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Location:Texas, USA Naturalized US Citizen of Irish extract -   Fixed Wing and Helo trucker.Interests: "The Absurdity of Man". I am a proud supporter of Blarney, Nonsense, and Hooey. I enjoy being a chopper jockey, and trying to figure the world, people and belief systems out. I'm just not very good at it, so it keeps me real busy. I scribble, blog, run this website, mess with rental houses, ride motorbikes, and read as much as I can. I went solo 44 years ago, and I like to say I'm gonna get me a real job one day. When I grow up. ("but not just yet, Lord, not just yet") For my aviation scribbles see www.chopperstories.com.... enjoy! I wish you Peace in your Life. May you always walk with the sun on your face, and a breeze ruffling your hair. And may you cherish a quiet wonder for our awesome Universe. Life isn't always good. But it is always fascinating. Never quit.
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A Blip on the Radar (22) "He not like to eat with crew"
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A Blip on the Radar (22) "He not like to eat with crew"
A Blip on the Radar


Part 22:     He not like to eat with crew...




           I was doing a 'holiday relief' on a new boat.
It just meant that the boat had a long time regular pilot, who was off on a three month break. I got to cover for him. It was a fine boat. I had my own roomy cabin, with a toilet and shower. Cool. I even had a window view onto the working deck. The captain, a Taiwanese, spoke pretty good English, and was quiet, but friendly.
My helicopter was a Hughes 500. With a C20 B engine. I had a stack of books. A beaten up, half hammered-to-death laptop. Plenty of tea and coffee. An arsenal of chocolate biscuits. And, present as always, in copious supply, a million crazy stories floating around in my inquisitive mind.  Provoked and prodded along by my usual infernal curiosity about life and the living. Yes, that self-same dubious attribute that constantly gets me into trouble...
         What more could I want? Life was good. In-ter-esting...

          On the very first day out at sea, a knock came at the door.
I opened up, and was surprised to see a diminutive Chinese gentleman standing there, nervously,  with a tray of food. I stared at him, and he looked at me, a trifle embarrassed, it seemed. I was puzzled. Slow on the uptake, I eventually inquired:
         "What, for me?"
I know, I'm not the sharpest knife in the box...
He didn't seem to understand the question, so I pointed at my chest, and looked at him questioningly. It seemed so, he came in, deposited the tray on my table, bowed, and humbly departed. With never a smile. That really puzzled me. I had already spent nearly two years on tuna boats, and this was a first.
        Hmmm... room service...
I pondered the implications over a solitary session. This wouldn't do. And I resolved to go see the captain afterwards. Mostly, I think I was just puzzled. It seemed a very odd arrangement.

          When I caught up with the captain, he was standing on the bridge, staring silently into the distance.
He was a soft spoken man, quietly thoughtful, who never wasted words. I told him about what had happened, and asked him why I was being brought my meals to my cabin. He told me their usual pilot, who had been on the ship for years, didn't like to eat with the crew. And insisted on having his meals brought to his room.

             He not like to eat with crew...             

I'm sure I looked as surprised as I felt. To me, that didn't make sense at all. I thought of the fun and interesting conversations I had enjoyed on previous boats. Sure, it hadn't all been plain sailing, there were some mean, moody, crotchy old misers, but there were always plenty of chatty, interesting characters. Who asked about my life and experiences, and who, in turn, answered my many questions about their lives and experiences. Who showed me pictures of their wives and girlfriends. Or pictures of houses they were building. Their local village.  They taught me Chinese, and I taught them English.  It was interesting. Frickin' hilarious sometimes.
         A lot better than being cooped up in a room on my own...
The captain nodded understandingly, and asked me if I preferred to eat with the crew.
        Sure, I said, emphatically...            

        I thought no more about it, and that evening, when it was time to have tsuh-wann,  I simply ambled down to the galley. Routine. You know, you're hungry, you go eat with the boys. What the hell, eh?
I was accordingly taken quite off guard by the reception. I almost received a standing ovation. I got cheered.
They all stood up. Some clapped. Everybody was smiling, and everybody made a big fuss of me. I was bemused. They were superbly hospitable.  I was shown to a table, and prompty received a present of a big box of chocolates. From the Chief Engineer.
         Strange...
Very nice, but really strange.

