“At first I thought something was wrong with my radio.” Says Chuck Finn, deckhand on a large yacht, one capable of world cruising but that sticks to just a very small section of it. “I had one of the engineers check it out and he said it works fine, despite being completely trashed. I know I’m on the right channel, and the volume is up. I just don’t seem to be hearing the calls. Anyway, have you ever been to Panama?” Asked as the bosun calls him on the deck channel for the fourth time in the two minutes our interview has been underway. When this is pointed out he says he thinks it was for someone else, that if it was important they’ll find him, and then repeats his questions about this reporter’s travel history.
While it’s unclear whether or not he’s aware of it, Chuck Finn is suffering from an ailment known as ‘auditory selectivity.’ Defined as a physical inability to hear because one has stopped caring, the malady is gaining new interest in how it affects human management theory, though it has long been recognized as an important factor in marriage therapy. In his case it appears to mostly be driven by an aggravated desire to hit the road.
“I hear there’s a trail that runs right across the backbone of Papua New Guinea.” He says, continuing something of a stream of consciousness world tour over the sound of his name being shouted on the decks both above and below where we’re seated. “Have you heard of that one? It’s called the Kodiak or something like that. I think that would be pretty fun. I’m going to ask for time off in April and if they don’t give it to me.” Here he mimics the noise of air escaping a balloon. One that can always be refilled.
Asked if he thinks his captain will grant him the leave he shrugs. “Both him and the chief officer keep telling me I’ve got it pretty sweet on here and would be a fool to blow it off. Which may be true, but you know what?” We do not know what, which is fine as he doesn’t pause to check. “They weren’t deckhands on here. You know what they were up to in their 20’s? Captain was a wind-surf instructor in the south of France living out of a panel van. And the CO was a surf lifeguard at Bondi beach who admitted to me when he was drunk that his nickname was ‘noshow’. So.” Here he gets up and leads us down a side-deck as a search party approaches.
“I don’t think they’re really talking to me.” He continues as the coast clears, referring to his operational superiors. “To be honest, I think they’re talking more to their old selves, though they won’t admit it. And really, it doesn’t matter. Because neither of us are listening.” A laughing high-five as the sun burns towards the horizon, he ignores the radio squawking his name, and asks what we know about the Shetland Islands.