...

"Did you get x-rays?" Nurse "no sense of humor" asked.

"Yeah. That was how weknew her wrist and thumb thingy was fractured," I said, smiling.

"Do you have the x-rays?" She asked, non-plussed.

"Nooo, the ER staff didn't give me a copy," my Wife said, shaking her head.

"Well, you will need another one then. Go in that room and the x-ray tech wil x-ray your arm," the nurse said, pointing.

But we're only about 200feet from the hospital, I didn't say. Probably faster to just do it again, I reasoned. They might see more also.

After the x-ray we waited for the doc. "I can't believe you wrote that," Patti said, nudging me with her good arm.

"I can't believe the nurse didn't 'get it'. Besides, it's all true. Tennis and dodgeball would irritate your broken wrist," I replied.

Could this be? Yes! The doctor was in da house! Hallelujah! 'Bout time!

The doc looked at the x-ray and pointed. "You basically have two choices. As you can see, your wrist is fractured here, here and here, and the broken bones are a few millimeters out of alignment. You can just let it heal as is, or I could do surgery to align everything up exactly, but it will require a plate and screws," he said.

"No surgery," my Wife said.

I could see why she would say this. Most surgeries she has had has resulted in bad consequences so I wasn't surprised about her decision.

"No problem. I'll get the nurse to put your cast on. In two weeks we can shorten the cast so your elbow will be free," the doc said.

A different nurse arrived and asked, "What color cast do you want?"

She has a choice? Cool!

"Red please," Patti said. Red bein' one of her favorite colors.

"Wow! It really is red," I noted.

"Yes, we can make just about any color!" The nurse said enthusiastically.

After the cast was completed we returned home. Later, the next day, my Wife asked me to use the blender and blend some frozen strawberries.

Easy enough. I found the blender and poured in the frozen strawberries, remembering the lid.
Hmmm...nothin'. I tried diferent settings and still...nothin'. Except for the strawberries on the bottom.
What I need is a bit of water. So a bit of water and...still not much happening.

So, you wanna play hardball? I ask the blender. Well, now you'll get it you defiant appliance.
I removed the lid and grabbed a long, plastic cup. I forced the berries down into the blades with the bottom of the cup.

Eureka! We have progress!
Thrilled with my ingenius plan I continue. Yeah baby! Now we're talkin'! I was almost finished when the blade caught the cup.
Nooo! I had misjudged the depth of the blades!

I pulled out what was left of the cup, disappointed.

"What are you doing?!" A familiar voice said behind me.

I whirled around, covering the shredded bottom of the cup with my hand.

"What do you mean?" I asked, tryin' to find a way out of this mess.

"What's this?!" Patti asked, grabbing the cup.

"I um, kinda pushed the cup too far. It was an accident!" I said, invoking the accident clause.

"You don't use a cup to force things into the blade!" My wife exclaimed.

Wanna bet? And it almost worked too! I decided not to say.

"Yeah, well, you see, the berries weren't movin' and I thought, you know, they need to be helped along, and..." I stumbled out.

"Don'! Ever!" She shouted.

"I'm sorry! I misjudge the distance and..." I tried to explain.

"Don't touch the blender!" She repeated.
Needless to say, Patti wasn't very happy with me after that.

Hmmph! Women! What was the big deal? It's not like the blender is broken!

Anyway, today she almost smiled about it, so she's makin' progress you might say.
Eventually, she'll come around to my way of thinkin'...I hope.

It was still a good idea...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pine Oil Miracle! Episode Two: The Pain of the Miracle Whip!

"What in the HELL were you thinking?" Chief asked.

Chief had no idea. Pity. It was up to me to convince Chief that he was lookin' at it all wrong. Up to me to help Chief to see the intoxicating power we now had at our command!

"Well, you see, I know what it looks like, but..." Rick replied, tryin' to work his crowd...the Chief.

Up to me and Rick! Afterall, we were a team!

"I not only know what it looks like! I know what it smells like! The XO will be here in...20 minutes! What am I going to tell him?" Chief asked after ranting.
This wasn't going well.

"It was an accident?" Rick offered.

Looks like Rick and I were no longer a team on this one. Rick had lost sight of my vision. I was on my own.

"An accident?" Chief asked, increduously, like he couldn't believe his ears.

Way to soften him up, Rick. How am I goin' to get Chief to listen after that lame excuse?

"An accident? Are you retarded or brain damaged? How many gallons did you open up and spill?" Chief asked, with more bulging blood vessels than I had ever seen on him. "And why are you both covered"

Rats! Chief was pissed! Rick glanced at me with a horrified look for some help. Although Rick did turn on me and it was tempting too watch him squirm, I decided to take the high road and take the fall, if it came to that.

"Uh, excuse me, Chief? I..." I began.

"WHAT!" Chief yelled, now glarin' at yours truly.

"Rick had nothin' to do with it, Chief. I did this on purpose so that..."

"You did this on...PURPOSE!?" Chief looked like he was gonna blow a gasket or kill me...or both. Once he got over the sheer disbelief that is.

The pressure was intense! I felt like I was tryin' to stop a bomb from explodin', and I only had 5 seconds left on the timer. Do I cut the red wire or the green? Or maybe even the white?
There were too many wires and not enough time, even if I knew which wire to cut, and besides that, I had no wire cutters, thanks to Ricks witty response.

"Yep!" I said, with the steady nerves and confidence only a bomb disposal specialist would dare exude. "Wait 'till you hear why," I continued, smiling.
I would diffuse the bomb (Chief) with confidence and a smile. Once the bomb was disarmed, then surely Chief would listen to reason. In fact, I was certain he would thank me after he heard the details of my super-genius plan.
How could he not?

"Not another word! We will talk later. You standby and wait for the XO!" Shouted Chief. I coulda swore he called me a moron as he stormed off. I couldn't decipher the rest of the mumbling.

Damn! Guess I shoulda cut the red wire...

"Does this mean I have to stay too?" Rick asked.

"How should I know? Why don't you ask him?" I replied, frustrated.

"Hey, I tried to talk you out of it," Rick said.

"Yeah. Sorry, man. I guess it was a stupid idea. If only I had used a little less, then maybe...I dunno," I said, feelin' down.

"Yeah, you did use way too much," Rick said.

"Yeah. Look, why don't you go take a break or somethin'. It was my fault, not yours," I said, lighting a smoke.

"No, I'll stay," Rick said, patting me on the shoulder.

I felt much better now. What a pal! What a true friend!

"Besides, I wanna see what the XO does," Rick said, laughing.

What an assh*le! "You ass!" I exclaimed, laughing along with Rick.

"What did you guys do?" A familiar voice asked.

Rick and I turned around to see OS1 Mike.

"And what is that...slime? Oil? Oh sh*t! Is that pine oil?" Mike asked, backing up and wiping his eyes.

"Uhuh," Rick replied.

"It was my idea," I said, getting it out of the way.

"What are you doin' here, Mike? I thought you were supervising the mast," Rick asked.

"Chief told me to be here for the XO's inspection. He also said that you screwed up the inspection," Mike said, looking at me.

"Not exactly. I had a plan," I said, defensively. "I just got carried away."

"I'll say," Rick said, chuckling.

Not helping, Rick!

"Let's have a look," Mike said, tryin' not to laugh.

I entered Combat and held the door open. Mike followed and Rick joined us.

"Looks clean," Mike said, checking for dust.

"Smells clean," Rick offered.


"Damn!" Mike exclaimed, wiping his eyes again. "Damn!" He repeated, heading for the door. Rick and I followed him. Rick was laughing his guts out.

"What the? Is that why Chief is pissed?" Mike asked.

"Yep," I said.

"Lucky guess," Rick said.

"But...why?" Mike asked, trying to make sense of it all.

"It's really a good idea. I just had some...difficulty, with the execution of my plan," I said, turning red.

"That's an understatement if I ever heard one," Rick said.

"Yeah, okay. But what was your plan?" Mike asked, trying to hold back a smile.

The hatch to the weatherdeck opened and the XO entered the passageway.

Terrific. Mr. Chuckles is here.

"Good afternoon sir. OI Division, ready and standing by for inspection," Mike said.

"OS1," said the XO curtly, acknowledging Mike. The XO ignored Rick and me. "Let's get started."

Mike followed the XO into Combat. Rick and I followed.
The XO checked for dust in high places, moving quickly. I noticed he was wearing a white glove!
I could hardly believe it! Was he for real? He pulled his mirror on a stick thingy out and looked under the first RADAR repeater. His nose wrinkled up and twisted.

"Smells clean," the XO said, walking a few more steps.

Ya think?

After a very cursory, 30 second inspection, the XO cleared his throat.

"Outstanding!" He exclaimed, quickly departing Combat.

After he left Combat, the XO turned to Mike. "You have the cleanest spaces on the ship! Well done!" The XO said.

Yeah right. Give Mike the credit. What, is this guy blind?

"Thank you sir," Mike replied, glancing at Rick and I. "Conrad and Atwood did all the heavy lifting," he continued.

Way to go Mike! You da man!

The XO glanced at Rick and me. He squinted his eyes then raised an eyebrow when he saw the slime.

"Very well. Carry on," the XO said, then turned to leave.

Once the XO was out of sight, Mike said, "This is the first time I ever heard the XO say outstanding! We got no hits at all! I can't believe it!"

"Neither can I," quipped Rick.

"Stunned, I'm sure" I deadpanned.

"So this was your plan," Mike said, then laughed.

"Took you long enough to figure it out," I said, sniffing. "Smell that? That's the piney smell of vindication! Yes!"

"Chief is not going to believe this," Mike said.

"We did it! We found the holy grail for quick, outstanding inspections! The anti-XO, pine oil!" Rick exclaimed.

"What's this "we" sh*t, Watson? It was my idea," I said, laughing.

"Hey, Sherlock! I fell for your idea, twice! That counts for somethin'!" Rick replied, rubbing his backside.

"Is that your British accent?" Mike asked, laughing.

"Southern Britain," Rick drawled.

We cracked up over Rick's antics.

Later...much later, Chief returned to Combat.

"Conrad, Atwood. I owe you guys an apology," Chief said. "I'm sorry. I over-reacted and didn't give you guys a chance to explain everything," Chief said.

"No probelem Chief. I understand, considering the slime and all. I'm just glad it worked and I couldn't have done it without Rick," I said.

"Ben is right. Without me his plan would've tanked," Rick said, smiling.

