September 25, 2014

My career as greasers' peggy

FOR A BRIEF PERIOD of my life I was a professional seaman. At least, I was a member of the seamen’s union. Catering Department, actually. I was the starboard watch greasers’ peggy.

The greasers were close to the lowest form of life on the liner — just slightly above the gooseneck barnacles that festooned the hull. As I understood it, they worked down below in the engine room and squirted oil on the pistons as they went up and down. There were six of them in the starboard watch and they were a rough lot. They wore dirty blue overalls and thick black boots. I was their slave.

I changed their bed linen. I cleaned up after them in the heads. I brought them their meals in the tiny greasers’ mess up near the bows. When they had finished, I threw their dirty dishes overboard through the porthole. I learned that trick from my oppo, the greasers’ peggy on the port side.

As a matter of fact, I was regarded as a sort of hero by the port-side greasers’ peggy because I had been spoken to by the Captain Himself. He came around one day on an official inspection when we were near the equator and reprimanded me for putting wet cutlery away in the drawer.

“Must put it away dry,” he said gruffly. “Fearful health hazard, wet cutlery. Specially in this heat, what?”

I did my best to look contrite. “Aye, aye, sir,” I said in my best toady fashion.

“Cor!” said my fellow peggy afterward in admiring tones. “He don’t usually bovver to speak to the likes of us. He must like you.”

I decided then that if I were going to be bullied by the Captain, I didn’t want to be a greasers’ peggy any more.  If I ever went to sea on a big passenger ship again, I wanted to be an officer, and have dinner (etc.) in a nice white uniform with the pretty ladies.

So when we reached port (and having discovered how much work you had to do before they’d let you become an officer)  I decided that writing for a living wasn’t so bad after all, and I’ve been doing it non-stop ever since.

Today’s Thought
A month of days, a year of months, 20 years of months in the treadmill, is the life that slays everything worthy of the name of life.
— Roy Bedicheck, Adventures with a Texas Naturalist

An elderly man put a five-dollar bill into the Salvation Army kettle. Then a thought struck him.
“What happens to this money?” he asked.
“I give it to the Lord,” the young woman replied.
“And how old are you now, Miss?” the old gent asked.
“I’m 21,” she said.
“Well,” he said, taking his five dollars back, “no need for you to bother. I’ll be seeing Him long before you.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

No comments: