Friday, June 20, 2014

Like living in a storybook

This is me learning my limits. I make no promises to being exceptionally coherent or rational here, since I have gotten 4-5 hours of sleep every day for the last 2 weeks and it is starting to catch up to me. I kept my Zen until Wednesday, and it is probably not a coincidence that problems began then.

I don't particularly want to tell this story, because it sounds even to me like me bitching about how hard I have it without any proper perspective. I don't have any perspective right now, which as much as I am able to recognize that as a serious moral failing, I find myself unhappy and unable to fix it. Rest of the post after the jump.

Monday: Ten straight days of 4-5 hours of sleep a night. The big consolation is that finally we would no longer be the new class that everyone directs their shit towards, because the new class comes in today. We spend the afternoon sneaking out of the galley to catch glimpses of the new class and criticize their appearances like a bunch of gossiping housewives. They are an exceptionally short class, my 5'9" self would be in the tallest third of the class, and they all look very weathered. They aren't as old as they look, but they look for whatever reason like they have all been hard worn by life. Having spoken to them subsequently, they really have no reason to look as weathered as they do, being not terribly different from the other classes. The new student leadership (the guys a month older than us) yells at us for heckling them, even though they had heckled us from the galley. Ah, the hypocrisy of power.

Tuesday: Nothing of note occurs to me, unless you count me burning my other hand helping one of our three lazy people too lazy to do her job such that every single time I dip a pan in the water it scalds the burn fresh. This means that both hands hurt each time I wash dishes, instead of only one. So it goes. The new class, class 788, arrives late for muster, a serious no-no, and gains the nickname 'seven eighty-late', which proves to be the utmost pinnacle of wit in this facility.

Wednesday: Have I mentioned that the dishwashing pit is a two person job? My original partner was our severely overweight crewman trying very hard to lose weight, and though he never complained and worked as hard as he was physically capable, we had to move him out to something physically less strenuous the Wednesday prior. My subsequent partner, who is to remain paired with me through the end of galley, is the laziest person in class, the stupidest (both by general agreement and by the results of the general intelligence and education test we took our first week here) person in class, and believes himself to be both exceptionally clever and hardworking. He has had chronic problems with lateness, with sleeping in class, and in galley with hiding from work to sit on his phone. These problems have, of course, all been reported to the student leadership, but, as mentioned earlier, the incentive structure is such that nothing happens to him. After all, he got moved into the pit as punishment for being a lazy jerkoff (and I got moved in originally because I had a positive attitude and the detail bosun wanted to see if he could break that positive attitude in the pit. I suppose this post means that the jackass won), and there isn't anything more they can do without the shit falling on them as well. I don't blame them and try as hard as I can to ignore him as I do his job, so frequently assisted by the man with trash duty and the man with front line duty during their down time that they have washed more pots than he has.

Finally, he comes in half an hour late with me in there, alone, doing his job under a giant pile of unwashed pots and I hear him waltz in singing one of his gangsta raps, not even making his way towards our station, but wandering around without a care in the world. And I shout at him. I tell him that I am sick of doing his job and that he needs to get his shit together. He comes over and works (and stays for about fifteen minutes before needing another god damned smoke break) and the head chef calls me over and tells me not to shout in his galley, since it is unprofessional in general and disrespectful to the head chef. Chef is, of course, completely right, and I have not called anyone out on their laziness since. Though he has continued to be lazy.

At dinner shift, our third laziest crewmember gets caught with a cell phone out in the galley. The phone was confiscated, #3 gets called into the office, and when he comes out he has been kicked off the cushy back line job and into my place in the pit. I get halfway over to the back line when I hear #3 announce that he ain't working the pit, and would rather go home than wash dishes. I get a little smile on my face, because #1, #2 and #3 all need to go home before they get on a ship and make the union look bad and get fired. Nothing happens. We go to eat fifteen minutes later and when we return the jobs have been put back the way they were. I, recall, am under eye to not call people out or say shit, so I do what I have spent the last 13 days doing-- keeping my head down, mouth shut, and hands moving.

On the plus side, the foot powder I asked my father for arrived in the mail, as well as crotch itch spray which I hadn't asked for, but he sent anyway. Perhaps fortunately (and perhaps not) I had developed a serious groin itch and chafing on Monday and was simply dealing with it. Also got my laptop, but I am not even thinking about opening it up until the weekend when we finally, finally get a break from classes, cleaning, and the boot camp lifestyle. Also, in celebration of the weekend, I use my precious dinner break to go set up a weekend movie night for everyone-- we will go watch Pacific Rim in the library theatre on a movie style screen.

