|The Last Voyage of the USS Springfield
Author: Maestro60 PM
The naval misadventures of the last voyage of the USS Springfield.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure - Chapters: 5 - Words: 14,258 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 01-13-13 - Published: 12-02-12 - id: 3079462
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
June 29, 1970
It was Feb 1970, I was in the 12th grade and I ran away from home. It was a stupid move, but an eye opener. I packed my clothes in a carry all bag, with about 5 dollars, no job and no driver's licence. I got about a half a mile out and I decided to stop at the all to familiar bowling alley to warm up. The word epiphany comes to mind when I realized that I was totally trying to solve my problems the wrong way. I assessed the situation totally as unemployed, feeling unwanted, broke, with no driver's licence or high school diploma. All this time I wanted to travel the world, and leave the family, not necessarily in that order. Went back home with a plan. Wait out the high school problem and enlist in the Navy, where I could do all the stuff I wanted to do, and get paid for it too.
Graduation came in June and I promptly went to my Navy recruiter the next day. I saw the world famous poster with the sailor walking his son on the pier alongside a large Navy Destroyer and I was mesmerized. The first class recruiter didn't have to say a single word, I was sold. After a few words to my Old man he allowed me to enlist, and I shipped out the day of my physical, eighteen days after graduation. I did not smoke or drink and I only heard about drugs by watching television. It was 1970 and I was a total virgin.
My name is Jim, hell of a name, my name was changed when I was four days old from Dennis, Dad didn't like that name. If I would've had a sister my dad would've called her Mercedes. I never had much of a life before I went into the Navy, in fact I was kind of invisible around girls, and most of the guys in high school were either jocks, or thought they were. Where I went to school, in a small suburb in Michigan, we were all trying to figure out who we were. America had just landed on the Moon, Woodstock just happened, and I was not old enough to go anyway. By the time I started to get my act together, it was time to graduate, and I didn't have a clue what to do. You see, I worked all the time in my Dad's carpenter business, and was living the illusion my father instilled in me that one day I was going to own the business. Needless to say, that never happened that way, but working for my father was the only job, I ever had. My father started me working at about four years old, cleaning the shop, and filling coal buckets daily to keep the stove in the shop going, in the winter, and cutting and stacking scrap wood, for as long as I can remember. My father was the best carpenter, I had ever to this day ever knew, but he was also the worst business manager. He would dazzle me daily with the objects he could make. He made everything you could think of. He made sailboats, ice-boats, furniture, gauge boxes for factories that held metal instruments. The man amazed me how he would make a bow, and arrows one day, and pallets for a factory nearby the next. The man was a workaholic though, and had a temper. One of the many reasons I volunteered my draft was because I never was good enough to please him. The man pleased himself with his own ego. Another reason I wanted to leave was I figured out that I would never own the business as I was led to believe, because everything revolved around him. He made excellent products for people, but as a miserable business manager, he hardly ever paid his suppliers or his employees. Now it was June 11, 1970, graduation day and I had waited since February to make a break for it. I walked all the way to the Navy recruiters, and was fascinated again by all the posters of sailors going all over the world, I just couldn't let my dream go. My dad on the other hand really didn't believe that I was, or could join the Navy. The first-class petty officer recruiter didn't have to sell the Navy to me, he wanted my dad to witness me enlisting. I walked back to our house and told my dad and I still believe it shocked him. Hell it shocked me!
The physical was the most interesting things I ever had done to me thus far in my life. We were told to strip and carry our jockey underwear in our hand as we proceeded to be picked, pricked and probed from one room to the next. I remember standing in a line, ordered to stand nuts to buts with the guy ahead of me as we approached a window with a somewhat plain nurse sitting at the window. As I proceeded forward I was looking at each person approach and retreat from the window in question. All of us were having broken conversations about who we were and what we thought about the physical so far before the next person was called. I saw the guy, whose name was Gary, take his turn after we were joking about some guy passing out after giving blood. As he turned away from the window a curious look was on his face, and the joking smile was replaced with something else. A nauseated look. I became apprehensive after seeing Gary put on his underwear and disappear down the hall.
