There are some things you can do on a submarine that simply don't fly in the "real world." Having this many males in such close proximity, and in isolation from the rest of the world, has a tendency to alter attitudes and reduce the overall level of sensitivity. One such instance played out last night. I affixed a sign above the rack of one of my co-workers, Mumbles; the sign read "RESERVED STOWAGE AREA - WIDE LOADS ONLY." I knew it would be a few hours before he returned to the rack, so I snapped a photo and left the sign up for his viewing. When I awoke this morning and dressed, something was clearly amiss. Being more than a bit groggy, it took me a full sixty seconds to realize that both legs of my coveralls had been tied shut at the ankle. Such a response was clever and proportionate - a rare stroke of good form from Mumbles.
Cleanliness and sanitation are prime imperatives on an underway submarine. Nearly all of us live in tight quarters, and in many cases, the lack of space forces three people to share two bunks (a practice we call "hot-racking"). The captain and the executive officer have reserved staterooms, and share a head (bathroom). The other officers have a dedicated head, as do the chief petty officers. But the unwashed dirty blue majority - more than a hundred people - are limited to six sinks, four toilets, three showers, and a urinal. As you might imagine, these are prime conditions for the spread of disease. Since having the crew succumb to an epidemic simply isn't an option, we place a premium on preventing such an occurrence. If a man isn't clean, he'll find out about it - and with a quickness. This directly opposes another important consideration - the need for water conservation. Our distilling equipment has a fixed capacity, so we make sure to save water on everything we do. This led to the development of the "Navy shower." It consists of wetting oneself down, securing the water and soaping up, and then running the water again to rinse off the soap. My friend Ryan, for whom hour-long showers are the standard, would find the practice abominable, but it's a necessary way of life for us in the Seagoing Military Force.
Today's news informs me that the United States is seeking a status of forces agreement to keep American troops in Iraq indefinitely. The concessions desired by the U. S. seem to severely impinge upon Iraq's sovereignty. And the Bush administration has no intent to seek the advice or consent of the Congress before its implementation, should the agreement be finalized. Fifty-eight bases? Control over thirty thousand feet of airspace? Immunity for troops and contractors? The power to determine if a hostility constitutes an act of war? If these are the conditions on which an American security guarantee is predicated, the Iraqis are likely better off without our presence - as are we. While not a major cause, the current foreign and defense policy of our nation is a reason why I can't entertain staying in the Navy. It's a shame that the candidate who advocates a reduction and ultimate end to our Iraqi boondoggle is also a socialist who intends to pickpocket my bank account in the name of the public good.