By lex, on October 3rd, 2007
Fleet operations in the Southern California op-area during the late 80′s, and your humble scribe was on the LSO platform, basking in the summer sun and topping it the grandee, on account of the pickle which he held in hand.
(And may I add parenthetically that, if you yourself, gentle reader, were to go a-Googling for images under the term “LSO pickle” then I abjure to ensure that some class of “safe search” is first enabled in preferences before you get to page 3. You’re going to want to trust me on this.)
The pickle of authority it was (not to mention responsibility), the better to permit lesser beings to make approaches aboard ship, or by declining to suffer their buffoonery end them. Sending them around on the wave-off like, for to make another go of it. Only better this time. Don’t make me call your dad.
Alongside of us we had – very nearly in plane guard station, only tending more towards the port quarter than right aft – a Sowjet Moma-class AGI, or intelligence gathering ship.
We’d see these fellers ret frequently off the Southern California coasts, and to tell the truth we sometimes felt a little sorry for them. Their ships were small and rusty, and the ocean rolling and vasty, what with their home being so very far away. While just across the horizon the lights of kapitalist Sandy Eggo beckoned them siren like, what with fresh fruits and vegetables of the sort they’d never seen, not to mention the gustatory glories to be found in any the local grocery markets. All the while refusing them entry, the mere tease. All glow and no go and isn’t that just like a Southern California girl?
But I digress.
I reckon they mostly gathered electronic intelligence, which is the work of a very small and specialized set of operators in darkened cabins, while all the rest of the swabbies wallowed and heaved like rice crispies in a milk bowl when not picking at the occasional rust spot that they could no longer decently pretend to overlook. This work we would sometimes see them occupied with in the stoic but desultory fashion of the New Soviet Man who pretended to work so long as the boss pretended to pay. Ever once in a while they’d have a madcap moment and break in on our radio frequency with an “I wanna rock!” riff from Twisted Sister – I suppose just to show us that they could. They always had the decency not to do so while we had a jet on final, which we took as a kindness.
The LSO platform was as pleasant a place as you could find aboard a carrier at sea, that wasn’t the cockpit of a fighter in tension on the catapult, but even something so dramatic as ensuring the safe and expeditious recovery of aircraft could become tedious through long accustomed use. And tedium, as has been pointed out before, was ever the death of human decency.
It came to pass that they ranged up close alongside our warship with binoculars at their brows, seemingly for a better look at we few, we happy few, we band of blind men paddles. The day being balmy, the ship being non-gender integrated, ourselves being young and full of joy and the tempo of operations suiting our instant fancy we made the collective, if not particularly deliberate decision that we owed them a close-up view of the largest and most superficial of the gluteal muscles. Trousers were dropped on the volte-face and the deed was swiftly done.
The Moma peeled off to port as though she had been scalded and we looked between ourselves sheepishly for while we had intended to be playful we’d meant no serious offense.
Our concerns were swiftly laid to rest however, for she continued her turn to port so far as to come right round and range up alongside again. The Soviet skipper had merely used the time spent in the turn to muster all hands – or butts – not actually on watch to his starboard weather decks in order to demonstrate that no matter what we could do he could do better.
They didn’t get much sun, those Soviets.
All in good fun and over in a bit with no hard feelings on either side. They fell back into position while we went back about our work.
I remember thinking that it would have been a shame to have to go to war against such men. You can’t say that about everyone you meet.