Wednesday, March 9, 2022

...and back again

 It's been a pretty hectic few days. I flew home on Sunday, got in just before 1am on Monday, was up and on the road by 6:30, and in class for 2 days, I got to sleep in my own bed for 2 nights, anyhow... well 1 1/2  but hey. Monday evening was the crown on the trip, though. I was able to spend the night with my family, which was a treat. Tuesday, well, another marathon. I finished my class, drove the rental car to the airport and turned it in, and made it to my gate with 90 minutes to spare, which was probably the most down time I actually had this whole time.  

       I went to Maritime Professional Training  in Fort Lauderdale, FL, about an hour from my home. As always, it was fun to be there,  in a learning environment within my own field, and able to talk to others who do other jobs on the water. MPT does a lot for yacht and charter boat crew, who make up a big chunk of their clientele. Think young, attractive, healthy people of both sexes. And then, there's the smaller cohort of commercial guys like me. Trucker caps, older, beer bellies, fucked up hair, gimps and scars, F-bombs everywhere. 

      It's kind of nice to get grouped in a place where your in-group has legendary status. Without saying that the yachties had a little bit of hero-worship towards the commercial guys... there is a bit of hero worship going.  The yacht folks talk about great ports of call where they got drunk and something funny happened... You know "Oh, Saint Maartin! Man I got hammered there with a Dutch crew on a 154' whoozits yacht, and we all slept on the beach and someone stole my shoes."

 For the commercial guys it was more "Hey, what's the name of that bar up over the berm in Norco up past Belle Chasse anchorage, the one right next to the refinery?" "Oh, I love that place, but I forget the name. I got stabbed there once."" That was you? I heard about that!"  (everybody laughs, yachties quietly go pale)

 So it was fun to mingle during break time, although I found myself (and this is strange for me) more inclined to silence than otherwise. Maybe I'm getting old, although it's probably more to do with me feeling like I had cut school and tomorrow I was going to catch hell at the principal's office.  I really, really don't like not being at work when it's my tour to work. 

 At any rate, I did well in the class, learned a bunch and had a good review of the things I already knew. MPT is a great school, and they foster a good learning environment where everyone is supposed to come away with what they need. This stands very much opposite to my experience at MITAGS. 

 I have always viewed MITAGS as the gold standard in maritime continuing education, but, while I have attended the lions' share of all my continuing ed classes at MITAGS over the years, MITAGS is very much a union school for Unlimited officers. This, despite having many programs not geared towards unlimited masters, I found that unlicensed and junior officers were very much second-class status there. Perhaps it is better now. There were some exceptionally good instructors who were enormously helpful... and also some epically terrible retired ships' masters who were clutching their pearls that a whole room full of uppity Able Seamen were at their precious clubhouse trying to (gasp) learn despite none, not a single one able to boast of having had family on the Mayflower! 

    Thurston Howell III, please pick up your abacus and a fresh cravat, it's your turn to teach the Poors about Cargo Handling and Stowage. 

 Well, none of that at MPT.  While I'm being very slightly sarcastic (minus the Mayflower comment. I really did have to listen to a blowhard instructor from the Prick Factory (The US Merchant Marine Academy) wax orgasmic about his family pedigree), I have found that I am able to learn more when I'm not feeling class-conscious or being condescended to. 

    Only once did I give a little back, and of course, I had been drinking. This was long ago. 2005-2006 maybe?  At the bar at MITAGS' conference center, in a discussion where I was more or less being head-patted and patronized, being the only one in the room who wasn't a merchant marine academy alumnus, and I had been limited to asking questions and listening when conversation wandered into a narrow window where I had subject matter knowledge and  suddenly I was able to speak with unassailable confidence about the issue. In noticing that I got the side-eye from one or two people,  I finished with a "they don't teach you this shit at a trade school I guess" and stifled a burp. It was one of those moments like when a savant builds a steam engine out of a teakettle.  Anyways, short story, it was fun to insult a bunch of stuffed shirts who were getting high off the smell of their own farts, and I am happy I tried out a new school for my educational needs. 

 And now I'm back to work. 

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