Sunday, January 4, 2009

A good long look, a hard lesson

So tonight I cemented my plans for the latest batch of classes that I'll be taking in the upcoming month towards qualifying to sit for the unlimited 3rd mate's exam. Next week I'll begin a 3- week block of classes that will include Cargo Handling and Stowage, Search and Rescue/Emergency Procedures and Advanced Fire Fighting. I'll be living at my union's trade school/conference center, called MITAGS down in Maryland. This is also a fine opportunity to network, visit friends, and drink beer where I can. Nice to have a beer at the end of the day again.

I want to write about a wicked uncomfortable but undoubtedly good (in the sense of bad-tasting medicine being generally good for you) conversation that I had on my ship the night before I was paid off, and I've taken almost a full week to mull over both the material covered, and also whether or not I should share. I'm compromising here. Like my writing, I don't want to put too much detail, and, like my writing, I'll undoubtedly feel afterward like I didn't get my point across.

I ended up having a man-to-man with the chief mate on my ship. One of the mates is a close friend. The other is a more difficult man to know. Both are effective at their job, despite being polar opposites in most ways. This conversation was with the mate that I wouldn't normally be having a very personal conversation with.

Whoo. That's some bad english. End with a prepositional phrase? Shame on me.

Anyhow, that night was my 1,080th day as an Able Seaman. This is a special day, as it represents the culmination of six years of effort to satisfy the most daunting prerequisites for taking the unlimited 3rd/2nd mate's exam... the three years' sea time... and, it was my last watch for this voyage.
We talked about known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. It was a very constructively critical conversation, and you know how hard those can be, when one is forced to not only admit, but to confront one's shortcomings.

Anyhow, it was a clearing of the air, and an opportunity for me to hear from someone who actually cared enough about my prospects to methodically and tactfully point out where my personal weaknesses lie.

So yeah, it sucks to be called on the carpet, even when I appreciated that it was happening for my own good.

Also, it brought me a little closer to a somewhat enigmatic but respectable guy who I have been quick to discount in the past for doing things in a different way than I'd prefer.
I have arrived here rather humbled, I think.
* ********************************** *

This being my year-end close out, I also did something bad by accident. I lost my archived blog entries for the past three years, the ones that have chronicled so many good and bad times, and also so much name-calling that I am now embarassed about since the cat came out of the bag and co-workers and employers could search out exactly on what day I called them bad names. On the upside, I don't need those entries anymore; they were a relief valve for me, and fulfilled that function. Still, I'm going to miss a lot of it. I've even lost the brief mention of the night where I met my wife. Again, on the upside, I've also lost a lot of hyperbole and exagerated but great stories, so I no longer have to get asked if I really pulled Salma Hayak off of the deck of a sinking battleship whilst simultaneously duelling with six Klan bikers/rapists.

I resolve to be more clear about what it truth, and what is exageration.
I reserve the right to exagerate. I am of Irish descent, after all. The truth will never stand between me and a really, really good story.


I talked today about our hurricane Ike experiences, and the aftermath thereof with a couple of guys who were also stuck inside the kids' playroom/hell that is one of those Chuck E. Cheese's sort of thing today. As I told the story, I was definately feeling the usual Baron Munchausen/mental boner that I get when I collect an inadvertant audience. Like the germanic fabled hero, I felt awesome as more and more guys were circling in, and the urge to play fast and loose with the truth was there, but, so was a feeling of wanting closure, of wanting to put that episide behind me. I let the story die it's natural death, being vague on details for once, and when it was over, it felt over. I think that my time as a storytelling attention whore is over. And I'm OK with that.

Good talk.

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