Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Humor in Uniform – SHORE BASED MOGUL

HUMOUR IN UNIFORM

(This is an apocryphal story - a spoof – humor in uniform – so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh)

SHORE BASED MOGUL
Hilarious Unforgettable Vignettes of my Glorious Navy Days
By
VIKRAM KARVE

Disclaimer:
1. This story is a spoof, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
 


SHORE BASED MOGUL

During my long career in the Navy, I have observed that, at any given point of time, there are two types of appointments for individuals in naval uniform:

1. The “man at sea”
2. The “shore based mogul”

In theory, the “shore based mogul” is supposed to support the “man at sea”.

But, in practice, it is exactly the opposite that happens, and the hapless “man at sea” is hounded and dominated by the “shore based mogul”.

Of course, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a Naval Officer has to undergo both types of appointments, afloat and ashore, and I have seen many a powerful “shore based mogul” reduced to a powerless “man at sea” when he went for his sea appointment, and vice versa.

The exceptions are some lucky individuals who never have to go to sea, like officers in “landlubber branches” and lady naval officers, who always remain powerful “shore based moguls”.

After slogging at sea, and a few “powerless” appointments ashore, one fine day, I suddenly realized that I had become a “shore based mogul” when I was transferred to the mighty naval dockyard on the eastern seaboard.

Actually, my department was a “post office”.

Ships raised various defects which they wanted us to repair, and, like a post office does, we stamped the forms.

Our “stamp” indicated how the job was to be done.

Now, let me tell you how my “post office” ran.

There were many sundry officers and staff in the department doing all sorts of work, but essentially, the whole show was run by two senior foremen – experienced veterans who had spent more than 30 years slogging in various departments of the dockyard.

One was a “good cop” and the other was a “bad cop”.

If I wanted a job to be done, I would send it to the “good cop” who would stamp the request accordingly.

If I did not want a job to be done, I would send the request to the “bad cop” who had some interesting stamps in his drawer.

He would then use his ingenuity.

Let me give you a few examples (illustrative examples, purely apocryphal):

He could stamp “SS” – which meant that “Ship’s Staff” is to do the job.

Quite a “Catch 22” case – if ship’s staff could do the job then why would they project it to the Dockyard in the first place.

(Of course, I am sure “insiders” know the answer to that one)

Or he could stamp “SSRR” – “ship’s staff remove and refit” – this was like a “carry in” repair where the ship’s sailors would remove the item, land it in the dockyard, collect it after repairs, and refit the item back into the ship.

This was okay for smaller items, which we had agreed to do and were handled by the “good cop”.

But when “bad cop” used the “SSRR” stamp with a wicked smile on his face, he did so for such items which it was impossible for the ship’s sailors to remove from the ship.

We once had a furious Engineer Officer who had been asked to remove his main engine and land it in the dockyard – “SSRR” the “bad cop” had stamped on the request.

“Bad Cop” had many such interesting stamps, but the trump card in bad cop’s repertoire was the stamp “QA”

“QA” meant “Quote Authority” and it threw the ship’s staff into a tizzy.

No one knew who or what this “authority” was.

If a confused officer landed up asking as to who was the “authority” to be “quoted”, our “bad cop” would say matter-of-factly: “How do I know? If I knew I wouldn’t ask you.”

This system was running fine.

I have learnt one thing – if a system is running fine, don’t tamper with it – so I let the system run, and everyone in the department was happy.

One evening I unexpectedly met an old shipmate in the swimming pool.

We had served together on a ship around 12 years ago when I was doing my first sea appointment and he was struggling for his watch-keeping ticket.

The Captain made him struggle so much, that the moment he got his watch-keeping ticket, he volunteered for aviation to escape from the surface navy forever.

He was enjoying his flying when the navy decided to remind him that he was still in white uniform and appointed him as the Commanding Officer of a surface ship.

