November 19, 2005
Underway: Living Quarters
When I ride on a co-ed ship, I sleep in the same room with enlisted girls. In quarters the size of a typical living room (they call it "berthing"), about thirty girls sleep. There are ten three-decker beds, two tables, one TV, two toilets, and a shower.
The beds are narrow and only six feet long (if you are a tall guy, you have to sleep folded up). The ceiling is so low that you cannot sit up without splitting your skull. You literaly have to crawl into and out of the bed. They don't call these racks "coffin beds" for nothing!
Most sailors don't want to sleep on the top bed. Therefore, when a civilian like me comes aboard, that's where she is most likely to be assigned. This was actually fine with me. Although climbing a ladder up and down while half asleep is not a easiest thing in the world, the top bed has much higher ceiling. For a claustrophobe like me, it is actually better. (Besides, I don't have to worry about somebody above me getting seasick in the middle of the night, if you know what I mean.)
When that many people live in such a small room, you notice a lot of things: smell, sound, lack of privacy. Even though the berthing is cleaned every day, the odor of thirty people can get overwhelming, especially as I have a very acute sense of smell. There are cans of air freshener everywhere, and the girls use it obsessively; but it only masks the smell and makes it even worse! Also, everyone uses her own flavor of perfume and deodorant, so that the room is always filled with some sort of weird, sweet odor, like rotting flowers. A dog would go crazy in there!
The ship is always noisy. Different pieces of equipment are making all kinds of noise all the time. Our berthing was right next to the engine room, so we heard the lullaby of the ship's engines clanking and grinding all night long. Also the berthing was same level as the ocean surface, so I heard the waves lapping at the hull, which was actually rather soothing.
None of these sounds bothered me. After a while, I forgot they were even there. I sleep very soundly anyway (Dafydd sleeps with one eye open, and he's never totally asleep, it seems).
The only thing that really bothered me were the gazillion alarm clocks. Sailors have many different shifts: some get up at midnight, some at 3:00 a.m., and so forth, and everyone sets his alarm accordingly. From midnight through six a.m., I was awakened every hour, on the hour, by somebody's stupid alarm clock. And of course, since each person's clock is slightly off from all the others, a bunch of alarms go off within few minutes, creating a bell curve of sleep deprivation.
Some people don't wake up right away, and their alarms keep ringing or buzzing for seemingly minutes. For god's sake, get up already! I thought to myself. It was impossible to sleep through the night even for me. And of course at 0600, the good old reveille sounds!
I never set my alarm. What's the use? With all those bells and beepers going off, I couldn't tell which one was mine anyway. So everytime I woke up, I checked the time and just got up when necessary. I was never late.
For some people, the lack of privacy is really an issue; but it turned out for me it wasn't. When ten people try to take a shower, go to the bathroom, and wash their faces, all at the same time, you cannot be embarrased about anything. Girls burp and fart in front of everyone and don't care. (I did try to avoid eating anything that could produce gas.)
Some people just put on headphones and zoned out, hiding in their racks with the curtain drawn... did I tell you each coffin bed has a curtain? Me, I just sat at the table and read. I finished three or four books, so the underway wasn't entirely wasted!
Hatched by Sachi on this day, November 19, 2005, at the time of 7:21 PM
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Tracked on November 21, 2005 4:17 AM
The following hissed in response by: streeter
Yeah, it sucks, but being even a minute late in that environment is unacceptable. Happy trails.
The following hissed in response by: Patrick S Lasswell
It's funny but you really get used to it. Of course I was always on a ship with divisional/department berthing. That meant that I was always berthed with people who had some interest in my well being. Of course that only goes so far...
You won't have the chance of coming back into port after a long deployment and experiencing what happens to young people who are drinking away their various stresses. Imagine how much fun that berthing gets about 3:00AM with some drunk bastard(s) who won't hit their rack and sleep it off. Part of my responsibilities on both my ships was to wake up the deeply hung over sailors in my division. After a few years, I lost all mercy.
The above hissed in response by: Patrick S Lasswell at November 21, 2005 8:32 PM
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