That disgusting nurse grabbed my best feature and ordered me to cough. I have always been a bit hard of hearing. She ordered again, and I still did hot quite understand what she wanted me to do. She squeezed my testicles and I began to cough profusely. I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. Damn I was about to find out.
That night I arrived in Los Angeles at 11 o'clock at night and was bussed in a grey Navy school bus to San Diego to become…. I sailor.
Rushed into a rack in the middle of the night, in fear, and given a chain, lock and key, I observed a guy telling a Chief Petty Officer that he was a queer and that he should be released. The Chief proceeded to pull out his penis from his zipper while the guy, in frightened indecision plopped the man's penis into his mouth. Everyone yelled at all of us to cover our heads with our blankets and say nothing. I heard crying and screaming, then the lights went out. The end of the first day.
I was telling you about boot camp in the World's Finest Navy. I used to really laugh at that one. Some called it a job, some called it a way of life, those people I pity. I believe it is called boot-camp because some people, I call lifers, want to boot the daylights out of you. I have seen what they called tearing you down and rebuilding you into soldier first hand. One sailor in boot-camp got a rifle butt to the face by a first class while standing upon a cement scrub table. I was thrown against the wall and held by the neck by a first class because he didn't like the way I shined my boon dockers. I had to do jumping jacks with a piece, that is a rifle, out on the grinder after 1800 because I left a pair of socks on my rack. Where was the justice in this, with all the forced push ups by overzealous petty officers who forced my friends to eat cigarettes for not knowing their 11 general orders.
In light of the recruitment volume being way down due to the War in Viet Nam, and Korea, you would think that treating people like human beings instead of property would make more sense. Go figure.
The next day they had us march to the clothing issue building to get our boon dockers and clothes, that we had we had to stencil ourselves. Bell bottom jeans and chambray shirts. Boxer skivvies and t-shirts, ball cap and tennis shoes. A sea bag to carry all this crud. Dress whites to dress blues, peacoat to work jacket, all must be neatly stencilled in a timely fashion or be screamed at. "You fuck up recruit, and you're in a world of Shit" was the saying of the day by my CO. Marching around with some guy behind you stepping on the back of your tennis shoes and making them half fall off, while trying to stay in step became the norm of the week. I stepped on a few shoe backs myself and got out of step repeatedly because I can't march at all. I was a riot trying to learn the 96 count manual with my piece(rifle)but I learned it on my own pretty good though.
One night, supposedly was sleep walking, I think I was just checking the clock on the wall to see what time it was, and I was escorted back to my rack in the barracks, like some animal. The next morning I was summoned to the Company Commander's office, and he did not look to happy. He asked me if I wanted out of this man's Navy, and I replied that I didn't know why he asked me that question, and no I don't think so. He told me that it was reported that I was sleep walking in the barracks and I did the best marching that I ever did in the barracks. He asked me if I would like to spend boot camp doing some other duty for awhile, so as not to make his company look like a bunch of goons when they marched. I gladly said yes and I was tearing lockers, and pallets apart the next morning. We went to "smokers" every Friday night after 1800 to watch recruits box for 3, one minute rounds. I liked boxing on TV, and it got us out of the daily routine of being treated like a worm. Later that week, when all the lockers were taken apart and some light bulbs were replaced by me, I again was asked if I wanted to box on Fridays. I figured what else could go wrong, get punched out, so I did that too. Before I get into that though, we had swimming lessons. I did not know how to swim very well at all. I was beginning to think that going in the Navy wasn't the smartest thing I could've done. I dog paddled around the pool, and then had to tread water for 5 minutes. Just as I was beginning to think I was doing alright, the instructor taps a long 15ft rod on my head and tells me to get out of the pool. I got out of the pool and was called before him very fast. He tells me to stand there and watch this guy trying to jump of the 15ft diving board. He chickened out badly and was ridiculed mercilessly. I was sent up to the diving board, and this instructor was trying to make sport of me as well. I was not about to let that happen, even though I was never on a diving board in my life, he wasn't going to make an ass out of me. I climbed up and stood at the end of the board, with my wet trousers hanging over my shoulders. The reason for this was that I had to use them for a floating device, by tying off both of the legs closed and popping them in the water as I landed in the water, so that they would inflate. They didn't both inflate, only one leg did. So, here comes that long 15ft rod again, tapping me on the head. I come out of the pool, getting tired now, and nervous, and he tell me to climb up this 25 foot scaffold and jump this time. I was shocked, but… I knew that I wasn't going to let him razz me, like that other guy, so up I climbed. And climbed. And climbed.. The scaffold started to wiggle a bit which did not help at all, at this time. I was standing up there looking at the seemingly small pool below, and I moved slowly to the edge. The instructor said to jump, and only one thing entered my mind at the moment.
