Saturday, February 26, 2005

Hot Bunking

[Hot Bunking]
There were a lot of “cultural shock” things that I was introduced to in the next few weeks. That first night I had a very nice supper and met another 15 or so shipmates (I could use that term now) who were all very nice but about five of them insisted on calling me Puke. My next shock item was the term “Hot Bunk”. That term came into my lexicon when I asked where I could stow my sea bag and where my rack was. The COB gave me a brand new, small bag that I could use to hold some of my personal things, whenever I got my own bunk but until I got qualified, I would probably not have my own bunk. In silence I screamed “WHAT NO BED OF MY OWN!!! What kind of place is this? In sub school I got my own Bunk. In Machinest Mate School I got my own bunk. Even in Boot Camp I had my own bunk and now they are telling me I don’t have a bunk to call my own. This sub thing is small and cramped. I’ve already knocked my head half a dozen times and the place literally stinks. Everything, including the people smell like diesel fuel. I wonder if my Congressman knows about this?” What would take place, instead of sleeping in my own bunk, would be that I would hot bunk, which meant I would go look for an empty rack (which was usually someone’s bunk that had just got up to go on watch and the bed was still warm, hence the term “Hot Bunk”). It seems that all of this was caused because there were more sailors than bunks. The bunks were mattresses enclosed in a Naugahyde “flash cover” which was meant to keep the bunk clean when not in use or to keep us non-qual Pukes off the bedding. Before crawling in you were to pull the flash cover closed and sleep on top of it. This would mean that we would wake up in a pool of sweat, which resulted in lots of pimples. My mother never would have approved. As the COB went on about “the glory and tradition of Diesel Submarines, I drifted back to when I was 10 years old and my little brother Gary was born. I was unceremonsily removed from my bedroom, as that was now the Nursery. We lived in a three bedroom house and there was no longer any room for me. My two older brothers had a bedroom and threw a fit when Dad suggested I move in with them. So, it was off to the basement with me. The basement was big and had no natural light. Off the basement was the root cellar where Mom kept potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables and it had a dirt floor that allowed for strange little animals to join me in bed. The basement gave me a lot of complexes and nightmares. I hoped that this submarine thing would not do the same. This was all Gary’s fault! Eventually I got use to the basement so I guess I could get use to this “Hot Bunking” thing. After all there wasn’t any dirt floors to worry about.

I spent the rest of the evening sitting at a table in the mess decks getting use to diesel tasting, coffee. About 10 sailors joined me, off and on, welcoming me and offering advice. Some were qualified and others weren’t. I found out that the COB really was my Mom and would hold all sorts of things over my head such as liberty. We were allowed “Cinderella Liberty”. which meant that we would get to go “ashore”, “on the beach” but we had to be back on base by Midnight. The catch to all of this was that the COB held all of the Liberty Cards and you couldn’t get off the base without one. Marine Guards were at the gates and they would shoot you if you tried to get off base without a card or were late coming back. It was simple, if you were not up to date on your qualification schedule, no card, no women to chase. When you got qualified you got a permanent liberty card, which let you stay out after midnight drinking, carousing, chasing women and your own bunk verses “I would be kicked off the ship, a disgrace to the Navy”. What an incentive to get qualified. I headed for the berthing area and looked for a “Hot Bunk” to rest my confused bones.

1 comment:

Michael's Proud Navy Mom said...

As our son would say, "More sea stories!"

I laughed until I cried reading about your arrival and hot bunking.

Our son will soon be off to his first ship/sub after a year and a half of training and I wonder if he'll be greeted as warmly. ha!