“Any questions?” Asks the captain as he brings to a close a meeting in which he’s banned headphones on deck, introduced a mandatory 10:00 PM curfew, and said he will fine crew he catches smoking regardless of their location when they are doing it (his exact words: “You can be in the ass-end of Kruger National Park having just escaped a pack of stampeding water buffalo, crying like you did the first time you watched My Girl, grateful to still be alive, and pondering whether anything really matters if a large mammal can crush your skull like an egg on any given Tuesday a thousand miles from everything you ever planned on doing, but if I catch you with a cigarette in your hands, mouth, or recently stubbed out on the ground in your general vicinity, you my dears are going to cough up 100 U.S. dollars on the spot or pack your bags. And I mean cough.’ He also said no more crew wine.
There were no questions. But as Captain Dugres strode out of the mess, confident he had gotten his message across – which he paraphrased for The General Alarm as being: “This ain’t a country club, and I’m not fucking golfing”- his phone began to light up with incoming messages. From crew agents. Checking references. For his crew. Because they were looking for new jobs.
“I really don’t think I was that hard on them.” He says as he turns his phone to silent.
“All I ask is for eighteen people who are hard-working, alert, sober, non-smoking, well-presented, visible-tattoo free, preferably white with a middle-upper class background and have a college degree that they aren’t especially attached to using. Is that too much?” He sighs and turns his phone face down as it strobes away with emailed queries, a circuitously lit beacon of his own crew members’ distress.
“It’s also a real help if everyone on here has no particular need to go home very often, but aren’t emotionally unbalanced by this lack of close familial love or attachment. That’s important.”
We’re in the middle of asking if he’s ever worked with any one person who fulfilled these requirements, much less eighteen, when we’re interrupted by a neatly folded piece of paper being slid under his office door. The captain glances at it and rolls his eyes.
“That’ll be the chief.” Says Dugres, appraising the paper from his chair without moving to retrieve it. “I’m pretty sure he starts every morning off by printing a resignation letter with that day’s date on it and then goes around looking for a reason to sign. I get an average of about three a week from him.”
Before we can comment another piece of paper slides under the door, on top of the first. And another, and another. This reporter begins to wonder if these submissions will make a wedge of resignation letters that will trap us in a rather small room with a captain who is rapidly becoming the only remaining crew member on a vessel the size of a small office building. Dugres stops talking as the letters continue to be jammed in the narrow gap between the sill and the door. He glances at his phone, rubs his forehead, sighs, and says:
“Maybe I should have let them keep the wine.”