They are not going to let me die in swimming class no matter what, there was a war on and I had no idea where I was going to end up, but… I wasn't going down with that instructor making a fool out of me. I stepped off the edge with my trousers flying in the breeze, and it seemed like a week before I hit the water. Both legs filled up with air and I pulled myself between the legs and waded to the side of the pool. The instructor freaked. He wanted to make me go up an do it again, because I swear he took bets that I was going to chicken out, and he lost. Our commander told him that swimming lesson was over, and we had to fall out, so for one small moment. I was a hero in the department. We headed to the mess hall for chow, and I actually thought I was braver than I had ever been in my whole life that day.
We had to scrub our own clothes out on cement scrub tables outside of the barracks, using WISK, and a scrub brush, by hand. We used little pieces of rope to tie off our underwear, pants, and shirts on a clothesline, every night. Then we had to set up watch details to march around and guard our clothes. One particular night, as I was guarding our precious jewels, a black guy came over and asked me if I was in the smoker on Friday night. I said that I was and that I was a little scared. He told me to run out as fast as I could and hit him as hard as I could on his nose, and don't be afraid. I had no idea I was going to fight a 6ft black guy that boxed all the time, on my first fight. Now I was really upset. He said that it would be over before you know it and if you lost, no one cared. If you won, no one cared. He was right on both counts. I lost quickly, but I wasn't hurt. I won a few fights in the other smokers, but none of those fights had quite the meaning as that first fight.
Time went on, it was now week 5 and we were moving barracks to the other side of the base. We marched over and I of course went to my next new set of duties, clean up details, and attending with the company, training classes. Just about this time, as I was scrubbing the barracks deck, with a couple of guys, a voice was sounded over the Public Address system. "The Smoking Lamp is Lit in all authorized spaces." Most of the guys got up and went to their lockers and went outside for a cigarette. I said to this guy next to me, "What do we do if we don't smoke?" He tells me that we have to keep working. Well, it didn't take me long to figure out, that I was going to get a pack of cigarettes the next day. Marching along, stepping on the backs of many guys shoes, was me, heading to the Commissary to get a carton of cigarettes. I could not march. I could not do the 96 count manual with a piece, aka rifle, either. I had to self teach myself to smoke cigarettes, because I never smoked them before. Many of the guys could spot me a mile away, telling me to, " Smoke that damn thing, don't suck on it!" was pretty much the gist of what they all said. Marlboros were my cigarette of choice, everyone smoked them and I could fit in. After awhile I got the hang of it, and people were bumming smokes off of me too.
Started receiving cookies and stuff from home, which surprised the hell out of me, because I never got stuff like that when I actually lived at home. Letters were always from my mom, like when she told me my dog died, that was a real tear jerker. Even the Company Commander was sympathetic, go figure.