         It took me a while, and another conversation with the captain, before I slowly started to figure out the group dynamics. It emerged that nobody liked their regular pilot, and they all felt he looked down on them. They knew he was a good pilot, they knew the captain liked him as a pilot, they knew he found fish. But... he didn't talk to them. He didn't acknowledge them. He had zero interest in them. Contempt, even. If anybody got in his way, he shouted at them. Other than that... they didn't exist. They knew it, they felt it, they resented it.

        Enter one Irish pilot. A bumbling, somewhat clumsy fellow, well-meaning in his own way, famously undiplomatic, unconventional, but chatty and eager to communicate. With everybody and anybody. With a love of practical jokes, and miming out the punch line.  Somewhat (maybe massively) naive, moving through the ether quite happily on cloud number nine, and just put together and wired in perhaps a slightly different way. That was me. I had no clue for a while as to what was going on, but I slowly figured it out. Eventually...

         It's a small incident, but it has always stayed in my mind. I had a great time on that boat. I flew mostly with the captain, and it was great flying with him. Apart from the one time he nearly killed the both of us, trying to drop a radio buouy on a vertical floater....
I made friends with many of the crew, and we spent hours after the fishing, Bee-Essing about Life, Death and the Universe. It was a very interesting, stimulating time.  

         I was kinda sorry to leave that boat...


*        *       *       *       *      *       *


             There is a sequel to this story...

           A year or two afterwards, I was in a Tuna Head Drinking Hole somewhere, entertaining a gaggle of listeners with some stories that featured my multi-fated attempts to learn both the Chinese language and their customs. There was the tale of the "Garbage Can",  and the one featuring "Shithouse Etiquette". There was my "Psychopath" story, and the time I laughingly tried to wish the second engineer a "good meal". (And accidentally -whilst laughing- called him a "monkey"...).  There were lots of stories about the Chinese language, of which I learned several hundred words, and they were frequently very entertaining. In the midst of some hilarity, I was asked a question by another pilot. It was no less than the very pilot who I had replaced for the three month vacation break described above.
             Him of the room service...

            He asked me if the word "How" (spoken like a Hollywood Red Indian) means "good"?
Yes, I said. Trying hard to keep the surprise out of my face.
And "Pooh-how" means "No good".  He looked thoughtful.
And "Sai-tay" also means "Bad" I told him. I warmed to my theme. After a few more words, I saw his eyes had glazed over. No more interest. I hoped he would remember "How" and "Pooh-how".

             Because...
with only those two words, you can communicate.  Anywhere in the world. With any race, any language, any culture. Heck, I've done it. You can have whole conversations. With some facial expressions thrown in. Some miming. You're in business... You can relate.

             The surprise I tried to keep out of my face was because of this:
You will hear "How" and "pooh how" every day, many, many times, on any Taiwanese boat. That pilot had spent ten years on tuna boats, and had just learned his very first Chinese word.   For all my many personal intellectual and linguistic failings, I think I learned both those words within the first ten minutes...

             He not like to eat with crew...             

Now that is what I call a screaming, self imposed, near total isolation from your fellow man.  I'd be climbing the walls, probably. Solitude at times is great, peace and quiet, time to read, write, (scribble more likely), think... But Life is still all about people...
It takes all sorts, and all sorts of cultures.  And somewhere along the line, one slowly learns tolerance, understanding, and respect. An appreciation of differences, but also a realization that we are all, in the end, brothers.
That is where The Compassion Factor comes in.

             He not like to eat with crew...             

     It makes me feel lonely to even think about it...

    

Francis Meyrick
     (c)

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on May 5, 2010, 3:52 pm
We little humans, hurtling through the Universe on our tiny, pale blue dot, will find few answers to Life's great mysteries. But we should at least find many of the questions. To write is to ask. To seek. To grope. With humility, and humor. Peace.
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