Francis Meyrick

A Blip on the Radar (23A) “Birth of a Psychopath “

Posted on May 9, 2010

(kind of a really BAD DAY)

A Blip on the Radar

Part 23A: “Birth of a Psychopath ”


Every so often, I would think of some useful word that I might need some day, in the execution of my duties, and look it up in my Chinese -English dictionary. Then I would go to the Radio Operator, point it out, and get him to pronounce it. I would practice with him a few times, jot it down in my little book, and now I had another excellent word in my armory. It didn’t take long to build up a respectable vocabulary, suitable for all occasions. I sure couldn’t write or read the language, but I could speak the words, and often understand the reply.
A really whammerooni word, I thought, that I was bound to need sooner or later, was going to be:

“Psychopath ”

I just knew that word was going to be useful. Essential, even , in the armory of a tuna helicopter pilot-mechanic. Flying off Taiwanese tuna boats. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean. On his own.
I discovered the Chinese word was:

“Sen-tin-pjin “.

A few days passed by, and, as usual, I was on the prowl for suitable opportunities to practice new words. I always had about five or six new Chinese words, that were eagerly waiting to be flight tested for real.
I passed a group of sailors, squatting on the deck, scowling darkly, battering hell out of hostile engine parts, using ugly looking hammers. I’m not sure what the plot was, but I guessed they were fixing something. Whatever it was that they were repairing, I could tell they were fixing it good. After a while, I could see they were trying to get a pin through a hole in another engine part. They were taking it in turns to beat the living daylights out of the finely machined part. I stopped, and after a while, I intervened. They weren’t too happy with me. I explained as diplomatically as I could, that they should take the smaller part, and put it in the deep freeze for a few hours. Then put the larger part in an oven, to expand it, and then take it out and try again.
Later that day, one of them came to me, all delighted, to tell me that little trick had worked.
In terms of group dynamics, what was happening now was that I had notched up some extra standing. In their eyes, I knew something. I mattered. I wasn’t just that dumb helicopter jockey that earned far more money than they did, and didn’t even speak Chinese very well. I knew some useful stuff.

A few days after that, there they were, battering hell out of something else that had offended them, and I happened to be passing at the exact moment that a Chinaman belted his thumb with a large hammer, that he had been previously swinging with a passion. The sound effects were quite spectacular, and I just love the way an angry Chinaman can swear. He puts his heart and soul into the vernacular, with a passionate venom that is truly quite artistic. His face contorts, and it’s all teeth and fury. Beautiful stuff.
I made up my mind, right there and then, to learn some good Chinese swear words.
I just knew they would come in handy, sometime.
But first, I now had the perfect opportunity for the baptismal launch of a fine word, that I had been quietly and lovingly practicing. I folded my arms, and adopted a mock-serious expression. Then I quietly tapped my foot.
He stared up at me, furiously sucking on his thumb. His colleagues, also, stared up at me.
I shook my head slowly, and sadly, and carefully, still with the mock-serious expression, I pronounced a stern judgment:

“Sen-tin-pjin! ”

There was a shocked silence. Then another sailor, delightedly, repeated the word, and another. In next to no time, it seemed the whole ship was in hysterics, with everybody laughing and shouting:

“Sen-tin-pjin! ”

Even the injured sailor, still sucking on his thumb, was laughing, whilst the word for “psychopath ” rang around the ship. The crew, so the Radio Operator informed me later, thought it was a huge joke, and perfectly delivered. Days and weeks later, they were still breaking out in big smiles when they saw me coming, and shouting:

“Sen-tin-pjin! ”

It was almost like a welcome greeting.
Heck, maybe it was…

Well, needless to say, there were some sequels.
Firstly, I researched some good Chinese cusswords.
One that I found in the dictionary, and practised, was “Oh, Fuck-a -Duck! ”

“Ta-mah-tug! ”