"Keep your lips sealed about this," Chief said, laughing. "I'm the envy of all the Chiefs, because the XO gave us an outstanding score! Not to mention how happy the DivO and Ops is! I would like to see that continue. Therefore...whenever the XO inspects, you both will be elected to do the honors," Chief said, smiling.

"I don't recall voting," Rick said.

"This isn't a democracy," Chief said. "I'll remember this when the evaluations are due," he continued.

"Thanks Chief! I think." I said, smiling.

"Oh! And Conrad?" Chief queried.

"Yes?" I replied.

"Next time you come up with a brilliant idea, do me a favor and tell me about it. Before you get it all over yourself, okay?" Chief asked, smiling.

"Roger that, Chief!" I replied.

"Alright, you clowns get out of here! I'll see you tomorrow, at muster," Chief said, chuckling.

Cool! It was only 1530. Early liberty! I was no longer tired, but I took a long shower. After drying off and getting dressed I waited for Rick.

After Rick got dressed Rick asked me "how do I smell?"

"I dun't know. Everything still smells like pine oil. Use extra aftershave. That's what I did," I offered.

"Good idea. I don't want to ruin my chances with the ladies," Rick said, splashing on more aftershave.

"What ladies?" I replied, chuckling.

"I have a feeling that tonight is my lucky night," he answered.

"You always say that. When was the last time we saw a chick anyway?" I asked.

"Hmmm...I wish we had fake ID cards. The EM Club isn't cuttin' it," Rick said, in deep thought.

"Yeah, well, good luck with that," I said. "What was it you said about wishes?"

"That's cold, man. Using my sailor wisdom against me," Rick said, as we made our way to the quarterdeck.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pine Oil Miracle!

Sweat was pourin' into my eyes, burnin' and makin' everything a blurry haze.
The pine-oil didn't help. It sure smelled clean in here though.

Waitaminnit! Smells clean! Yes!

An original idea dawned on me. Well, maybe not original per se, but no one workin' in Combat in recent memory had come up with this idea.
It was sheer genius! I giggled like a little girl chosen to play Dorothy in the third grade school play version of the Wizard of Oz.

Um...scratch that. I laughed like a mad scientist with one too many funny bones.
Make that a deliriously dehydrated mad scientist with too much time to think.
Not that I was thinkin' much. Mostly thoughts of crystal clear ice cold water and sleep tantalized me.
The fact that I was several hours away from both didn't stop me from thinking about them.
I had mentioned my thoughts earlier to Rick.

"You can wish in one hand and sh*t in the other and see which hand fills up first," Rick offered.

Sailor wisdom.



"Look who the cat drug in," said OSSN Brock, smiling.

"Man, you guys look like you got toasted last night," said OS3 Rutherford, chuckling.

"Nice of you to notice," I muttered, my mouth dry as mojave sand in August.

"Always glad to provide the mornin' entertainment," Rick said.

Everyone laughed.

"Your shirt," Mike said, smiling.

I looked down at my shirt and noticed I had not aligned the buttons properly. I thought it didn't feel right.
Quickly, I unbuttoned my shirt to line it up.

"Conrad. Your supposed to be dressed at muster. Not getting undressed," Chief said as he arrived.

Crap. "Sorry Chief. I'm fixin' it," I said, fumbling with the buttons.

I didn't wake up until about 5 minutes before muster and I had scrambled to get dressed and, to save time, I dry shaved.

"You're bleeding on your shirt," Chief said.

I looked down again but I didn't see anything.

"Here, on your collar," Chief said, helpfully pointing out the blood.

I wiped my cheek and blood came off on my hand. Damn! No wonder it burned like hell when I threw on some aftershave.

More laughter. I smiled. I was too thirsty to laugh. Rick was lucky. He could go for days before anyone noticed he hadn't shaved.
Me? I had a 5 o'clock shadow at 2.
I felt a bit lightheaded and some nausea, but I knew I would be fine after I got some water, and some coffee.

"And you," Chief said, turning to Rick, "look like you crawled out of a cave. Why is your shirt hanging out?"

"Sorry Chief!" Rick exclaimed, tucking in his shirt where he had missed.

"Perhaps, when your done tucking in your shirt, you might consider tying your boot laces. If it isn't too much trouble that is," Chief said, smiling.

More laughter. "I don't care if you guys have fun, but I expect you to be ready for muster at 0700 sharp! I'll give you a break this time, but next time there will be repercussions. Is that understood?" Chief said.

Chief wasn't in the best of moods this mornin'. His smile didn't fool me.

"Aye Chief," Rick and I weakly said, almost in unison.

"That was pathetic! Do you understand!?" Chief said loudly.

"Aye aye Chief!" We both yelled in unison, standing at attention.

"Good. See how easy that was? Now...because I care, I'm going to help you both get over your hangovers the tried and true way. You're going to sweat it out," Chief said, smiling. "You're going to work for me this morning. After muster, go get your toothbrushes and meet me in Combat."

Terrific. I can hardly wait. Wait. Did he say toothbrushes? That can only mean...

"The XO is inspecting Combat after lunch. You two are elected to make sure we pass, with flying colors. As you know, the XO likes to use his mirror on a stick thingy to look behind and under everything and in every crack. I expect all he will find after you guys finish is nothing but clean. Is that clear?" Chief asked.

