The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Getting Coffee, two minutes ago.


USS Scorpion, SSN-589

So there I was, in the back of the Sonar shack of the USS Shark, SSN 591, conducting a secret safe inventory prior to getting underway. I’ll never forget that day. I was waist-deep in inventory sheets and publications, pressed against the back wall because someone with a left-handed brain and a right-handed manual had put the safe up side against the back wall, so that the door opened outward, at knee height. Being on a submarine, I was well-accustomed to odd storage in odd places, but this just defied stupidity. I had to essentially stand on my head holding a flashlight in my teeth to see anything inside, and because it was a secret safe, just hauling everything out and laying it on the floor was more or less frowned upon.
My Senior Chief, who was normally a pretty mellow guy, had gotten irritated with our Sonar Officer trying to tell him how we should do something while talking in the passageway outside the shack, so he went and hauled him into Sonar for a little “private counseling”. Neither saw me, there in the back up against the bulkhead halfway upside-down. Senior Chief came in first, and spun around, JO started reiterating whatever it was he had said out in the passageway as he shut the door, which he apparently was doing too slowly. The senior chief held his hand up, leaned around and helped the JO finish shutting the door to the shack, stood himself back up straight and said, “Listen, lad. I’ve been doing it this way on this class of boat since I qualified on the Scorpion…”

For the uninitiated, you should know that the USS Scorpion sank in 1968. We were struggling our way through the last part of 1986, as I recall.

Apparently, at this particular moment the fleas of a thousand camels flew up my nose, and I sneezed. They both turned to look at me like I had just invaded the Holy of Holies. Then the Jnior Officer suddenly realized the gravity of what had just been said, and looked back at the Senior Chief with a bit of slack-jawed reverence. He drew a deep breath, looked at his feet, and said, very quietly, “I’m sorry”, and edged out the door.

Senior Chief was still glaring at me. The void through which the JO left gloomed at me, like the place I should have been two minutes ago. I smiled the wan smile of a man who is trying hard to recreate the historical facts of recent history. Senior Chief – still glaring. I stood up, turned to slide past him sideways in the narrow shack, and asked him if I could get him a cup of coffee two minutes ago. He didn’t exactly smile quite, but said, “and don’t come back for two minutes.”

We never spoke of it again. But once in a while, I would see Senior Chief talking to JO, and I’d smirk. And Senior Chief would glare the Glare of Doom. And I’d say, “Coffee, two minute ago, aye”.

Communication skills. I have them.

Coffee thief


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One Response to “Getting Coffee, two minutes ago.”

  1. Karlton Kent Keller says:

    Liked the coffee skills. Black of course.

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