Which I assumed was a good word for expressing frustration without crossing the bounds of inter-cultural diplomacy. I stored it away quietly in my memory, so it would be in reserve. Just in case, you know.
Well…. we were sitting in the galley, and they had some new dish. I had just landed from flying, I was hungry as hell, and I bowled in cheerfully, and helped myself to a large portion of what looked like reddish meat. The Radio Operator quietly mentioned something about “hot “, but I was enthusiastically yapping on about some humongous Foamer we had just spotted, and I was not really switched to “input ” mode. Whilst describing fish in copious sizes and quantities, I took a massive mouthful of the new dish….
I kind of vaguely remember there was some ferocious Chinese red pepper in it. I know my eyes bulged, watered, my breathing stopped, and I kind of gagged.
My tongue was on fire, my mouth, and my throat.
Everybody looked concerned. The cook was positively alarmed.
“Moggy! You okay? Moggy! ”
The power of speech was lost, but had I been able to reply….
I’m fine…I’m just doing this turning blue shit to amuse myself…!
There was no water on the table, and the drinking fountain was out in the corridor. I staggered out, and spent several minutes running cold water over my tongue. Imagine the meanest pepper you have ever eaten, or raw dynamite, and multiply it by a factor of ten. It was pure evil. Your mangy Mexican Jalapenos are wimp fodder by comparison. Even after all that water, I still couldn’t talk, and hardly breath.
Upon returning to the galley, everybody was looking at me, and not wishing to speak, I thought the best way to communicate my distress (and my opinion to the cook) was to pick up a fire extinguisher on the way past, and deposit it carefully beside the table. They thought that was great. They were well amused.
“Moggy! ” (laughter)
“Moggy! You okay? You like Chinese food? ” (laughter)
In answer, still trying to swallow, and clear my throat, I aimed the fire extinguisher at them. (laughter)
The hilarity -at my expense- died down a bit, and I waited for a quiet moment, to forcibly relieve my pent up feelings. It came out rather high pitched and squeaky, but it struggled out manfully nonetheless :

“Ta-mah-tug…..!!! ”

The whole place collapsed. I was to hear that for the next few days. Whoever says the Chinese don’t have a sense of humor, believe me, is wrong…

* * * * * *

Round about this time, I was also playing some practical jokes.
I had obtained some small pellets that you insert in the end of a cigarette. The smoker puffs away, and all of a sudden there comes this sharp sizzling sound, coupled with a sudden large flame.


The effect is fundamentally harmless, but it guarantees the smoker an unexpected fright. And the onlookers an equal surprise, coupled with amusement. The Chinese had never seen this kind of implement, and were quite flabbergasted by the effect. It was easy to spike their cigarettes, as they would leave their lighters and packs on the tables as they went out to tend to the nets. I got plenty of practice at keeping my face straight, and causing as much mischief as I possibly could. One day, the deck boss might be in a really, ratty mood, giving everybody a hard time.
He’d finally get to come into the galley, and light a cigarette. He’d take a few relaxed puffs, after a hell of a hard morning…


And he would start, jump back, or kick his feet and legs in alarm. All his minions would get a laugh at his expense, out loud or quietly, and he would look around in amazement, and then carefully examine his cigarette.
Needless to say, there was no physical evidence of tampering left behind.
So I’d let some time go by, and they’d forget about it. Then I’d nail somebody else. It was always good for a laugh, and nobody could figure out what was going on. Interestingly, the Navigator was the crew member in charge of the ship’s stores, and therefore the provider of the cigarettes. He was quickly being blamed for providing faulty material. This was a charge he angrily denied.
As luck would have it, he had never witnessed a cigarette explosion, and started to suggest that they were all making it up. And that there was nothing wrong with ‘his’ cigarettes. That led to some arguments.
I waited a few days, and then I spiked… his cigarette. And later, in a packed galley, with everybody present:


His expression was a picture of total amazement. He had no answer to the loud chorus:
“You see?! ” “You see?! ”
That left only one more juicy target. Herr Captain Fishmaster. I waited a little while, and fixed his cigarette.
I always left the tampered cigarette protruding very slightly, and I could therefore almost invariably position myself in a front row seat for the coming show. Sure enough…


Everybody gasped in horror. Nobody dared laugh. He never flinched. Drawing slowly and lazily, he blew out smoke, and then he looked straight at me. He never said a word. Just the look.
Moggy, I’m on to you…

Not long after that, I got caught in the act. A young sailor came in at just the wrong moment, and the game was up. Everybody wanted to see the small pellets, and they were all quite amused that I had in fact been the culprit all along. Except the Radio Operator. He scowled at me, and muttered darkly:

“Moggy! Pooh-how! Sentin-pjin…! ”

I resolved I would have to change tactics.
I cast around for a while, looking for another opportunity to cause calculated chaos.
Mischief rules.
No target too sacred…
In the event, one day, I saw the cook hard boiling trays of eggs.
Ah! Eggs!


(to be continued…click HERE)

Francis Meyrick

Last edited by admin on August 14, 2012, 10:01 am

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