Another in the ongoing "Subron 8 Sea Stories" series.
Dockside, New London Submarine Base, “availability period.” That’s one of those weird Navy terms which means the opposite of what it sounds like. It means we are undergoing repairs of various types and are “available” to the sandcrabs (civilian shipyard workers) and are not actually available to perform missions.
I’m down in the battery well replacing a couple of cables, with a “non-qual” helping me. This is a guy who is new on board and has not yet performed the studies and tests needed to earn his "fish," the silver dolphin insignia worn by submariners. The process usually takes about six months and, in addition to serious study and performance testing, is accompanied by a good bit of hazing.
I drag a fairly heavy cable into place and, trapping a piece of it under my foot where he can’t see it, show him how it comes up about six inches short of reaching its attachment point. I make a big show of straining to make it reach, near as dammit pulling it out from under my foot in the process and ruining the plot, and finally “give up.”
“Shit,” I tell him, “We’re going to have to stretch it. Go up to tubes forward and get me the cable stretcher.”
He’s looking at me a little skeptically, and I get annoyed and tell him to just get his ass in gear and go get it. While he’s gone I head up to get coffee.
Of course the Torpedomen don’t have the cable stretcher. They lent it to the motor repair facility just last week. The non-qual comes back to tell me that, and I am hugely annoyed with him.
“Just get me the damned thing,” I yell at him. “Get your useless butt ashore and get it. There’s work to be done and you’re holding it up. Don’t come back without that effing cable stretcher.”
He heads ashore in pursuit of the cable stretcher and I finish my coffee and then return to the battery well and finish installing the perfectly adequate length of cable. His pursuit, as you may have concluded by now is fruitless; the motor repair facility doesn’t have it either, having lent it just two days before to the torpedo testing lab; the torpedo testing lab lent it to…
He returns to the ship sans cable stretcher to find the electrical division secured for the day and everyone laughing their asses off at him.
A few days later I’m pulling wires through some conduit and this same kid is helping me again. We’re using a lubricant to do this which we call “monkey shit.” I’m sure it has an official name, but I have no idea what that name might be, as I’ve never heard it called anything else. I have even put that term on requisition forms, and gotten what I ordered. I use the last of what we have, and I hold out the empty can and casually say to him, “Run up to supply and get me another can of monkey shit.”
He neither takes the can nor replies and I look at him. He’s glaring at me and shaking his head. “I may be a boot,” he says, “but I’m not stupid. You’re not doing that to me again.”