I had a couple hours before going on watch and was unusually caught up on sleep, so I thought I’d check with the forward torpedo room and see if I could get up a pinocle game. The Torpedomen forward were the best pinochle players on the boat for some reason, maybe because we didn’t fire their fish very often and they had the most free time on their hands, and I spent a lot of time up there playing pinochle with them.
So I reach for the 3EM and dial up tubes forward. This is a comm system that works something like the very old fashioned telephone; you turn a dial to the station you want to talk to, turn a crank to ring it at the other end, and talk away. There is one important step, which I had forgotten in this case, which is to listen first and make sure no one is already talking on the system, because it’s a single circuit and if you turn the crank when someone is already talking on the system you produce a very unpleasant growling sound in their ear.
So I’m sticking the headset to my ear after turning the crank and at the same time thinking, “Oops, I forgot the sound check,” but am not really worried about it, until I hear from the headset a voice ask, “Who did that?”
This is not good. In fact, this is very bad. It’s worse than you probably think.
As an EM1, first class petty officer, there are not that many people on the boat who outrank me; a couple of dozen or so. Between the less than stellar sound quality of the comm system and the ambient noise level I do not recognize the voice, but the fact that he’s asking that question strongly suggests that this not only is one of them, it’s one who outranks me by quite a bit. Which means I probably don’t want to answer his question.
Stalling for time, I ask, “You don’t know?”
The voice on the other end responds, simply, “No.”
Which is all I need to respond “Ain’t I lucky” and hang up.
I decide to skip the pinochle game in tubes forward. Anything that requires going through officer’s country for, say, the rest of the day seems like poor judgement.