The date was Thursday, August 1st, 2005 and I had duty. The previous afternoon, before leaving work, I had turned in my TLD for monthly reading and documentation. So after turnover Thursday morning I went up to Newt and told him to get me a new TLD. He was crabby or something and told me “no” about 3 or 4 times before I gave up and went about my business. I went the whole day without one, standing watch next to the RC as a discharge watch because the plant was solid. It wasn’t until I got up at 3 am to go relieve Darko that I realized that I didn’t have a TLD. You get so used to having it on that you don’t realize when you don’t have one on.
I made my way down to ERF to tell Darko that I couldn’t stand watch because I didn’t have TLD and he was dog tired and just wanted to get some shut-eye. He just gave me a “here-you-go” face and took off his TLD and gave it to me. I stood the rest of my watch and Darko came down after duty section turnover to see if I wanted breakfast. I told him to go to the lab and get me a TLD so he could have his back. This is where things got all fucked up.
Darko was standing there demanding the oncoming ELT to give him a TLD and the Oncoming ELT was asking why. Just then, the Reactor Labs Division Officer (aka. RCA) came up and overheard what was going on and starting asking his own questions. Why do you need a TLD? Where’s yours? “I gave it Fish.” Those four words that came out of Darko’s mouth would change his and my life forever. The RCA, just a JO in the Engineering Department, didn’t know what to do, so he ran to the XO (who as I will remind you was a douchebag). Darko comes back down to break the bad news to me.
The RCA found out what we had done and told the XO and we were both going to mast!
Later that day we were all heading to training in some shipyard building and we were all walking in a group. Someone in the group, piped up as if I wasn’t standing right there…
Loudmouth Douchebag: “Hey, Pastry did you hear what Darko and Fish got in trouble for this morning?”
Pastry: “No! What?!”
Loudmouth Douchebag: “The got caught ‘swapping’ TLDs.”
(Author’s Note: I put ‘swap’ in quotes because that was the term that was being thrown around, but there was no ‘swap’. Darko had simply given his to me.)
I’ll never forget the look on Pastry’s face. He was acting like I wasn’t even there.
The XO called us both up to his office that day as well. He was not happy. He thought he was God’s gift to nuclear power because he used to be the Squadron RCA. He bitched at Darko for a minute and called him a dumbass and all, but then it was my turn…
XO (addressing me): “And you. I would have never expected this from you of all people! You have no idea how disappointed in you I am.”
Remember all those points that I scored with him on the golf course earlier in the summer?? Gone.
I felt like the biggest piece of shit in the department. That whole following week my duty days consisted of sitting on my ass doing next to nothing, my days at home were spent moping around and then drank myself sideways.
On Thursday, September 8th, 2005 me and Darko had our mast. In our little chat with the XO a few days earlier, the XO was fishing for an excuse. He wanted us to make up some bullshit excuse as to why we did what we did. He kept forcing the issue so I mentioned that the division was tired and the bullshit was getting to us. Little did I know that the XO would bring it up during the mast proceedings. I thought that he genuinely cared and wanted to help our situation on the deck plates. That wasn’t the case. He wanted something to have to use against me at the mast.
The mast was going fairly smoothly until those comments were offered by the XO. That’s when the CO started railing me. I believe the term is ‘oral admonition.’
When it was all over, I was docked one half of a month’s pay for two months, and I got a suspended bust which meant I got to keep my E-5 rank, but if I fucked up at any time in the next 2 years, I would get knocked down to E-4. I recall a few months later I was sitting on my ass in front of the TV at home when Gamecock came home…
Gamecock: “Dude. Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”
Me: “Yup.” [Smiling]
Gamecock: “Aren’t you on probation?”
Me: [still smiling] “Yup.”
Gamecock just laughed out loud and shook his head. “You’ve got some balls, kid. You’re crazy, but fearless.”
The next day, Friday, September 9th, I left to go home on leave for my cousin’s wedding. I was going to be one of his groomsmen and I was in dire need of a vacation from all this bullshit, now more than ever before. It was good to get home, but I felt bad for our corpsman because of the dose estimate mess that I left in my wake. I offered to buy him a gift certificate to Buca di Beppo, which I never followed through on, but the intention was there. I remember being at home on leave, smoking a little grass over at my other cousin’s home when my cell rings. It was the COB! I was higher than a giraffe’s ass and I had to talk to the COB about my Navy fuck up. That was awful.
That week off was stellar. The epic bachelor party. Visiting old high school friends, family. The grooms dinner and golfing at Fox Hollow, the wedding and reception. It was good to get away from all the shit I was dealing with in Pearl and get home for some R & R. At the reception, my jacket got switched with another and my cell phone was in my jacket. I didn’t get that back for about a week. My dad had to track it down and mail it to me.
Another thing just to bring me back down to Earth… I got a speeding ticket on 694 as I was hauling ass down to MSP to catch my flight back to HNL. The only reason I was in a hurry was because I wanted to get there early and see if I could upgrade to a first-class ticket…
Cop: “In a hurry to get to church, eh?” [It was early Sunday morning]
Me: “No, sir. Going to the airport.”
He comes back after running my plates (on my rented car) and my Hawaii ID.
Cop: “Are you in the military?”
Me: “Yes, sir.”
Cop: “Well, normally I like to help out a service-member, but you were just going way too fast. Sorry, here you go. [Gives me the ticket] The mailing address is on the back.”
It was about this time that I was called for jury duty in two states at the same time! I still had valid IDs from both the state of Minnesota and Hawai’i and got tapped in the same month in both states. I obviously got out of duty in both places because I was in the Navy.
One good thing the Navy did for me.