Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Quick notes before exhaustion overtakes me

So the class we take in galley instead of having nap time is "Social Responsibility", which is a combination of lessons on shipboard life and etiquette, the social hazards of the nautical life (drugs, women, and booze), and anti-bigotry preaching. I am particularly looking forward to seeing how the instructor manages the anti-homophobia part of the syllabus in a class with the two most strident and violent homophobes I have ever met.

Our instructor himself is a fantastically personable fellow and the man who runs the union rehabilitation program, so he has all sorts of stories about the trouble he has gotten into before he got all the way clean and the trouble he has seen his friends and patients get into. He told us today about the dangers of common law marriages for sailors coming out of certain states, and how a man can find himself common law married without even realizing it, thus losing half his pension claim and possibly ending up having a genuine future marriage voided for bigamy.

He told us that, going strictly by the statistics, out of the ten of us left in the class, one of us will get fired on our first ship in phase two, probably rather quickly, one or two will not make it into phase three, probably because of a failed drug test, and five years from now only 3 - 5 will still be in the industry. He makes it very clear that the industry takes a certain kind of person, and especially now that kind of person is different than who they used to look for.

The image held of seamen by most of you was certainly accurate up into the 1980's-90's, and continues to be true thanks to older men who have yet to trickle out of the industry. But today the biggest three reasons seamen are fired are, in order, 1) Drugs and Alcohol (no drugs, no booze, not ever), 2) Fighting (and they will fire everyone who raises a fist, attacker or defender), and 3) sexual harassment (in an industry with maybe 5% women, so there aren't even that many targets to harass). In the old days, the stereotype in your head was absolutely true that these three things weren't fire-able offenses so much as they were descriptions of a good shore leave, but those attitudes don't sail anymore, and the seamen who couldn't moderate themselves have mostly left, voluntarily or otherwise. The flipside to that is that these jobs pay a whole lot more, are substantially more comfortable living conditions, and are more interesting and demanding jobs. Assuming we aren't being fed a line of shit, I see myself and three others being the definite three capable simply of not getting fired, and two more who could do so as well if they don't fall off any wagons. For the other five, it is just a matter of time until they throw the wrong punch or start making moves or fail a urine test, though I wouldn't mind being surprised

The other "break" from galley is a return of mandatory gym hour. A month ago we were told that this time around we would at least be allowed to bring in headphones to listen while on the machines, but the rule changed the day before we came in, so I haven't even that consolation. Aside from that, I count today as the first sleep deprived day of many following an eighteen hour day of bullshit with a brief moment of calm (though no sleeping) in the library.

Speaking of bullshit, I don't think I have told the story of how, exactly, I got stuck in the worst position in the galley. At first (i.e., most of the last round) I thought I just drew the wrong straw, until I realized that the dishwashing pit is where they put people who piss off the chefs or break rules. I, of course, was in there from day one and only recently realized who it was I pissed off. Before the first day of galley, in our hour of pre-galley training, I was working a much better position when the man who was then detail bosun (and has since left for phase two) came up and asked how I was doing. I felt pretty good about everything and wanted to keep a positive attitude both for myself and to not look like a trouble maker, so I told him that everything was fantastic, and that we were having a big old work party back here. A sneer grew on his face as he informed me that no one has fun in galley, that it breaks everybody, and that he was going to see just how positive my attitude was after I got out. For the record, I am the only one in our class of ten (which is about three or four people short of a fully manned galley, meaning we are overworked beyond the scheduled overworking) who dislike the job itself as opposed to the long hours (not that I enjoy the hours), and have had people who enjoy dishwashing offer to switch, which I can't take up because my job is a punishment station. Galley hasn't broken me, but I am certainly the one who has allowed himself to get beaten down the most.

I take two morals from this. First is that some people are assholes and nothing bad will happen to them no matter how much they fuck you over. Second, because he credibly professed to have forgotten when someone else brought it up to him, be very careful what you do when you have power over someone, because you can screw them over far more drastically than you intend to. My only consolation is that someday I may see him in the industry (or even at Piney Point) and be in a position to screw him over, and if the opportunity presents itself I have every intention of taking it.

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