Thursday: I come in and keep quiet through breakfast. My partner, Lazy #1, comes 20 minutes late, washes three dishes, takes a 25 minute smoke break, comes up to the table (where I am doing his job and mine both) and says "hey, I will get this pile, just give me a minute" at which point he vanishes until we eat breakfast. The pile, of course, was done by me. A little before 9 AM, the freezer over at the supply building leaks and covers the entire floor in ice on a day that they are short handed and have two trucks coming in. Top dog come into the galley looking for an extra laborer and the first person he sees is #1. He calls him out to go spend the day chilling in a freezer, relaxing over at supply, and not working nearly as hard as the rest of us, then stops, sees me, and says "hey, entirelyalive, you go instead. #1 can work the pit", to which #1 has the gall to exclaim, "but then I will be all alone in here, and it takes two people to run the pit. Take me instead".

To think that a good thing would happen to me after putting up with so much crap smacks way to much of karma and storybook for me, and the notion of a reward for hard work is utterly alien to the culture of this union. My default assumption under the philosophic practices that I have been working so hard to keep up is that this is just another random event in life's wheel of fortune, that nothing should be read into it, and that it should be accepted just as anything else should. But still, I feel like I have been rewarded. I go over, help fix the freezer (an adorable family of green frogs had taken up residence in the drain; they all survived), then move heavy boxes around for a while, then take a nap waiting for the next truck, then move some more boxes. All in all a fantastic break, and then when I walk back I see #1 laboring (with three helpers-- I never get more than one) under a gigantic pile of things and he asks me, in all seriousness, "Did you have any idea it was this hard with only one person?" Yes, jackass, as a matter of fact, I did. It probably got that bad because you were jacking around while you were supposed to be working, except this time there was no one there to do your damn job for you. I still had to do my job, of course, because he only did his (with help) and didn't think to make up for the slack of people around him.

Later I find that we are only one shift away from the new class coming in and spending some quality time learning how to run the galley. The primary method of their education is for them to do all the work while we heckle them (as happened to us in the first week).

Overall, Life is good, if you consider good to be 4 hours of sleep and a hectic environment, followed by the first stressful library hours I have had so far (upgraders are basically allowed to do anything they want as long as they pass their exams, and one decided he could be loud in my library and stay past closing time).

Friday: The new class comes in for the morning to learn how to setup, but that makes the unassisted lunch shift so much harder. So much, in fact, that #1 barely shows up at all. Then, when eating lunch itself, I learn that my exciting weekend plan of finally being able to do nothing at all after wall to wall boot camp and bullshit for a month is gone. In it's place we will be goose-stepping like a bunch of Hitler Youth for a group of congressmen and local politicans, jackals all, to make them feel important so that they steal from other people for our benefit instead of the other way around. Three hours to Baltimore, four hours marching, three hours back, and an hour each for morning and evening duties (cleaning of common spaces) since we will be out of galley. Instead of movie night, politicians-- instead of video games and catching up on sleep, politicians. I quit my last job because of how much I hated working for congress jackals and the vultures that deify them. I would rather stay in the fucking galley alone than make those thieves and thugs feel like kings.

And I got selected for the honor particularly because someone accused me of being a hard worker who keeps his head down and can be relied upon in a variety of situations. Lazy #1, #2, and #3 will all get to stay to enjoy the pool and gym facilities, plenty of nap time, and a generally leisurely Saturday interrupted by only one hour of mandatory duties as a reward for their general misbehaviour and incompetence.

Back in the present, #1 misses half of lunch shift jacking around somewhere. Mid way through dinner shift, our final shift and a light meal, #1 spills a bucket of hot soup on me, which causes him to laugh at my misfortune for a good five minutes. I am, at that point, closer to open physical violence against another human being than I have been in a very long time when Johnson, the other library monitor, informs me that something has come up and I will have to go do library early, and stay until after everyone has finished in galley. #1 isn't really paying attention when I tell him, and then class head, that I have to leave. I should not be satisfied to do with justification to him what he has done to me without. I will need to turn back to my zen books on the bus ride up to Baltimore. But for now, I sit in the library enjoying the thought of a lazy person being made to suffer by being forced to put out the bare minimum amount of effort he was expect to be putting out and that I was making up for him for the last two weeks.

The Stoic philosophers believed you should write about the things which proved a challenge on the road to calm. The Buddhists believe that you should expel those challenges from your mind. I see no reason not to treat this as a two step process in this instance.

Though tonight I will be pulling out that laptop, taking out the stash of potato chips I picked up somewhere that was only borderline legitimate, and playing video games until midnight (i.e., an hour and a half, because I have shit to do until 2230). Next week I start lifeboat and water survival class.

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