"Aye aye, Chief!" We both shouted. My voice cracked and quiet laughter was heard.

"That's the spirit! We're going to have lot's of fun this morning," Chief said.

The sun was hot and bright and I was already sweating. I just wanted the day to be over and it wasn't yet 0705.

Flashback within' a flashback.

"Nope, haven't heard from her," said the bartender.

"Thanks anyway," Rick said, his hopes dashed to pieces and stomped on.

"You know, I can honestly say I would be surprised if I ever see Sue again. Take my advice son, she ain't comin' back. The sooner you realize it, the quicker you can move on with your life," the bartender offered.

"Yeah. I know," Rick replied, looking down into his beer.

Good thing Mr. Bartender wasn't a motivational thinker, I thought.
Then again, maybe he was and gotten himself fired for his uplifting wisdom. Why else would he be workin' as a bartender at the Enlisted Man's Club?

I shouldn't shoot the messenger, or the bartender with thoughts like that, I thought.
He meant well...and he was right. Sue wasn't comin' back. It had been weeks since she had left, and nary a peep.
Rick had left several messages behind. No go.

I wanted to cheer Rick up, but I couldn't think straight. I lost count how many beers I drank.
There might be a correlation between the two, I thought, drinkin' more beer.

Rick had become more depressed, and so had I, for different reasons mostly.
We were both developing a bad attitude about the Navy in general.

"I didn't sign up to be a painter, janitor, firefighter, and all the other crap we have to do," I said, changing the subject off of Sue.

"Me either. No way am I gonna reenlist! Hell no!" Rick exclaimed.

"Yeah, this sucks! I thought we would be goin' to a bunch of schools instead of doin' this!" I replied.

"Yeah, what's up with that?" Rick asked.

"Hell if I know. And I was told we were in an undermanned rating," I said.

"Yeah right. F*uckin' bullsh*t man," Rick said.

"Got that right," I said, ordering another pitcher. It didn't seem as if I was doin' a good job cheerin' Rick up.

"Wanna dance?" I asked.

"What the f*ck? What did you say?" Rick asked, eyeing me suspiciously.

"Well, there ain't no ladies here..." I said, tryin' not to smile and failing miserably.

Rick laughed for a long time, until he turned red. Just when I thought he was goin' to pass out due to lack of oxygen, he finally took a deep breath.

"I'm only decent at slow dancin'," I said, smiling. "This is our song," I continued, extending my hand.

Double Vision by Foreigner was playing. Rick lost it. This time I thought for sure he would pass out. I thought I would pass out soon afterwards. I laughed so hard my gut hurt.

Fast forward, past muster...a little more...okay, stop.

Pine oil. I know it will work. It's brilliant!

"Conrad, I'll be gone for awhile, but I will be back, and you guys better be making some progress," Chief said, picking up his coffee mug.

"Aye aye, Chief!" I said in a raspy voice. Damn! I was thirsty. I looked up at Chief as he passed, with forlorn eyes.

"Okay! Fine! Take a break, but you better finish before the XO arrives!" Chief said, pointing his finger at me and smilin'.

Chief was a softy even when he was in a bad mood.

"Thanks Chief!" Rick and I exclaimed almost in unison.

"Yeah yeah," Chief said as he left Combat.

I hurried over to pour Rick and myself a cup of Duluth's finest blend of roasted Columbian reject and lit a smoke.

"Oh man...that is so good!" I said, blissfully.

"Damn straight, relatively speakin'," Rick said.

"You missed your calling as a comedian Rick," I said, chuckling.

"More like it missed me. Louisville, Kentucky isn't known for it's world class comedy clubs," Rick said. "Horse racing, Check! Fried chicken, check! Barbeque, check! checks."

"Yeah, now that you mention it. Hey! Two words. Pine oil!" I said, excitedly.

"Huh?" Rick asked.

"Pine oil," I said, pointing to the pine oil.

"Okay. What about it?" Rick asked, perplexed.

"Don't you see? We use oh, say ten times the suggested amount and..." I began.

"Are you f*ckin' insane?! That'll burn our eyes!" Rick exclamed, cutting me off.
"Besides, those aren't suggestions on the side of the jug, those are directions. That stuff is easily ten times stronger than pinesol."

"Yes. True, but bear with me for just a moment and my genius will be revealed," I said, savoring the momentary lapse of genius I was experiencing.

"Alright, what?" Rick asked, rolling his eyes.

"If it burns our eyes and makes us cough what do you think it'll do to the XO?" I asked smugly.

"Hmmm...I see where your goin' with this, but the floor will be dry by then," Rick repled.

"I already considered that. Hence using ten times more, or maybe twenty," I countered and raised him.

Rick was now in deep thought, weighing the pros and cons.

Finally..."Worth a try, I guess, but I don't feel like barfin," Rick said, skeptically.

Obviously, Rick still wasn't a true believer. Must've been the hangover.

"I'll do that part," I said, helpfully.

"Are you sure?" Rick asked.

"No sweat! Well, probably a lot of sweat, but I standby my theory," I said, wiping the sweat from my forehead.

"Okay. It's your funeral. Just yell if you begin to pass out and I'll try to rescue you," he said, laughing.

"Save the comedy for the later, my friend. You are about to see a miracle!" I replied, confidently.

"It's not that I don't believe you, Ben. But you haven't even tried it out yet," Rick said.

