Engine life hasn't changed much from last time I wrote about it. I paint all day except when they pull me off to act as a spare hand on various repair projects. One thing I have been hearing that has started to distress me is that the market for QMED specialists, Electricians, Refrigeration techs, and Pumpmen, is much smaller than I had been told at Piney Point, and even the lakes specialists, Conveyormen and Gatemen, are being reduced in the upcoming contract. That leaves a lot of ships with an oiler who also carries the weight of a wiper and a junior engineer (we don't even have a junior engineer), the rest of the department being officers, meaning that a lot of good money doesn't come out anymore until you have a license. The oiler on our ship has been sailing for nearly twenty years, is a certified conveyorman/gateman/junior engineer, but this was the open job. He doesn't see it as less money, since the option wasn't a higher paying job or this but rather no job or this, which is a good attitude, but one I am taking as instructive.
I have some thinking to do before I go back to Piney Point.
Speaking of which, I finally counted the days (and since then have remained unpleasantly conscious of it) and found that day number 90 is Nov 17th, so I will be looking to get off on the 18th or 19th. Of course, not even the captain knows where we will be ten days from now, so I can't even get a plane ticket until a day or two in advance. Fortunately, the company takes care of all that.
With departures and Piney Point in mind, I have a question for the audience the audience, some of whom seem more experienced than I. There are some pretty dumb people out at sea. Not on this ship, of course, everyone here is a gentleman scholar, retiring in the evenings to the lounge to sit by the fire and gently discuss existentialist philosophy and the works of the classical Greek historians. The deckhands are particularly fond of Kierkegaard, while the engineering officers hold themselves off to the side to play chess on a hand carved ivory and oak board while taking parts reciting Shakespeare together. The Steward softly plays Chopin on the grand piano, though he will do Mozart upon request. The captain watches over from his gilt and velvet chair with a warm glass of aged brandy and the hint of an indulgent smile upon his lips.
But I hear that other ships have stupid people. But for all that there are stupid people out here, there were so many more stupid people at Piney Point, and asking some of the other Piney Point people we can only remember one person who got kicked out while on a ship during second phase for being an idiot. Where, then, do all the stupid people go? Are they somehow convinced to quit of their own volition? Do they get fired quietly and quickly forgotten (given propensity of sailors to tell stories about the very human foibles of their former crewmates, this seems unlikely)? Do they somehow get less stupid? Is there something about the shipboard environment that suppresses idiocy while the Piney Point environment particularly fosters it? Or perhaps the quality of new sailors has dropped precipitously (or, more plausibly, that there were more stupid people, but they were fired in a big wave some years back and those who remain are more competent than the previous average)?
I suspect that if I can't find stupid people that the quickest place to look is in the mirror.