Sunday, February 23, 2014

foot in mouth disease

Welp, we screwed up.

  I make a great effort not to be racist or to display any airs of superiority at work, and I NEVER antagonize foreign crewmen when I'm working with a foreign vessel. This is a big deal for me, as I've had to put my foot down on a few deckhands for making racist or bigoted comments to foreign sailors when we're working together... and it's not that I have lofty principles, but that it's a survival thing. As I said a few months ago to a Tangerine (a resident of Tangier Island, VA, an isolated offshore island with a... unique language and curture) AB,  "Hey, stay at least 20 feet away from me. I don't want to get hit with a ricochet when those angry little shits you're antagonizing 50 feet overhead drop a shackle and crush your skull because of the shit you're saying."

OTOH, I've openly admitted to a certain bigotry regarding assumptions of how a bunker job will go based on the nationality of the crew on the other ship. I'm not alone here, although I realize that consensus doesn't equal truth. Basically the racial stereotypes go like this:

 German officers- detailed and efficient, either warm or distant.

German crew- Deadly B.O., but very high standards of seamanship

Russian Engineers- rarely 100% sober, often cold and confrontational, rigid in thinking

Russian crew- perpetually foul mood, often competent sailors, occasionally malicious (think monkey's fists aimed at your head for no reason.  Happened to me at least a dozen times, and never by crew of another ethnic branch other than slavic crewmen), incommunicative and rarely cooperative, often lazy, constant complainers.

Filipino Crew: gregarious, friendly, team-oriented, mix of exceptional and horrific seamanship, inefficient, careful, communicative.
Filipino Officers: nervous, detail oriented, submissive, friendly, impulsive, followers of logic and tradition
Indian/Pakastani officers: meticulous attention to detail, rigid obedience to procedures, hierarchies, caste and chain-of-command, Prone to preemptive CYA paper shields, ultra-professional, curious and open to conversation
Indian/Pakastani crew: an odd mix- the young guys are frequently ill-trained and uncooperative. The older men are often master sailors, and, while uncommunicative, safety-oriented and hierarchical but with tight focus on the job at hand.

 Well, that's enough displaying my bigotry- as I said, it's just stereotypes, and very loosely correlates with actual experience... although, admittedly, 'loosely' means that it's also roughly accurate in terms of estimating the level of cooperation I'm ready to expect.


 Now, I told you that as a real tangent on why I started writing in the first place. Last night we had a friendly 'Russian' crew- tying up to a container ship, it was watch change on our end, being midnight, so we had two watches out on deck tying up, as did the ship. As we do, questions get asked. My deckhands were asking about the olympics- given the slavic accent, they assumed the crew was Russian. One of them got mad and asked why we were talking about the olympics- one guy on our end says- "Well, you guys are Russians, right? Putin, Sochi, Olympics"
 "Why you think we Russian?"
"Your accent?"
 "What you accent? You Canada, Madagascar? England?"
"We Ukranian. No Russian. Fuck you, ignorant."

 Well, at this point, I said sotto voce, "OK, stop talking. Apologize. Dude's people are in the middle of a bloody revolution because of the Russians, and you're calling him Russian."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean any trouble. Let's just focus on work."

 Well, I had to add to the kid in question (a great guy who just stepped on his own crank, not a bigot at all) "Watch your head. Here comes the monkey's fist."

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