Sea Stories

Remember showers on the boat? As much as I loved my daily ephemeral oblutions, snagging a shower before watch was a major evolution.

First, slide out of my rack on the port side of the eighteen-man bunkroom. Stand on that ice-cold floor, doubly so in north Pacific or the 'Sea of None of Your Business'. Pull my damp shower shoes out of the shoe locker, grab my shower gear, don't forget the towel, shuffle over to the ladder, slowly pull my way up to Bow Compartment Upper Level by the door to the 'Goat Locker', clamber sleepily through the hatch into Ops Middle Level, hoping I didn't drag any bare skin across cold hullmetal, turn starboard into the shower room, and hope there was an empty shower stall. All that just to get there.

Hang my towel and skivvies, open the door, and climb into one of two stainless steel iceboxes. If you were lucky, someone just left having warmed up the stall, otherwise hope you didn't bump the bare steel wall with any body part you didn't want to get frozen off. Readjust the shower head so you didn't get blasted with icy cold or searing hot water until you got temperature adjusted, turn on the hot and cold, quickly adjust the temperature, readjust the shower head, get my hair and skin wet, savor that feeling for about 15 secs, and then shut off the water.

Now to start the shower proper. Lather up, scrub-a-dub-dub, shampoo the hair, all that with the water off. (Remember we made our own fresh water, so supplies were limited and controlled.)

All done scrubbing? With my eyes closed to keep the soap and shampoo out, grope for the shower head, point it toward the wall so I don't get surprised, and turn on the water flow again. Check the temp, adjust as necessary, and re-point the head to start my rinse cycle. A quick 15 or 30 second rinse, a few seconds to enjoy the hot water, and it was time to shut it down. 

That's if everything went well!

Nobody pounding on the door, yelling "let's go, Hollywood!" or "save some for the rest of us!" or similar? Count your blessings.

Water didn't get shut off by A-gang mid-shower for water hours because the evaporator was Tango-Uniform? Really count your blessings!

No "bong-bong-bong-bong" for Battle Stations or a fire drill to drag your soapy, unrinsed butt out into the passageway? You really lucked out this time! No wonder showers were such a big deal!

Now I'm sure I took my share of showers on the boat, but I don't ever remember earning a "Hollywood" designator for too many or too long. For the most part, I actually don't remember any specific shower on the boat.

Except one.

It was probably the fall of 1984. I'd been selected for Chief (much to the XO's amazement), so I'd had enough time on board to feel like I owned the place, otherwise this never would have happened.

We were in port, probably San Diego, probably getting ready for the WestPac 85 deployment.  We were planning to spend much of the day working up for some evaluation which necessitated a full-blown weapons emergency drill. Whatever the story, it was one of the big drills, one that typically took a good four to six hours. Remember those?

MMC Tom Postulka and I were hanging out in the Crew's Mess post-duty day waiting for this to go down, so I was probably not in the best of moods to start with.  When the casualty was finally called away, we raced down the ladder to the Torpedo Room, and being first responders we got "horribly contaminated" or something like that in the process of taking care of business. So we got "shrink-wrapped in yellow-poly" and escorted up to the XO's stateroom which was the designated "decontamination" station.

Helping hands stripped our tired behinds 'bare-nekked', shoved our "contaminated" clothing into a poly bag, and left us standing there in the confusion. In a few minutes, it was quiet as all the activity shifted back in the Torpedo Room. There we were, me and Tom, two naked sailors standing in the XO's stateroom enjoying the air-conditioning like we didn't have anything else to do. Not in my most demented dreams could I have imagined that scene.

We probably spent 30 minutes standing there bare-a__ed waiting for instructions - the XO was the drill supervisor and he kept telling us to hold on, they'd get around to deconning us. Everytime he'd pass by, we'd ask, and the XO would bark at us.

"Stay put, be patient, we have to do the full decon as part of the drill," he'd say, "as soon as we are done in the Torpedo Room."

I was steamed. I'd had enough of this humiliation. Tom, on the other hand, and you know Tom, was cool. He just kept smiling that wry smile of his as if somehow he was getting the good end of this deal. Finally I got so angry I snapped.

"Enough!" I told Tom, "I'm deconning myself!" and climbed into the CO/XOs shower.

Before the stunned Tom could respond, the water was hot and I was committed to my own personal Hollywood.

I lathered up with the XO's shampoo, and reveled in hot water and the craziness of what I was doing, but you know what they say, "In for a penny, in for a pound!"

I looked out briefly and Tom was still standing there, bare naked, staring at the floor and slowly shaking his head at my slight breach of protocol, probably wishing he had joined the Army.

Long minutes passed, and I enjoyed every one of them. Steam fogged the mirror over the XO's sink. The hot water felt like it could last forever. This might have been the longest shower I ever took on the Bates, and nobody was hollering "Hollywood!"

I think I was singing the Beatle's 'Octopus's Garden' in fine voice when the XO finally got word of my shenanigans and ripped the shower stall door open, and you can imagine what he was yelling as I turned the shower off and wiped the water out of my eyes.

The best part was not standing there naked, dripping wet, covered in suds while I got my butt-chewing.

It wasn't even getting a steamy twenty-minute shower out of the deal.

The best part was asking the XO for a towel and having him hand me his!


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