Francis Meyrick

A Blip on the Radar (42A) “The Peacemaker who tried – Part 1 “

Posted on August 6, 2014


Part 1: Three Little Words

I don’t like fighting.
It seems such a primitive, savage, somewhat crude pastime. Whether it be physical, emotional, psychological or the result of business competitiveness taken to the extremes of what Testosterone charged males are capable of, I find it unsatisfying. Politics increasingly sickens me. Hubris. Shallow. Desperately destructive of Liberty. The end of America as many of us loved it. If you have not yet done so, I strongly recommend you take some time out, and read “The Road to Serfdom”, by Hayek.
Vain, arrogant, narrow-minded, often poorly educated busy-body politicians, who think (know) they know better than anybody else, and are perfectly prepared to inflict their will by fiat on you and me. And even if, deep down, they are not actually totally sure of the beneficial effects of their radical policies, the fact that they can defy the opposition, and beat the hated Other Side,and force their will through… ah, such a delight! Short term.

Eventually… Tragedy.

Small wonder then that at times I suppose I’ve tried to play Peacemaker when the odds seemed hopelessly stacked against me. I’ve often appealed to Reason, Compassion, Intellect, History, and gotten absolutely nowhere. Except perhaps to be perceived by some as a Pussy, an obsessive scribbler, to be ignored, mocked, or bulldozered over.
One such occasion sticks out in my tiny mind, not because I was successful or not in my Peace Making attempts, but because… I never could figure out the end result of that particular peace making effort.
I’ll tell you the story, and let you decide.

Entwined around this, is the oddball discovery I have made that I annoy the hell out of some people. I never quite could fathom why some people have taken what can only be called a furious stance against “that idiot Irishman Moggy, and his stupid manual”. There are plenty of pilots out there who support the safety project, and have enjoyed the scribbles, but there are also those who furiously and sneeringly rubbish it. The loud ones, it seems, are against, and the quieter ones, more thoughtful perhaps, studied it all before they ever even went tuna flying, and are wiser and happier for it. This is witnessed by the many positive emails I get. They tend to let the loud ones rant, and are amused by them.
I can’t say I lie awake about it. It doesn’t worry me, and only features very marginally on my radar scope. It’s a free product. If it’s not your cup of tea, fine. I have always said I will happily add input or critique at the bottom of any chapter. I don’t get much. You know you are cordially invited to pipe up if you think I’m wrong. So what’s with the hostility? Why would you go onto a forum and claim that the information is mostly wrong, and outdated? Why dissuade more vulnerable new pilots from reading it? One such detractor occupies the position of hiring new tuna pilots for a major employer. You would think he would be concerned about their sky-high accident and fatality rates…

I have come to the conclusion that it’s mostly caused by the fact that I simply don’t share their values. That makes me, in their eyes, not just an irritant. It seems the way it works with little humans is that somebody who, however unwittingly, challenges your cherished beliefs, or your de facto assumptions, becomes, over time, a threat. A threat? Yes. A threat to what, you might reasonably ask. Ah… I hoped you wouldn’t ask that. The question is easier than the answer.

People strive for objectives, and their efforts are sometimes pretty clearly selfish, materialistic, greedy, or just plain silly. Thus, by way of example, it was with one of the most ignorant and boorish tuna helicopter pilots I ever encountered. I’ll call him Brandon. Brandon was a big boy. Very big. He could have lost a few pounds. Or eighty. Brandon worshipped 1) money. And 2) food. That’s all. Those were his twin Gods. He indulged in accumulating the former with a ferocious obsession, cutting every corner he could, legal or not, with a dedication bordering on religious fanaticism. If he told us once, he told us twenty million times, with passion and much arm waving, how he had passed though Australian Customs with twenty thousand dollars cash hidden in his boots. His eyes would shine each time he told that story, and it was clear that he was describing the ultimate orgasm of his personal Faith.
As regards eating, he simply pained us with his table habits. He would talk (constantly) (mostly about himself) with his mouth full, he would burp and fart, serve himself greedily before everybody else, wolf his food like he was coming off the Ramadan fast (not likely), and generally was a most unwelcome guest at any table. In terms of sensitivity, he possessed none. In his mind, he was a brilliant pilot, an excellent businessman, and a star with the Sheilahs. No contest. He was also a bit of a bully. Having caught a Korean in his cabin one day, he had beaten and kicked the small Asian black and blue. For many minutes. So much so that the little Asian had not emerged from his cabin for several days. Again, we got that story from Brandon re-told proudly over and over in glorious Technicolor, like the ultimate triumph of Right over Wrong. The poor match in size and strength between Brandon and a small little Korean did not seem to cross his dim mind. Nor did he ever pause to think that he was lucky to be alive. A tuna boat is a bad place to get into a fight. Many of the crew may be family, from the same little village. Lots of knives and stakes lying around…

Into this cocoon of Brandon’s comfortable (high) self esteem, stepped a renegade Irishman. I confess, I didn’t like Brandon. A lot of us didn’t. But that’s no excuse, I should have exercised more tolerance. I guess. Anyway, you can imagine the lead balloon. Take one busy restaurant. Lots of pilots and mechanics at the table, eating. And Brandon. Wolfing food, burping, farting, and telling us all how great he was. I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Hey Brandon! Can I buy you a beer?”

