Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tedium

Just thinking a bit about how I'm a little bored and frustrated today and wondering how good of an idea it is to pour my heart out on the blog. Deployments are like that. It's really crazy one minute and the next minute you're just wondering what to do with yourself.

Here's something I realized, though, even when I'm bored I'm doing stuff nobody else gets to do. For example, I am currently the ranking officer on board the ship. I'm, like, totally in charge. And I've got my helicopter on deck conducting ground turns - meaning she's chained to the flight deck and engaging her rotors while we are pierside in Colon, Panama. Come to think of it, that's pretty cool, but it doesn't involve me much other than that I am giving permission for the Air Department to do cetrain things when they ask.

I've got other things going on as well, like high-visibility repairs to items that are mission-impacting. Of course, it seems like every casualty we have these days is mission-impacting. The best part about those problems is that we fix them and usually without any help. Ships get awards and extra money for that kind of thing, so I'm really excited about how self-sufficient we are. I've been on ship that couldn't do much without outside assistance.

This is another one of those liberty ports that kind of blows and I don't get to leave the ship anyway. It's even worse this time; Colon is a huge industrial shipping port on the north side of the Panama Canal where there's really nothing to do and judging by the liberty policy set forth by the Senior Officer Present Afloat (SOPA), USS Kearsarge, it must be the most dangerous place I've ever been. Liberty is confined to the pier for all six ships in port AND you have to have a liberty buddy.

In fairness, the pier isn't too bad for liberty. It's a big shopping arcade for cruise ships waiting to transit the Canal. There are a couple of bars and stores and kiosks. There's a whole bunch of pay phones, too, so I'm definitely giving Red a call tonight.

But for now, I've been Command Duty Officer since we pulled in yesterday. I'm doing by best to just chill out unless there's something I can't delegate to someone on watch. Am I lazy? Mmmmm, yeah, a bit. Also sick of doing this every port; not the duty so much as the failure of my peers to plan. Once again, Firebug had to attend a bunch of meetings and refused to plan accordingly, and tried to point the finger at me, saying it was my fault for not planning to swap duty with him when he's the one with obligations to meet on his duty day. When he told me I would be standing his duty, I immediately told him, "Bullshit!" and said he could swap with Oscar. Oscar commenced whining about how he would need to be here all day Wednesday whether he had duty or not.

These two should get down on their orange and yellow knees and kiss my clown feet that no one made them an Engineer. It is the department head's lot that work must occassionaly be done when you would otherwise have a frosty alcoholic beverage in hand. It can't be helped, the mission comes first. The first day in just about any port, I spend refueling and I work with my folks to get things fixed the rest of the time. I love it, and wouldn't have it any other way. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best billet I've ever had. And it's work-intensive and sweaty and dirty and six kinds of awesome. The riders have no idea how good they have and whine about things constantly. An engineer sees them for what they are - pansies.

It might be apparent that the effect this has on me is frustration because they lack the big picture. I've done Oscar's job before, and it's not that hard. I've never done Firebug's job, but I understand how much it sucks, which is why I never want to do it.

So I've made the most of my pereptual duty by playing a couple of rounds of Scrabble last night. I won both. The first one, Gator joined in late and said we didn't have to give him an extra turn and he came very close to beating me anyway. The second round, on his last turn, I had a score of 180 and he scored 182. I had one letter left in my hand - an "E". My only hope, of course was to able to place it somewhere and end the game. The board was tight, but I finally found and a free spot and spelled "el", tying the game, going out and forcing him to subract his remaining two letters from his score and add them to mine, roundly crushing my opponent.

And I finished off the evening by watching a bootleg copy of Superman, which I've been waiting to see for years, and when it finally came out, it was the exact day I left for deployment. In Asian and South American nations, there is a huge market for bootleg videos for tourists. One of officers bought this, and although I've been resisting the urge to borrow it, I finally succumbed to the temption of it just sitting there in his inbox every time I walked past it. The quality was poor and someone walked in front of the camera once, but otherwise I really enjoyed it and can't wait to buy it when I get home. That and the first season of Dr. Who. I could do it now, but I want to, yes, make sure it's OK with Red.

Tonight, assuming I get off the ship, it'll be a little souvenir shopping, postcards and beer. It looks like there's a little mini-mart, too. Perhaps some groceries.

Lunchtime now. There are tater tots. They're not American tater tots, but more like little balls of deep-fried mashed potatoes.

But it'll do in a pinch.

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