January 28, 2005 Friday
A crank no more. Yes, I am done, the Wardroom Odyssy begun on October 25th has come to an end. Overly dramatic? Strangely, I am as happy to rejoin the Pingers in sonar as I was to leave them for a while and begin my food service tour. A lot of it has to do with the revamping of the division now vastly improved in makeup and attitude than only three months ago.
This morning began normally enough, still attired in my grey food service attendant (FSA) shirt, except Dowdle, who worked in the scullery, began bragging that it was his last day too. How odd, I thought, since I remember him arriving. But I went through the motions of the day, my mood slightly soured by the thought of working the weekend. Numerous enlisted and officers have in the last week or so have asked when I would be done, but by my own count (discounting ten days of leave) I had five days left. Yet my certainty was shaken when Dowdle later told me he began on October 29th. How many days did I have left, I thought, and could I get this weekend off too? I talked to Chief Meyers, who in turn went the chief of supply. Somehow I was listed as starting a full month after I really did, and I had in fact worked five extra days! The chief of supply felt bad about “screwing me over,” and assured me this would be my last day, which couldn’t have been better because today is Owens’ 21st birthday. Since it was my last day in the wardroom, I didn’t mind at all doing one last lunch, for old time’s sake. It was sort of fun, laying out the tablecloth, arranging the silverware and glasses, handing out the menus.
The first to arrive were Ensigns Lawton and Eyetel and Ltjg Wagner, three of my favorites, and Ltjg Bearden. It didn’t take them long to find out it was my last time in the wardroom, and Ensign Lawton invited me to sit down with them at the junior table. Normally this is, in Navyspeak, “not authorized,” but occasionally it is done on the FSA’s last day, if they liked him. This likely could be patronizing if looked at from another angle, but I liked these officers and had joked with them for three months. After a second of thought I slipped into the empty chair on the end, while Mr. Lawton offered me some double chocolate chip cookies. Mr. Eyetel, the biggest jokester of all got up from the far end and began to pour me a glass of water, but I cut him off, saying, “hey, I’ll have some milk instead.” Everyone exploded with laughter, eliciting a “Fuck you” from Mr. Eyetel. A few minutes later the XO, LTCMD Beck, walked in, and I quickly got up. Matulik is my “emergency” replacement, but maybe he’ll just stay where he is since he hasn’t cranked yet, and Eure can stay with my CA sonar division for a while longer.
But Owens. Young Owens. This morning he woke up to a special B-day treatment I hadn’t previously known of: a solid wall of duct tape over his curtains, encasing him in his bed. He literally had to kick his way out of the mess that had as a finishing touch a big “FAG” written out over it all in masking tape. All I can do to report what happened, to get the best sense of the real culture. And if you want authentic Navy culture: for his big day we went to Hooter’s of all places, where we were joined by Rhea, Sean Johnson and his wife, whom I had never met before, and two of their friends. It being his 21st, Owens kept it mild and didn’t get insanely crazy, but was still cut off at a pizzeria in Ghent called Cogan’s, around nine o’clock, more for hitting on all of the staff than anything else. He is definitely the youngest of us, in age and more. He has impetuousness, and is pretty green, such as telling Navy stories to people he meets. It’s all new to him, but here he, I, and all the best navy stories in the world are a dime a dozen.