You know, you'd think that after so many years of working on the water, I'd be immune to being called a thief or a liar by foreign engineers... but sometimes it actually does get to me. Not often, but just sometimes. I have yet to lay hands on anyone, and I don't think at this point I would, but I have kicked people off my deck and chased someone to a pilot ladder before. Older, wiser, maybe just getting old and lazy (I prefer to think of it as 'mellowing'), I try to keep my reaction to such things under control, but I don't have the kind of spirit that brooks being insulted to my face.
I am very aware that in much of the third world, fueling a boat is a wonderful and time honored opportunity for theft and graft. Shipping being global in nature, and the Americas having the benefit of a moat to keep much of the third world out of walking distance, the reality of that isn't a big thing here. We're actually really honest when it comes to fuel transfers, and when you're buying 4,000 tons of fuel, a couple of pennies on the dollar of graft would turn into a hefty sum. We avoid it, and our infrastructure is controlled such that it's actually REALLY hard to commit graft and not get busted here. All to the good.
But to the rest of the world, from Singapore's unwavering support of bunker theft and dirty tricks, to Eastern Europe's Buy Back tradition, fucking the other guy is a much beloved institution.
So this week I had to put on my big-boy pants and be nice after being called a liar when I said I had transferred the correct volume of oil to a ship. I mean, right in my face, and not even in a politically-palatable way ('deliberately incorrect' or something). At this point, all I can say is a quiet 'You need to be very, very careful who you call a liar, mister," which is about as impotent a warning as I'm capable of giving... and after, I always feel like a bit of a pansy for not going up one side and down the other of some odious nobody giving me the moral (but not legal) justification of baptizing him forcefully and repeatedly in the galley toilet. Paul the Baptist. Heh.
Oh, I still fantasize about it, but it's not in the cards.
You see, short bunker Kabuki is also a tradition. You go back and forth without getting personal and throwing insults, and negotiate a final volume to put on the paperwork. +/- 20 tons, say. That's what the rest of the world does.
Here, the volume is the volume. No negotiating. We worship at the alter of the decimal point when it comes to precision. The numbers are the numbers, and if you don't like it, take it to arbitration, and let a legal team decide. "We don't negotiate with... (pause for effect)... anyone."
I guess that's just so foreign to some folks they can't handle it, and then a certain type will get into the personal insults. And, so long as I don't get called a thief or a liar I'm OK. Call me a prick, asshole, ignorant, Fuckknuckle, blockheaded, whatever. It's OK. But certain words are out. There might not be much fighting, but there are still fighting words.
And, after so many years of the same shit, I'm actually getting pretty tired of it. I've been cursed at by engineers from almost every nation on earth, and I don't even get to respond verbally in the way I'd like, which, like a physical response, is giving back about tenfold what I received. Being nice is not always easy. I dunno, maybe on the day I suddenly decide to swallow the anchor, Paul the Baptist can save a soul in the basin of the waters of the Swirly River.
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