Saturday, November 3, 2018

On being social on board

I'm just getting older.

 I was introduced to my company's new daytime bunker dispatcher the other day. It was...a mixed review, but an honest one.

"This is one of your best guys here in New York for bunkers. The (the actual name of HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Fusion Center for Hypertension and Getting The Hell Off the Lawn) is run by a pair of really crotchety guys who will get the job done if you leave them alone."\\

 Hell of an intro. But he's right- not about B and I being good or not- I mean, I hope we are, but about us being crotchety, perhaps more than the norm.   B is one of my closest friends, and I suppose it makes sense we'd end up with similar traits since I spend more time with him than I do with my wife. Among the reasons why we're good friends is a matter of compatibility and work ethic- get the job done with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of efficiency, represent the charterer and the company well, and (and this is key) DO NOT DISRUPT THE PROCESS.  This creates repeatability and reliability. The Process (with a Capital P) is what defines efficiency, and also what sets our standards for operations, and through that, safety, too. Paying attention lets you catch things like maintenance issues before they're breakdowns, and things like that- if you have a system and it works, and in the process it helps you maintain good performance, don't change it.

 This sort of philosophy at work is sort of delicate- it isn't always possible, so flexibility is required- sometimes we're asked to do things way out of the norm, and if we can, we do them. We are little  teeth on a larger gear, at the end of the day.

 As we've evolved our system of working together and working the HQ to get the job done, we've become more sensitive to disruption, though, and that's where B and I have gotten labeled as 'crotchety.'  After 10 years here and being happy and I hope a good employee, I came very close to quitting my job 2 months ago when the HR lady put a trainee on the HQ, and that's with a trainee who I knew personally and who I really liked!  Training people disrupts The Process too much for me. I spent two days talking with my wife discussing whether or not to walk off the job over the issue.  A few years ago, when my port captain told me that I should be training guys and told me ecactly how many dollars this would earn me in every paycheck, I offered then and there to give him that money out of my own pocket to NOT give me a trainee at work.

 OK, yeah, crotchety. Would I really quit over it? I would. And I'd be really sad about it. That's actually kind of ridiculous, but it's so.

 I was warned by my first port captain that going from an oceangoing ship to bunker work was going to make we weird. He had been there, he knew, and he was correct. It just took a little time.

 If you know me in meatspace, you know I'm fairly social. I talk kind of a lot.I'm sure the guys in the office would be happy if I didn't chew their ears off when I get ashore. BUT, put me on the HQ, and I prefer to look and listen. I don't like to talk much, and I don't like being talked to. I don't even like using the phone. I email if I can. Talking interferes with my thought processes, with seeing that things are in place and in order, and that everything sounds ok (sort of an understatement- many of the most important things have a sound that is right and a sound that is wrong- a cargo pump hits an air bubble, a chain clinks in a right way or a wrong one, a mooring line sings out when tension changes, and vibrations that are right and wrong happen too, transmitted right through the soles of your shoes. Talking interrupts the flow of information that tells me the state of things on board, under our system.

 B and I can sit and talk for hours at the galley table. We can also sit at the galley table for hours and NOT talk, just as comfortably. That's part of why we are friends, and also part of why we don't want disruptions, as two people who NEED quiet more than most, in order to enjoy peace when we want peace. That's actually a pretty rare thing, to be able to sit quietly and be perfectly comfortable in close proximity... but it's also the exact opposite of what a trainee needs, and the opposite of what most people like, too. Oh, we have friends here who visit, and sometimes we'll have a dinner on board with friends, too. That sort of social activity brings happiness for its novelty. We don't drink alcohol and don't smoke or gamble. The monotony of the job is absolutely draining at times, and how you compensate without cultivating bad habits affects your mind and your performance on the job, too. Given the work and the schedule, our social lives on board the HQ are more than 50% of our social lives,  which is something that shoreside management rarely gets. To be unhappy on board means spending a majority of my life unhappy, period. B and I have had a fantastic team of shoreside support who understand that and who tolerate our quirks as a price to be paid for what I hope is adequate performance. They don't mess with us nearly at all, and it's wonderful. Doing a good job to ensure that just gets that much easier.

 Well, Ed, my first port captain here, was correct. The job does make you weird. Makes me satisfied, too, though, so long as I'm left alone to do it, anyhow.

1 comment:

STxAR said...

When I was an apprentice electrician, my journeyman told me pure gold: "You should be able to anticipate your lead's needs, and have the tool or part he needs when he needs it without him asking for it."

I took that and ran with it. If I understand the job, it takes very little time to grok what happens next. I don't know if it's a gift or not... But I do know it's a curse. I have only had one guy in all my years since that I could work with like that. It must be rare to find, if ever...

Working with other guys shows me they don't know what they're doing most of the time. Equally true is they don't care how it looks as long as they finish it quickly. It is infuriating to try to teach someone and get, "you do it so much better, just do it so we can move on." Or, to come back and see they crapped out your good work, and it takes hours extra to troubleshoot, or a day to fix correctly.

I GET you brother, I really do.