"Point taken, Watson," I said dryly. "To prove my theory I'll test it. Are you about done with the scrubbing?" I asked.

"Yeah, maybe in 30 minutes, Sherlock," Rick said, looking at his watch.

"Good. Me too. The XO, aka Professor Moriaty is due in an hour and a half. After we finish the scrubbing, I'll experiment by the doors. If it affects Chief then we'll know for sure that it works," I said.

"Then let's hurry," Rick said, draining his cup.

25 minutes later, we were done with the scrubbing, and initial swabbing of the deck.
Rick went out into the passageway, and I began my experiment.

How much to use? I'll just eyeball it, I thought. No time to measure. I'll just use the swab without wringing it out. That should be enough water.
Hmmm...stuff is really slick, better watch it, I thought as I swabbed, left to right, left to right, more water...crash!!!

I landed on my back, swab in my hand. The deck broke my fall. I tried to breath but the wind was knocked out of me.

Rick rushed in, hearing the noise. "You okay Ben?" He asked, as he took his second step and...crash!!! The second crash was louder, because Rick was around 40 pounds heavier than me.

As I caught my breath, I coughed. The pineoil was working well. My eyes were watering. I tried to stand up but it was too slick, so I rolled over onto my stomach and got on my hands and knees.

"Rick? You alright?" I gasped and then coughed again, grabbing the RADAR repeater and pulling myself up.

Rick coughed. "You asshole!" He yelled, coughing again.

"Sorry man. Look, don't try to stand up..." Crash!!! Rick slipped again.

Damnit! I sort of skated towards rick, grabbing the DRT on the way. I bent down to lend Rick a hand.

"You okay Rick?" I asked, kneeling down.

"You're still an asshole!" Rick exclaimed, grabbing my hand and coughing.

"Here, grab the DRT," I said, coughing again myself.

We both made it to the door, walking/skating very slowly, and stepped out into the passageway.

"Ahhh! Fresh air!" Said Rick, taking deep breaths.

"Relatively speaking," I said, following suit and tryin' to laugh without coughing.

"Sh*t! I got that crap all over me!" Rick said with a disgusted look, wiping the slime on the dry side of his dungerees.

"Slight setback. I'm goin' in to finish up," I said, glancing at my watch.

"No f*ckin' way! You can't be serious!" Rick said, astonished.

"Yes f*ckin' way, and yes, I'm serious. Chief will be back any minute," I said, opening the door again.

Rick sighed. "Fine, but I'm gonna leave the door open, so I can watch your retarded ass!"

"How did you know I was constipated," I said, laughing.
Rick groaned at that. Or maybe it was the bruises from slipping twice. Hard to say, really.

I entered Combat gingerly, and slowly made my way to the swab. I grabbed it and dipped it into the pail, and commenced to swabbing with one hand, while I steadied myself with the other by grabbing the repeater.

That was taking too long, and my arm was getting tired, so I tried to lean against the repeater with my legs far apart. That worked better.

"Ha ha ha! You look like a moron or somethin'," Rick said from the door, only his head visible.

"Yeah yeah, kick a brutha while he's down," I said sarcastically.

Then it hit me. "You know, we wouldn't have this problem if I started at one end and worked back towards the door," I said.

"Little too late for that, doncha think?" Rick said, smilin'.

I tried to take shallow breaths, to avoid coughing a lot. It seemed to work. I was starting to get used to it. Sort of.

It seemed like a long time, but I finally finished up, after Rick emptied the bucket and refilled it with steaming hot water I swabbed it again.

"Alright, close the door so the fumes don't escape," I said as I exited.

"Ben, do you really think there's a chance that'll happen this week?" Rick asked, raising an eyebrow.

I laughed. Rick was too funny not to be a comedian. "Yeah, you're right about that!" I exclaimed.

It was almost dry when Chief showed up. He looked at us and we smiled. "Almost dry, Chief," I said.

"Good! I'll check out your work," Chief said, opening the door. Chief walked in and we followed him. Affter two steps Chief stopped abruptly. "What the hell is that!?"
Chief asked.

"Pine oil," I said.

"Darn, I'm outta here!" Chief said, going back out in the passageway.

"Told you, Watson," I said to Rick, smiling.

"By George, Sherlock, I believe your onto somethin'!" Rick said, in his best southern English drawl.

"Conrad, Atwood! Front and center!" Chief shouted from the passageway.

Apparently, the Chief still needed convincing...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Welcome Aboard!

Saturday, March 24, 2007
Welcome Aboard!

Larson took me to the Operations berthing compartment and showed me where my rack and locker was.

Oh joy, another top rack. Wasn't expecting that. At least they have curtains, which means some privacy.

"What's that?" I asked, pointing to a metal tube and what looked like those "fans" on airplanes.

"That's the air. When you turn it on air blows out on your face and chest. It's not A/C but it's better than nothin' when it gets hot," Larson said.

I clicked it on. Nothin'.

"It doesn't work. The yardbirds are fixing it or somethin'. It was supposed to be fixed months ago," he chuckled.

"Terrific," I said, disappointed.

"Get used to it. Bein' in the yards sucks," Larson said.
"There's always stuff that's broken, like some of the showers, plumbing problems galore, electrical problems. The strike isn't helping matters," he continued.

