Thursday, July 24, 2014

Aphorisms and Congressjackals

The reward for hard work is more work.

Only the squeaky wheel gets greased.

If you aren't paying for something, then you aren't the customer, you are the product.

If you were wondering, I put down a bunch of money for my licensing, but am paying no direct tuition to the SIU for the training they give me, nor, indeed, am I strictly obligated to remain in the union after getting my rating. Instead, the shipping companies pay at some point down the line $50,000 per male entry level worker and $60,000 per female entry level worker to the union. I may take pictures at some point of the parking lot to give you a sense of where that money goes, because it sure as hell isn't funneled into quality of life (though the simulator rooms and machine shop is fantastic as well). We are, and are rarely allowed to forget, not the priority in either the union or on the base.

I, out of a class full of people with very good reasons to be suspicious and mistrustful of authority, hate politics and politicians more than any of them. My parents have taken me to political events since I was very small, I worked my first campaign at 16, and the major clients for my previous job were politicians. From a much smaller scale I got involved in campus politics at college and ended up in charge of a quarter million dollar budget and various campus rule making disputes. I have seen that even good people (of which I am not one) will, in all cases, with long enough exposure become terrible people by gaining power and playing the political game, a game which attracts few enough good people in any case. I came to Piney Point in large part to get into something honest.

So how the hell did I spend this morning passing around a petition for improved working conditions and coaching classmates on how to canvas for support among administration figures? I blame the Congressional Black Caucus.

Piney Point features a large hotel that sometimes plays host to various conferences and conventions. This week the Congressional Black Caucus (mostly staffers and activists; I haven't seen anyone I might recognize from my blighted former life) has sixty people here holding events that I am not invited to and eating off of plates that I have to clean up. This has made our already understaffed galley experience pretty difficult, and we have not been getting out "on time", a problem in particular because getting out on time was the pet cause of some administrator or another for a few days a month ago. This has made us late to the nighttime room inspection. Now, I am not the UA program VP, from whom the rules change eminated, and no one is really certain what made him give the order, but yesterday afternoon an announcement was posted pushing back room inspection for everyone until 2200 on weekdays and all the way to an absurd 2300 on weekends. Bear in mind that the galley class has to wake up between 0400 and 0430 every day regardless, inspection takes about 15-30 minutes to get to our class, and a certain amount of hygiene is required for everyone. This means that six hours of sleep a night (in theory 6 and a half, but that is an unattainable phantasm) quite suddenly became five in an intensely busy week for an understaffed galley class. We knew today was going to suck and, perhaps due to that foreknowledge and perhaps due to sleep deprivation, it did. Another week and a half of this was unacceptable.

Running out of time but the short of it is that I ended up writing a letter which somehow became a petition by virtue of people grabbing at it and signing it, a debate began about how to canvas and campaign (without using those words exactly) among administration figures, and this morning after much frustration but with no actual input from the classes having made it to the top brass, the situation was reversed without any explanation.

When the CBC members walk around the base, I hear them talking about their messaging and arguing which talking points should be emphasized and figuring out how to worm themselves into new hollow political friendships and I hate myself for ever having thought that the political game was fun and that power was sexy.


  1. Jeb,
    A link to your Blog was mentioned in a thread on the gCaptain Forum. I find your posts interesting. I wonder what you will think of them looking back several years down the road. I've spent quite a few years in this business, most of them as Chief Engineer. I've seen a number of apprentices pass through my engine room. Most didn't know what they didn't know but it was a place to start learning. One of my sons went through the program there after realizing college was not for him. He's done well and has been sailing QMED the last several years. In this industry you can go as far as your ambition carries you. Just my 2 cents.

    1. Oh, dear! Strangers in the blog! What on earth is the gCaptain forum, and do you think it is something I should be looking at when I have time again? Anyway, thanks for coming around, feel free to stay as long as you like.

      I do sort of think of this as a cross between a letter home, a diary, and therapy, and coming back several years from now with hindsight is definitely part of the goal.

      If I may be so bold and you do decide to stick around, feel free to chime in if you have any suggestions here or when I start sailing, and I wouldn't mind being called out if you ever think I am talking out of my ass. The books and classes are quite limited in phase 1, and any real advice from people such as yourself would be greatly appreciated. I have never turned down two cents, either physically or metaphorically. I have never, for that matter, turned down one cent, if that is all your care to toss my way.

      I have every intention of learning until I start shipping, at which point I intend to learn and ship at the same time. Feel free to follow along until I no longer interest you.