Today is my birthday, and last night my division had a farewell dinner for someone who’s going to Forecaster School. Nobody wants to hang out with their co-workers outside of work. For me it’s right at the bottom alongside Mandatory Fun with things I want to spend my limited free time doing.
And I mean limited free time. One can be forgiven for thinking that shore duty means you have more time to yourself and what you want to do, but our schedule nixes that idea. Right now we work six days in a row, off three days, on three nights, and off three more days before the cycle starts anew. We went from twelve hour days to six, but the trade-off is that we are there more days a month, and if there is something going on that requires all hands (uniform inspection, for instance), then that’s another day you won’t have. Combine that with any collateral duties (extra duties you aren’t compensated for) that take place on your off-days, the extra work and less manpower, and it’s no wonder some people are dropping chits to return to sea duty six months early.
The dinners themselves can be awkward affairs. Sometimes it depends on the choice of venue. In the Navy, we call the dinner a Hail and Farewell: you hail the new people aboard and say farewell to the people who are leaving. The trouble starts when not everyone shows up — the first three I went two, one guy just didn’t come — and it gets no better when you’re sitting around the table, wishing you were elsewhere. Nothing to talk about except work.
I’ve been to four so far in San Diego, and I’m happy to report this is the least awkward division I’ve ever worked with. For instance, we actually talk to each other. Isn’t it great how sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference?
Last night I skipped beer and stuck with water, and I ended up chatting with my co-worker’s son, who is 12.
Co-Worker’s Son: Do you like to play any online games?
Me: Not in a long time. When I was your age, I played this game called Starcraft.
Co-Worker’s Son: Never heard of it.
Oh man. I can’t think of a more appropriate way to ring in my 32nd birthday.
One benefit of joining the Navy: working with kids fresh out of high school means I have to stop bullshitting myself about my youth.