"Strike? But I saw some yardworkers welding on the way here," I said.

"Scabs. Those are the guys the bosses call in during strikes. But there aren't enough of them, and we're now behind schedule. Know what that means?" Larson asked.

"We will be here longer?" I answered, somewhat bewildered.

Larson laughed, shaking his head no.

"No way! Do ya think the Captain and his bosses are going to tell their bosses the Duluth isn't going to be fixed up on time? Not a chance!" Larson exclaimed.

"Well, then what?" I asked.

"We are going to do what the yardbirds are supposed to do. At least until the strike is over. We are working a few hours extra each day on top of that. If we don't catch up, you can count on even more hours. Welcome to paradise," said Larson, sarcastically.

Oh joy. I can hardly wait, I thought.

"Anyways, hurry up and get your stuff stowed, then I'll show you where Combat is,"
Larson said.

I quickly unpacked my seabag and locked up my lockers.

"Should I change to dungarees?" I asked.

"Later. You won't be doin' any dirty work 'til tomorrow. Besides, you want to make a good impression. Gotta learn to play the game, you know?" Larson said matter of factly.

Game? I never really thought of work in the Navy in those terms.

"My uniform is dirty," I said, looking at my sweat-soaked shirt and the smudges the dust had made.

"You look alright. But if you wanna change your shirt then go for it," he said, lighting up a smoke.

"Do I have time to take a shower?" I asked.

"The water is off down here until 1800. They're workin' on the plumbing or somethin'.
Just throw on some extra deoderant," Larson chuckled.

Crap! This sucks! I thought. What kind of welcome is this?

I changed my shirt and t-shirt, spraying on alot of extra right guard.

"Hey! You'll get used to it. We all stink most of the day, some more than others," Larson said laughing.
"They're gonna think your a french whore," he continued.

Ha ha! Very funny, I thought, not feeling the humor.

"Okay! Let's go then," I said tersely, buttoning up my shirt.

"Now don't get mad. I was just funnin' you. My name's Al, but everyone calls me Larson," he said, putting his hand out.

"Ben Conrad," I said, shaking his hand. "Sorry. I just wasn't expecting this," I said.

"No bigee. The love boat this ain't," he said, laughing.

I folloed Larson up the ladder, down the passageway, took a detour back down, then back up, across the mess decks, forward and up, and up to the 0-2 level, until we finally reached Combat.

This Combat is big, I thought, compared to the Henderson.

"Hey Chief, here's the new guy, Conrad," Larson said.

The Chief looked up from his desk in the back of Combat. He was a small man with Navy issue thick-framed (black) glasses, which were popular in the '50's.
Apparently, the Navy saw no reason to change it's fashion statement.

"Chief Manning. Welcome aboard Conrad," he said, getting up and shaking my hand.

"Thanks Chief," I said.

"Want some coffee?" Chief asked.

"Aye Chief. I sure do," I said, suddenly very thirsty.

"Help yourself. We have some styrafoam cups, but we run out often, so you'll want to get your own cup from the ship's store if you drink much java," he said.

I grabbed the cups which were covered with dust of course. I took a cup out and wiped the dust off, and poured a cup.

"Have a seat, Conrad" Chief said, pointing to the chair on the other side of his desk.

I sat down and sipped some java. Damn! That's bitter and strong! I thought, but thankful nonetheless.

"Coming from A school?" Chief asked.

"No, the Henderson," I said. "They're sellin' her to Pakistan."

"Damn shame. Let me see your orders and records." Chief said.

"Right here Chief," I said, handing him both.

Larson lit up a cigarette, and I followed suit. It felt good to relax, even though the coffee wasn't good.
I wondered where everyone else was, looking around at all the radio handsets and headsets, RADAR repeaters, DRT, Navigation table, status boards, IFF, TACAN...what was that room to the side?

"Nice evals!" Chief said, still reading.

"Thanks Chief," I said, sitting up straighter.

"Is this right? You were the Captains cook?" Chief asked.

"That's right. The real cook went AWOL," I said.

"Ha ha ha! Poof! Your a cook! That's bizarre," Chief said laughing.

"You have no idea Chief," I said, smiling.

"93% in A School. Pretty good," Chief mumbled, flipping through my records.
"Looks like your up for Seaman in November," Chief said. "Ouch! Dislocated shoulder?
Those hurt," Chief continued.

"Man, they sure do!" Larson said. "I dislocated my right shoulder when I was a kid.
We were..."

"Wait a minute! This is a private conversation Larson. This is personal information. Take a walk for a few minutes. Go find Mike while your at it," Chief said.

"Okay Chief!" Larson said, leaving.

"Sorry about that. I didn't know he was listening in," Chief said.

"No problem Chief," I said.

No harm done, I thought. At least Chief didn't read out loud how I dislocated my shoulder.

"Ha ha! Did all this really happen with your shoulder, and concussion?" Chief asked.

"Yes it did Chief," I said, embarrassed.

"Don't worry. The only one's who will know is me, the Division officer, Department head, XO, CO, and Doc's," the Chief said, smiling.

Wonderful. Why not announce it over the 1MC, I thought. Was that dust in my coffee?

Chief closed my records, and handed them back to me.

"Muster is at 0700 sharp on the foc'sle. We normally work until 1800, depending on our progress. Hopefully this is temporary, depending on when the strike ends. Did Larson tell you about that?" Chief asked.

