Those Who Seek Retribution…

Posted: May 6, 2010 in Personal Growth

…Should Dig Two Graves”


Several years ago I attended a political debate watching party at a private home. The event was so well attended that the living room was filled to capacity prompting the host to direct the spillover to his garage which he had set up with a huge long table and a highly mounted TV. Below the TV was the quotation in the heading of this essay. It was ascribed to Confucius, if my memory serves me correctly; but I have failed in my initial attempts to find it on line.

But, verification of the source of a proverb that has served me well is not necessary. The wisdom is self apparent. It came to mind this morning when I recalled an incident that happened in a crew of fire watch standers. One day at the end of the work day our crew was sitting around waiting for the time to leave; when our crew chief started expounding on politics. I could not let his ludicrous comments go unanswered so I challenged him. He smiled as if he wasn’t really angry; but as time went by it was obvious he harbored some animosity to me. I cannot imagine any other reason he would have made the statement one day “I’m going to get you” when one of my coworkers went to him and told him I was getting drowsy.

Later in the day we were sent to “hidey-holes” to escape detection because there were no watches for us to stand. It was a common practice that ripped off the owner of the business that supplied the fire watch standers. I took up residence on a floating platform tied to the side of the ship we were on. It was a warm sunny day and I was suffering from lack of sleep. After a short time one of my coworkers came down the ladder to the platform to check up on me. I was fully awake and turned my attention to him as he came down the ladder so he didn’t even get to the platform; he just went back up. I was way too tired to make the connection between the crew chief’s comment and the latest happening; so I continued to just sit and enjoy the warm weather.

Needless to say the next thing I remember is waking up and seeing the lower part of the crew chief’s legs. He had awakened me. Here was his chance to get even with me.

Many years before I remember a shipmate mouthing the quotation “I never get even; I get ahead”. These kinds of comments are meant to intimidate people not to ever cross them or do anything they might construe as evil to them. It reveals a vindictive person and the recipient of this barely hidden warning should take it to heart.

So, it was the second time for this crew chief to display his incompetence. He had waited for the rest of the coworkers to leave to come to get me. To be fair he might not have discovered my absence from muster until the end of the day. Regardless he summoned me to the office where we were utterly alone. He took out a form that was to be used to write up subordinates for any and all infractions. Sleeping on watch was the most serious and was to be dealt with by immediately taking the offender’s security badge (that was necessary to get back into the shipyard) and escort the offender off the base. Being the incompetent he was, he only wrote me up.

The next day, I believe was my day off and it gave me a chance to review the rules I had a copy of. There it was in black and white: the official regulations regarding sleeping on watch.

Even though I had a decent night’s sleep I was still not entirely clear thinking; or maybe I was because I imagined all kinds of possibilities. Was my crew chief intentionally not making the kind of report that would lead in my dismissal? It certainly was not a safety issue considering I wasn’t really on watch.

Later that day my crew chief called me and told me the owner wanted me to call him. Uh, oh! Here we go! So I called the owner. He related to me the infraction that had reached him. To say it was an unusual infraction is probably true because (as I was reminded several days later) it was routinely sidestepped by crew chiefs when people were found sleeping on watch! What happened, without exception, was the sleeper was nudged awake and that was the end of it. But, I believe I am right in believing my crew chief’s incompetence led him to the fool’s embarkation of exacting revenge on me by using a procedure that nobody else used to get me fired.

The owner told me that my crew chief told him that I wasn’t really on watch. So did my crew chief get cold feet? Or did one of his peers enlighten him on how stupid he had been to write me up? Or did he get a sudden attack of sorry-I-did-it? The owner even asked me if I was asleep. I didn’t hesitate in answering “yes, I believe I was”. So, I think I was probably fired for honesty (if the owner would have taken my word over my crew chief’s and given me the benefit of the doubt – otherwise, why would he even ask me?) I seem to remember the owner asking me if there was any reason I could think of anything to say about the incident. This would have been a perfect time to bring up my crew chief’s making the statement that he was “going to get me”. That statement would seem to make the likelihood that he was out to get me pretty high.

The outcome of this was the owner to assemble all the fire watches at the beginning of the next shift (I was told to come in to deliver my gear – which I had expected to go to the off-base office beings I was supposed to not be able to get in the gate of the shipyard. I went in, still not having to be escorted, to the meeting place where the owner was to speak to the assembled crews. Apparently the owner wasn’t aware of this practice of keeping people on board even if they didn’t have a watch to stand. Beings he was made aware he decided this wasn’t very efficient and had to stop. He laid off about a third of the people who were enjoying the lax enforcement of a more sensible policy, i. e. to send people home before the end of the day if there were no watches to stand.

So, most of the people who participated in the hatchet job that ended my employment were laid off. I don’t know if my crew chief was laid off. Maybe the owner declined to take that action even though my crew chief had displayed his incompetence over and over again. I can’t help but believe that my crew chief’s employment didn’t survive too much longer, though. And I’m also sure he suffered much humiliation for his display of ignorance.


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