Saturday, February 21, 2015

Subron 8: Comms Etiquette

I had not been in the forward torpedo room for a week or so, even though I normally tended to hang out there when I was off duty. The torpedomen kept a high stakes pinochle game going much of the time, and I was one of the few other crew members who was a player of sufficient caliber to join it. My presence there was not universally celebrated.

The torpedomen did not much appreciate me taking their money, which I tended to do, but that generated nothing more than a certain amount of banter. Ill feelings were prevented by buying rounds of drinks periodically.

Somewhat more serious was that tubes forward is separated from my duty area by five compartments and no fewer than six watertight doors, all of which are only three feet tall. What with me being well over six feet tall, those doors presented a certain impediment to me arriving at my duty station in anything like a rapid manner when I was sent for, which sometimes annoyed my division officer. He would make snide remarks like having had to send for a sandwich so as to avoid starving to death while waiting for me to arrive.

The next time he sent for me I brought a sandwich with me, which he did not think was as funny as I thought it was. It created a small problem for the Chief Electrician, because he had trouble concealing that he thought it was funny as hell, but all of that is a different story.

Even more serious was that when any kind of alarm sounded all of those doors would be shut and locked down. And they would be shut very fast; so fast that they sort of made one prolonged bang. I would go flying through as many of them as I could before they were shut, but there was no way I was ever going to make it to my station in maneuvering room, especially since other people, some of them officers, were also using the doors.

To gain my station, then, I would have to call the Captain and ask for permission to open a single watertight door. Having gone through it, I would call him again, report the door secured and ask permission to open the next door. I then had to repeat this process as many times as needed to reach my station in maneuvering room. If I spent my spare time in the crew’s area in after battery I might have to do it once, at most, but coming from tubes forward I sometimes had to do it four or five times, and to say that it annoyed the Captain would be a considerable understatement.

The Captain, however, was a very understanding guy, and he could never bring himself to tell me that I was not permitted to play pinochle with the torpedomen in tubes forward in my free time. He finally reached the point where he would tell me, “Go to maneuvering and call me back to tell me that all of the watertight doors are secured.” My division officer dropped a few hints about where I should spend my free time, but I was real good at being very dense when I wanted to be, and his hints sailed right over my head.

So anyway, I decided to see if the torpedomen had a pinochle game going, so I went to a communications device called the “growler” to call up and find out. Using the growler is pretty simple; pick up the handset, set the dial to the compartment you want to talk to, then turn the crank to make it ring at the other end. First, however you listen to be sure no one is on the circuit, because if someone is, then turning the crank causes a loud and horrendously annoying buzzing in their ear. This was, unfortunately, a step which I had omitted.

I belatedly stuck the headset to my ear and heard a voice say, “Who did that?” Sadly, I recognized the voice. It was, without question, the Captain himself.

“You mean you don’t know?” I asked. There was a brief pause, and then the Captain replied, “No.”

“Ain’t I lucky.” I responded and quickly hung up.

About half an hour later, having found out that a game was starting, I was passing through the control room on my way to tubes forward. Speaking to someone, officer or enlisted, as you pass them is considered good form but is optional with the exception of the Captain; you do not pass him without acknowledgement. Under the circumstances I was tempted to break protocol, but told him good morning and he returned it, and then he spoke my last name. He said nothing further, so I stopped and looked at him. He was sort of half smiling. “You’re not that lucky,” he said,

I waited a moment to see if he was going to say anything else, which he did not, mumbled a hasty “Aye sir” and got the hell out of the control room as fast as I could.

I found out later that he was only guessing.

1 comment:

bruce said...

if you're really unlucky, they could use you for a sea anchor.

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