"Aye Chief," I said.

"I'll tell you up front, I don't care what you do on liberty as long as you stay out of trouble. I hate drugs, so don't let me catch you with any onboard, understood?"
He asked, staring into my eyes.

"No problem there Chief," I said.

"Good. I know some of the men smoke pot and maybe do drugs when their on liberty.
I don't like it, but there is nothing I can do about it, unless they are caught with drugs onboard. Stay away from those guys, they are nothing but trouble! I wish we had a urinalysis program, but right now we don't. Drugs are a big problem, and so is gambling and slushers, or loan sharks.
I can't emphasize this enough. Stay away from those guys!" Chief said, looking upset.

"Aye Chief!" I said.

"Work hard and stay out of trouble and we'll get along fine. If you have any questions or problems I'll be glad to help out, but go to Mike, OS1 Martin first.
I believe in the chain of command, so I expect you to use it. Never, ever go over my head, or anyone elses, or you will regret it. If you don't like what OS1, or I say or do in regards to any problems, you can go higher, but you have to see us first.
I just want to be clear on that," Chief said, still staring me in the eyes.

"Aye Chief! Perfectly clear!" I exclaimed.

He's starting to bug me with that staring, I thought.

"What's up Chief?" A first class, I assumed OS1 Martin, asked, as he entered CIC.

He was a big man, and looked somewhat like a Samoan or Native American.

"Mike, this is OSSA Conrad. I need you to get him checked into Personnel, and show him around," Chief said.

I stood up and shook his massive hand. No test of strength, fortunately, I thought.

"Okay, follow me," Mike said. "And welcome aboard," he added.

"Thanks Petty Officer Martin," I said.

"Mike. Call me Mike, unless officers are around," Mike said.

"Okay Mike," I said.

"Larson, go help those guys on the mast," Mike said, as we were leaving.

Mast? Did he say mast?

"I thought I was showing Conrad around," Larson said.

"I'm doing that. Tell Rutherford we need another needlegun," Mike said.

"I'll tell him, but I know they're out. Whatever we get in the morning is pretty much it for the rest of the day," Larson said.

"Damnit! Then tell him to get more chipping hammers and sand paper. We'll do it by hand until we can get more pneumatic and power tools," said Mike.

"What about the sander?" Larson asked.

"It broke too. Look, I don't have time for this. Return the broken tools and get the hammers and sand paper," Mike said. "Rutherford is in charge until I get back."

"Alright Mike. See ya later," Larson said.

We are working on the mast? I wondered.

As we made our way to Personnel, Mike looked at my orders.

"You were on the Henderson?" He asked.

"Aye. For 3 months," I said.

"Why only 3 months?" He asked.

"They sold her to Pakistan," I said.

"Sh^t! Are you serious?" Mike asked.

"Yeah, sorry to say," I said.

"I had a friend on there. He got transferred before you arrived. Jim is going to be pissed when he finds out!" Mike exclaimed.

"I don't blame him," I said.

When we arrived at Personnel there was a line.

"Hurry up and wait," Mike said, looking at his watch.

"Ain't that the truth," I said.

"Did Larson get you a rack and locker assignments?" Mike asked.

"Aye, no problem," I said.

"Good. When we get done here, Conrad, you can go change into your dungarees. I doubt you'll see the XO or Captain today. They're both off the ship right now," Mike said.

"Ben. Call me Ben, unless officers are around," I said, smiling.

"Ben it is," Mike said, laughing.

"So Mike, what are you doing on the mast?" I asked.

"Getting the rust off, and old paint. When we finish that we will put some primer on it and then paint it," he said. "That includes the yard arms," he added.

"Damn," I said.

"Damn is right. The yardbirds were supposed to do it. Now we have to. F*cking union," Mike said.
Posted by USS Ben USN (Ret) at 2:48 AM

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

USS Henderson (DD-785)

Saturday, March 3, 2007
USS Henderson (DD-785)

We sailed back to Long Beach without any problems with the weather.
On the way back I was called as a witness in SN Johnson's Captain's Mast.
Captain's Mast is non-judicial in nature, and the Captain, after hearing the evidence of a case, and recommendations from the XO, Department Head, Division Officer, Chief and LPO (Leading Petty Officer), decides the accused fate.

The accused get's an opportunity to refute charges, and witnesses may be called in.
It generally doesn't last long. If someone is charged with a major crime, than NIS (now called NCIS) may investigate, and the Captain will send the accused to a Court Martial, which is much like a civilian trial.

The Captain heard the charges Johnson was accused of, and looked forboding standing behind his podium.

The evidence was solid, and I was called to speak about what Johnson had told me.
After speaking, I was dismissed.

I heard, later, that none of Johnson's superiors were willing to say a kind word in his support. He was a lousy worker and showed little respect for authority.

I don't know what Johnson said in his defense, but whatever it was, it didn't.
In a word Johnson was: screwed.

He received the maximum punishment the Captain could give: 45 days restriction to the ship, reduction in rank from SN to SA, forfeiture of half a months pay for 2 months, 2 hours extra duty for the duration of his restriction, and he had to stand muster 5 times a day for inspection by the Master At Arms (or duty Master At Arms).
He was also to be processed for an 'other than honorable discharge.'