He paused, a truly gargantuan mouthful of spaghetti and meatballs trailing down his amply stained chin. He was unable to talk, but he nodded in the affirmative, his little Wolf eyes studying me with minor puzzlement.
I wasn’t in the habit of buying him a beer.
I signaled the waiter, and in due course the offering arrived. The waiter gave the beer to me. I weighed it in my hand, reflecting on the wisdom of my intended course of action. I decided the intended course was unwise.
But, what the heck…

“Hey Brandon! YOU EAT LIKE A PIG!”

Boom. Shocked silence.
“Here’s your beer!”
And I passed him the grog.

* * *
Brandon, of course, never forgave me, and then some, and I’m sure he is still somewhere, amassing money, calories, and admirers. I also doubt if he will recommend “Moggy’s Tuna Manual” to you.
Too bad.
The point of this rambling anecdote is not to show how easy it is to get on somebody’s shit list, but more to figure out why other people could have said something similar, and gotten off with it. But once I had said what everybody knew, I was forever the villain of the piece. He hated me with a vengeance from then on.

My theory is that I somehow challenge some people’s self esteem. I rattle their little world. Amongst other hobbies, I was in the habit of poking fun at Brandon’s obsession with Money. I see it as a tool. Not and end in itself. To people like Brandon, Money is everything, and they will go to any lengths to amass it. Legal or illegal, moral or immoral, ethical or unethical. I see it as a means to an end, to be treated with caution and respect, but you are not going to take it with you, and it’s not worth compromising yourself to get the bloody stuff. There are more important considerations and questions in Life.

If those five little words (“YOU EAT LIKE A PIG”) got me into long lasting trouble, on another occasion, with another tuna pilot, I managed it with only three…

* * * *

What happened was that I was sailing into a famous scuba diving port, and there was also a ton of work due on my helicopter. My boss, very wisely, decided to send down an experienced mechanic to help me. I was glad of the assist, and in due course, up shows a chappie I’ll call Donald. Don was… a little different. Without a doubt, Don was a good pilot, and a good mechanic. He had many years in the Tuna Fields under his belt, and knew his way around a Hughes 500 helicopter. All of us have our quirks and short comings, and Don’s Dark Side was… well, shall we say his patience on a scale of one to ten was minus twenty. His ‘people skills’ with the Taiwanese (who he seemed to despise) was minus thirty-three-and-a-half,and his judgment on matters of other people’s property left something to be desired. It’s not good when you arrive on a strange boat, and Oriental people (who are usually very courteous) greet you in a friendly manner, and you reciprocate by flinging them a filthy scowl. I’d never worked with Don before, and I was astonished at the way he seemed to equate foreigners not understanding him, with the foreigners’ lack of intelligence and breeding. I got along real well with all our crew, and I had mastered some five hundred plus words of Chinese. (Well, mastered… there had been a few classic clangers in that department, which are described elsewhere). I was pained at the way he treated the crew. Abrasive. Condescending. Impatient. Sneering. We were off to a bad start before we climbed up to the helideck, on a blazing hot, windless, equatorial day. Then we started work on the helicopter, and I suffered inwardly through Don’s explosive temper tantrums. I bit my bottom lip. I bit my top lip. I bit my tongue. I heaved, and lifted, and pushed, and pulled. I did my best. Not good enough for Don. I copped it. For all sorts of things. Including a tiny triple postage stamp area of corrosion developing, that I had missed somehow. He gave me undiluted hell over that. The rest of the helicopter was gleaming, but never a kind word or compliment about that.
It was a miserable time. It got worse and worse. At one stage, something wasn’t going the way he wanted, and he flipped out. He literally threw a wrench (which he had borrowed from the ship’s engine room without asking the Chief Engineer) right over the top of a ship moored alongside us. It was actually a spectacular throw. Olympic gold medal winner. Awesome. It almost achieved L.O.E. (low earth orbit).
It sailed through the air, and just cleared the bridge of the neighboring Korean purse seiner. If we had broken one of their windows… international incident. I bet that would have taken some explaining. Then it clattered noisily onto the opposite stone quay side. Then, blow me down, he ordered ME to go and fetch it! That was enough, and I called for a time out. I said he could jolly well go and fetch it himself, and I was going down for a cool drink. Thank you. Bye. Back in fifteen minutes, When YOU have cooled down. And fetched that wrench. That we NEED to finish this job. Uh-huh.
And so forth, and so on. What a day. When we needed some other tool, he disappeared for a while. What I didn’t know (until a few days later) was that he had gone down into the engine room, picked out a tool he fancied, collared some Taiwanese crew member who could weld, and CUT and CHOPPED the ship’s tool to his requirements (no permission asked!), thus rendering it unfit for the original purpose for which it was kept on board ship. I didn’t realize that until the day, dumbfounded, I was shown the mangellated, destroyed, now useless tool by a very, very irate Chief Engineer. Outstanding. How to make enemies and instantly totally piss orf everybody. Who needs friends, anyway? Bizarre behavior. I wasn’t aware of that modification-of-somebody-else’s property at the time, but the long, miserable, hot, sticky, humid day could not come to an end soon enough for me. Sure, Don was a good mechanic. Much more knowledgeable and skilled than I was. I had been to A+P school, and I was the proud owner of an A+P License, and I meant well. I just didn’t have anywhere near his experience.

