THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS FROM AN AMERICAN Merchant Mariner
Friday, January 23, 2009
So I've got this nasty cold, and I'm not the only one. WonderJohannes, the cyborg/student/ friend who is impervious to hangovers, apparently, is not impervious to the common cold, either. Dt's got the squints, too. Tough week.
Anyhow, thought I'd share a highlight from my day. 1045, and I am giving the last presentation in my Emergency Procedures class. I had to create a procedural checklist for fighting a fire/explosion for an oil tanker alongside the dock, from ringing the general alarm to calling it quits. I did well. I did my homework, and lord knows, there's plenty of info out there on the web. Well, that and I've lived through hundreds of Fire and Boat Drills on board. I'm giving my presentation, and my sinuses, which were struggling to stay open all morning, give a lurch as I'm really settling into the podium, 5 minutes into my scenario. I sneeze.
It's like ice-out day on the scene at "Ice Road Truckers." My sinus cavity is about to divest itself of 5-to-10 liters of snot, and nothing is going to stop it except for a full-court press.
So, It's on. While I'm talking, I tense up my whole body like a fist, breathing carefully out of my mouth. You know how hard it is to talk in front of an audience when you have to talk and breathe out of the same cavity? I sounded like an extra from the set of The Sopranos. You know; "Ay, an den you wanda debloy ya hose teems from da staging area, but one team hasda stand by, 'cus Ay! You neveh know. Bada Boom!
OK, it wasn't that bad, but it was enough to make me sweat. I swear, blowing my nose in the privacy of the bathroom a few minutes later? It was like 72 virgins all giving up the goods at once, just for me. So good.
But not so awesome was my medical visit this afternoon. I thought I was getting a little blood drawn. Well, yeah, I did that. Then I had a full Human Performance Evaluation. If you haven't heard about it, be glad. It's a physical exam, complete with hernia evaluation. (Cough!) Then a sadist with a stopwatch and a heart monitor runs you across an exercise floor modeled after the Westminster Dog Show. Step up on this box, 5 times. Balance on one foot for a minute, then the other. Step on this plastic board that we put over a hockey ball. Now balance on the ball/board for 3 seconds, no edges touching the floor. Now go up this ladder 6 times. Drag this sled full of weights across the carpet 10 times. Crawl, you vermin, 30 feet, and God damn you if your heart rate rises above 158! I passed. I sweated, I'll say that. I've been worried about my hearing for some time. With the exception of one small range of sounds in my right ear, my hearing is actually pretty damn good. I have only 10% damage to one ear, and 15% in the other, which is good for a 34-year old. What wasn't so good was the damn box they put me in to take the hearing test. Fucking thing was 100 degrees, and the box was so small that I couldn't fit my shoulders between the walls without hunching. You wannna talk claustrophobia? 10 years ago, I would have burned down the neighborhood before getting in there. My first trip to sea took care of that. 120 days in a ships' double bottoms, needle gunning for 10 hours a day. That's confined, baby. So, feeling happy and healthy, I proceeded to come back to school and drink too much. So I spent the next 4 hours rehydrating so I won't be all headachy for the morning. Awesome.
Next week is Advanced Fire Fighting. I'm looking forward to it.
Probably healthier for the liver than the beer I drank.
Oh, and also, take a look at this:
And you wondered why I'm begging the Mrs. to take me to Brazil?
I am Paul B, and I spend most of my life at sea. Ships, Science, the life of a mariner, biology and (mostly) true stories of life among the best and the worst people in the world, the United States Merchant Marines. You'll find it here, maybe. You'll definitely find rants, raves and discussion on life aboard a merchant ship. Come back and see the Brazilian girls, too, who show up fairly regularly.