January 11, 2004 Tuesday
Finally back from a 10-day leave to Illinois, for New Year’s. Yesterday I felt like it was my first day on board. The rust was heavy, not only from leave, but because it was the first day with the entire crew back in three weeks. I am also amazed by the number of new faces roaming around- have I really been gone that long? Case in point is the body-shifting in my own CA (sonar) division. No sooner was I back on Sunday afternoon than Norwood told me that Turner was leaving the ship. Yes, Barry, whom I have perhaps spent the most time with off the ship is scheduled to have surgery on his back- which has been injured in various ways over the years, and will be away from the ship for the majority of the year, if not forever. I hope him the best, but in personal terms news like this is difficult to know how to take. It’s not normal, I remind myself. Not in the world outside the gates of this massive base. A friend is just one day gone- whoosh– not to reappear. This is the hardest part. I miss so many people already. At least everything else is stable, but I was looking forward to having Turner around once I returned to CA.
This afternoon was my appointment for the first of three workshops for ADHD. It was scheduled for thirteen-hundred; I requested to leave before noon as to have enough time to get to Portsmouth medical where it is being held. Yet the Navy was nearly a roadblock to this simple thing. (And by “Navy” I don’t mean a single sailor or one offending officer, but the huge, nameless mass of red tape that has accumulated in the oversee of such a gigantic venture as this arm of the government, such that uncommon sense seldom wins out.
For today, tomorrow, and Thursday the Nicholas is being subjected to another series of force protection drills, bring oversee by inspectors. The drills themselves range from unruly foreign demonstrators, a bomb on the ship, or small boat attack, and this gives you a taste of déjà vu it is because we just did this all in November. Anyway, before lunch I took some trash out to the pier. A simple thing, really. And by the way, the time was now eleven, so I had half an hour before I had to leave. I was told by the sentry-in-training, “I sorry sir, but you’ll have to remove yourself from this close proximity and wait till the danger has been secured.” Which means to all the rest of us ‘wait over there.’ This is also a common thing with said drills- after a padding down, of course, to give to watch standers practice, and I was once again on the ship. Great, I still had enough time to change, get my medical record, walk to my ca–
“SECURITY ALERT! SECURITY ALERT!” is suddenly, loudly called for over the ships’s speakers, while I am in the galley, because of an “intruder” on the ship (yep, another of those ol’ drills, still going on all day). But understand this particular kind of drill is special, because regarding security threats like this we are not allowed to move from where we are. That’s all fine, I guess, but I’ll leave a picking apart of this strategy for another day. For me, and having to leave the ship for my appointment, it was a problem. It was approaching eleven thirty, and these things can take most of an hour to complete. I could not be an exception, however real my reason amid the fake drill. I could only “stand fast” and wait it out.
I did make it to my workshop over in Portsmouth, a little late but not by much. We sat in a semi-circle and listened to a presentation by power-point, that mostly dealt with practical means to overcome forgetfulness and clutter. Making a list was a biggie. I don’t think this fits my own need, which seems greater than “make a list.” My problem is I don’t remember to make the list, or take the list with me. Maybe if I made a list for the list… Regardless, it was nice to meet others at least somewhat like me, and I’ll hopefully learn from this experience. When I arrived back to the ship they were in the midst of a general quarters (fire drill) for which was supposed to be near its conclusion, but was stretched for another hour until 1700.
One other note for the day. Tonight I called Susan to catch up with her since essentially Christmas. I said a few things about my leave home and my travels east, and she talked about her parents and having to visit them this coming weekend. She was just in the middle of a story involving her mom and dad when, while I sitting on the forecastle, came the call, “Toxic gas leak! Toxic gas leak in aux. two! This is not a drill!” So I quickly told Susan there was a gas leak which wasn’t a drill and I’d have to call her back… welcome to my life. While waiting out the gas I talked to red-haired, slightly punk STG3 Eure, and told him about having to hang up on Susan in the middle of her talking, and he had to laugh. When I told him about the ‘welcome to my life’ bit, Eure through his flash gear fire protection quipped “You called this a life?”