Don was typical of many people who achieve proficiency in a particular field: he had forgotten where he came from. In his mind, he had bounced straight into brilliance. Never a trainee, never a raw recruit, never an acolyte. Instead, a Master from the git go. I have seen many people, in all walks of life, exhibit this same, rather odd trend. They hate being lectured, yelled at, talked down to, and generally humiliated for their lack of knowledge or skill. It rankles them. Frustrates them. So what do they do, once the years have passed, and they have gained knowledge from their teachers, and from their job experience? Why, what else do you think they do? They lecture their students, yell, talk down, and generally humiliate their charges.
Hmmm… What’s wrong with this picture?

It was towards the end of that truly horrible day, and towards the end of my tether, that I finally uttered the three words. For which I was to pay. Dearly. For years. All I said (after he had snarled at another Taiwanese, for the dumb Chink’s lack of English) (note the dumb Chink’s English was far better than Don’s Chinese)… All I said was:

“Don, I have to tell you something…”

He glared at me.


Three little words.

Boom. I felt better. Got it out of my system. His reaction floored me. He dropped his tools, jumped down, and confronted me. Livid. Red face. Beyond furious. Fists raised. Eyes blazing.

Are you KIDDING me?

We’re standing on a helideck, perched on top of the bridge, with no railing, and you want to go ten rounds with me? And crash us both twenty feet onto the steel deck below? I remember surprise mixed with dread. That would have been one helluva bad place to get into a fight. If there is such a thing as good place. Carefully, I kept my hands by my sides, and shook my head.

Nope. I ain’t fighting you, and I’m going for a walk. Bye.

The knife edge moment passed, and that was it. He departed, in really bad grace, and I heaved a sigh of relief. In fact, the whole ship heaved a collective sigh of relief. Everybody was truly sick of him. If only we can see ourselves as other see us. Before we express judgment, maybe try the mirror? I don’t know, the whole experience was downright weird.

Months went by.

I had some good friends out there, and it wasn’t long before I got a steady trickle of feedback.

“Hey, Moggy! What did you do to piss orf Don? He’s mad as hell with you!”
Me: “I guess I told him his attitude sucks, and he didn’t like it…”

I could (maybe should) have left it there, but the frustrated Peace Maker in me nibbled at my conscience. I resolved to at least try and make the Peace. I was advised by buddies to not even try. Deep down, I felt I was probably wasting my time. But, in my own gormless, kind of simple way, I regretted our falling out. Maybe I should have… Maybe I could have…

It all boiled down to being tired of fighting. I’d seen and experienced enough already in my tiny little life. I was willing to make the effort.

Then, unexpectedly, one night, we hove to, hunkering down for the night, and there, in the distance, I saw Don’s boat, similarly parked up for the night. Time for a peace mission. I got the Fishing Master’s permission, and borrowed a crew member and a net boat. I gathered up a peace offering (a large box of chocolates, if I remember right) , and we proceeded to chug across the middle of the restive Pacific Ocean. It was a half mile trip, quite a bit of spray, and I clung on grimly. What reception I would get, I didn’t know.

But, in my own na├»ve, simple hearted way, I had to try…

Francis Meyrick

(to be ctd)

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on August 6, 2014, 11:51 pm

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