His friend, PN2 Chindle was busted to PN3, received 30 days retriction, and forfeiture of half a months pay for 2 months.

"Well, that takes care of that. I hated to see Chindle get busted, but he knows better. Johnson has been in trouble before, and since he is a piss poor worker I can see why the Skipper canned his ass," Chief Cook said.

"True enough. I still can't believe they are selling the Henderson," Eltee said.
"It wouldn't be so bad if we were selling her to a worthy ally, but Pakistan? Damn!"

"Look at the bright side Eltee. They'll have a helluva time keeping her up and runnin'! Ha ha!" Chief laughed.

Nothing could keep the Chief down for long, I thought.

"Rots of ruck I say!" Exclaimed Eltee.

"I'll miss you Eltee. It's been an honor," said Chief.

"Aw hell, Chief, I won't be that far from you. It's no more than what, a 10 minute drive from NTC (Naval Training Center) to MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot)," Eltee said.

"I meant workin' with ya. Sheesh! Can't ya take a compliment ya dumb zero?" Chief said, elbowing Eltee in the side.

"Why so cryptic Chief? What's really on your mind?" Eltee asked, chuckling.

It was a calm, sunny day, as we stared out at the water, reflecting the bright sunlight in such a way that the bay shimmered and sparkled.

"Have you finished Conrad's evals?" Chief asked. "I gave them to ya 2 weeks ago."

"I will be going over them with him later today. You didn't leave me much to add, and you even spelled everything right for a change," Eltee said, smiling.

"I'm bettin' you'll think of somethin'. They must've taught you a few sixty four dollar words I don't know at Annapolis," Chief said.

"Sure, I suppose. I like it as is though. Besides, I'm neck deep in paperwork," Eltee said, winking at me.

"What?! You mean to tell me yopu ain't got time to think up some original words to add to mine for a four-oh sailor?!" Chief asked in a faux rage.

"Ha ha! Of course I do, Chief! It's been sitting on my desk for two days. I guess I hate the finality of it. As if holding on to it means he can stay longer. Maybe all of us can stay longer. I know it's wishful thinking, but I'll miss this old ship, even with you making my life a nightmare," Eltee said, looking down.

"Hey look! A dolphin!" I said, watching a dolphin show off his swimming skills.

"That's Clyde! Hey Clyde!" Chief shouted, waving at the dolphin.

Clyde? That's a weird name for a dolphin, I thought.

"Clyde? You got to be kidding me!" Eltee laughed.

"There's another one!" I pointed, as a second dolphin leaped into the air.

"Bonnie!" Chief yelled out.

Bonnie? And Clyde?

"Bonnie? You're making those names up! There's no way to tell them apart!" Eltee exclaimed.

"Sure there is! Clyde is the one with the little balls!" Chief said, with a straight face.

"I don't see any balls," Eltee said, intently looking at the dolphins.

"Me either," I said, shielding my eyes from the glare of the sun.

"Yer both blind as seabats!" Chief said, smiling.

"What are you looking at?"

"There's two dolphins out there playing," I said.

"Bonnie and Clyde," Chief said.

"I still don't see any balls," Eltee said.

"Maybe you need some binochulars."

I turned around to see who the newcomer was.

Oh crap!

"Captain's on deck!" I said, saluting.

"At ease!" The Captain said immediately as Eltee snapped to.

"Good afternoon Cap'n," Chief said, glancing back unperturbed.

"Aye, that it is Chief, Lieutenant, Conrad," Captain said, handing Eltee his binoculars.

"Where do I look sir?" Eltee asked.

"Between the blowhole and the tail, on the underside," Captain said.

"Which one is Clyde again?" Eltee asked.

"The one on the left. No, in the air. Wait! Now he's on the right!" Chief said, making a play by play, updated position of Clyde.

Eltee kept moving the binoculars left, up, right, left, trying to catch a glimpse of Clydes balls.

"He's just too damn fast!" Eltee exclaimed, frustrated.

Chief and the Skipper started laughing out loud. Eltee turned red as he lowered the binoculars.

I laughed too, and Eltee soon joined us. I fell for it too.

After the laughter died down, the Captain took his binoculars back.

"Bonnie and Clyde eh? I can only guess who named them," Cap'n said, looking at Chief and chuckling.

We all laughed at that.

"Thanks for the laughs gents...Chief," the Cap'n said, laughing at Chiefs 'shocked' look.

"I got work to do but, why don't you 3 take the rest of the day off. You leave tomorrow don't you Conrad?" The Cap'n asked.

"Yes sir," I said.

"Well, I'll miss your coffee. I'll be gone tomorrow so...good luck and Godspeed!"
He said putting his hand out.

I shook his hand, and then saluted.

"Thank you Captain! It's been an honor serving under your command!" I said, feeling happy, sad, and proud at the same time.

The Captain saluted back, held it for a few seconds, did an about face and was gone.
The weight of the ship on his shoulders.

He would be relieved of his command after the Pakistani's were trained.

"Eltee...Ben...let's go get us a beer. We'll drink to the Cap'n, the officers and crew of the Henderson, each other and the United States Ship Henderson...Destroyer seven hundred and eighty five!" Chief said in his deep, baritone voice.

Aye aye! Chief!

Aye aye!
Posted by USS Ben USN (Ret) at 4:49 AM