He was quite disgusted and remarked to me: “You know how I had a tough time doing my watch-keeping. I am bloody clueless, but thankfully my officers seem to be quite clued up and I have decided to leave everything to them. I hope that this sea tenure is over fast so that I can get back to my flying.”

I told him about myself – where all I had been transferred since those glorious Mumbai days.

“Hey, why don’t you come over for a glass of beer tomorrow? I’ll tell them to make your favourite Asian Fried Rice for lunch,” he said.

“Okay,” I said, “I’ll be on board at 12.”

Next afternoon, we sat in the Captain’s Cabin sipping chilled beer.

I observed that his cabin was in bad shape.

He must have noticed that I had noticed, because he said, “Look at this shabby cabin – everything seems to be dilapidated – and just imagine – this is supposed to be the Captain’s Cabin,” he complained.

I nodded.

“Hey, you are in the dockyard – can you do something?” he asked.

“Sure – I’ll try,” I said.

When I returned to my office, I called “good cop” and mentioned it to him.

“Good Cop” smiled and said: “Sir, no problem – I will visit the ship, see what is to be done and get things moving. After all, he is your friend.”

My friend’s cabin was refurbished on priority, and soon, his cabin was the best Captain’s Cabin in his squadron.

He was so happy, that he praised the dockyard effusively, mentioning me in particular, to his seniors in the fleet, the good words carried, and this earned me words of appreciation from various quarters.

Now, there was a hot-shot CO of a ship in his squadron who thought he was “cat’s whiskers”.

When he visited my friend’s cabin, he too wanted his cabin refurbished.

My friend told him to meet me.

Now, though this “hot shot” officer was roughly of my seniority, he thought it below his dignity to come over and meet me – after all he was a prima donna Commanding Officer from the crème de la crème Executive Branch and he was not going to grovel before a lowly technical officer.

So he sent an official request asking that his cabin be refurbished.

I promptly forwarded this request to “bad cop”.

“Bad Cop” had a look at the request, thought for a while, and then stamped it “QA”.

The “hot shot’ CO was flabbergasted.

He promptly sent his XO to find out what “QA” meant.

I sent the XO to “bad cop” who patiently explained to the XO that “QA” meant “Quote Authority”.

The XO asked: “what does ‘authority’ mean? Who or what is the ‘authority’ to be quoted?”

In his typical style, our “bad cop” said matter-of-factly: “Sir, how do I know? If I knew I wouldn’t ask you.”

The XO went back to his ship and told the CO what had transpired. He advised the CO to meet me.

“I am a Commanding Officer. I don’t meet small fry. Get me an appointment with the General Manager (GM),” the CO told his XO.

Next morning the GM called me to his office.

The “hot shot” CO was sitting there.

I sat beside him, and looked at my GM across the table, and asked, “Anything, Sir?”

“He says you refused to refurbish his cabin,” the GM said to me.

“Sir, it is not an operational job. So I asked him to Quote Authority,” I said.

The GM looked at the “hot shot” CO and said matter-of-factly, “Okay. That’s it. Just quote authority and the job will be done.”

“But, Sir, he did the same job on another ship – he refurbished the Captain’s Cabin of XXX who is the CO of my one of my squadron ships YYY…” the “hot shot” CO complained vociferously.

The GM looked at me and raised his eyebrow.

“Sir, that CO is a good friend of mine – he requested me personally – so I did the job on bhai-bandi basis,” I said.

“I see,” the GM said.

Then the GM looked at the “hot shot” CO and said, “Well, you decide – the choice is yours – either you Quote Authority or see if you can get the job done on bhai-bandi basis.”

One hour later, there was an invitation from the “hot shot” CO calling me over for a glass of beer.


MORAL OF THE STORY

The “man at sea” must always remember that it is the “shore based moguls” who call the shots.

(Many merchant mariners tell me this is true in the merchant navy as well)

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved. 

Disclaimer:
1. This story is a spoof, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)
     
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
 
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