I became quite the shoe polisher back then. Guys would ask me to help them and show them how to shine those stupid boon-dockers. I started helping all the guys in our company while I was not marching to a Marching Party across the grinder at 1800. Yeah, I got good at marching and doing jumping jacks with my rifle back then. After colors were officially lowered for the day, for the next two hours, my fellow lads and I had to go through a whole battalion of exercises, which wasn't all that bad, to me. On one of these experiences, the Officer in charge was playing with a deck of cards at the time, while we were "Sweating to the Music." He says while we were at ease, " If one of you guys can do a card trick, that I can't figure out, you can get off from this detail." I put my hand up and the 1st Class Petty Officer in Charge calls me up to face him. I showed him two of my best tricks, and hoping they work for me, I managed to get all the guys off of Marching Party Detail. The first trick was to stage the scene with cards of a Big Party going on and the four Aces were the richest men at the party. The Kings were invited to the party with their wives, the Queens. Finally the four Jacks were the party crashers, and the police come and put everyone in a paddy wagon and arrest the lot of them and take them to the Police Station. This is the sequence: A,K,Q,J going downward. So it looks like this:
Q Q Q Q
Now if you don't mess the sequence up, you can scoop the pile of cars together and make all different size bumps, thereby simulating the police paddy wagon hitting bumps in the road. At the "Police Station" I position each card, sight unseen in four stacks across. At the end of the trick, if you were successful, my very life could've depended on this, Four Aces would be together, and Four Kings, Four Queens, and finally the Four Jacks. Each in their separate cells. To make a long story even longer. At least it worked first time, but I had to go through it several times for the 1st Class so that he could use it.
The second card trick was a bit more tedious, and I really don't quite know how it works, but it was the trick that saved the bacon of my comrades.
You take the first card you turn up as a starter card for the first of several small stacks of cards. Such as a deuce, would be starting at two and each successive card would be counted to the number thirteen. To make this situation scary, if this trick isn't done correctly, you look like an idiot, and the guys will take your life. Each face card is taken as Ace, = one, Jack, = eleven, Queen, = twelve, and King, = thirteen. If you can follow these instructions, where these tricks could help you, like maybe in jail, (more on jail later) you will succeed in saving what teeth you have in your mouth. I performed this trick flawlessly, and startled even myself. You end the card trick with three stacks of cards of different heights, that you let the other person pick. He was so careful to pick the stacks that somehow appealed to him. Then you turn up the face card of two of the three stacks, and by calculation, you can tell the card, but not the suit of the unturned over card. That probably was the turning point in my life, as to whether God plays a part in your life or not. Yes, God does work in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. I flipped over the first two cards, and the 1st Class says to me, " This better work for wasting all my time!" A cold shiver went down my spine, as I felt my life flashing before my eyes. I says to the officer, what the card was, in this case it was a King, and I slowly flipped up the card. The King shows up and his face must of dropped to the floor, as did mine. Luckily he didn't ask me to do that trick over and over again to show him how to do it, I would've messed it up.
Took apart far too many discarded lockers, and pallets, during the next few weeks to remember, since I could not march and made the company look bad on the parade grounds. Really didn't care, since I found out what the real Navy was like, during these weeks away from my boot camp comrades. I saw a comrade of mine who was picked up for what was called fraudulent enlistment. He was sent to 4050. A big hush hush about 4050 back in those days. It was boot camp stockade, where everyone marched to a whistle, while they had to stamp their left foot in time. A horrible scare to us recruits, made everyone whisper. One particular time in the chow line, when 4050 prisoners were sent through the chow line, the officer in charge whistled a blast on his whistle and everything got deathly quiet. Everyone froze in place. A second blast and the prisoners went through the line and were led to a table. Not being allowed to sit, completely, just hover over the chair as they consumed their meal was frightening. A third blast of the whistle, and life unfroze and we could continue our lives, such as they were. Memories of seeing a petty officer leading a child by the hand at a pier, on a poster at the Navy recruiter office flooded my mind. Later that week our Company Commander came into our barracks at Camp Nimitz, and had us all fall out, outside. We were being penalized for general all around unacceptable inspection of our barracks, and we were given demerits, which we had to exercise off. I really didn't like the fact that we saw another Company Commander of our sister company, exacting discipline to a fellow recruit, at the butt end of a rifle. I no longer wanted to be a part of this man's Navy, especially since I volunteered. A week later, I was changing light bulbs, and sitting around smoking cigarettes, and trying to memorize my Eleven General Orders, so that none of the stories the guys talked about, and what I witnessed, would happen to me. To make this story as realistic as possible, I have obtained a copy of, The Eleven General Orders, that all of us had to memorize, just in case we were stopped on the grinder, by one of the Chief Petty Officers. Yeah, I memorized them, and some card tricks and I could arm wrestle too, all of which saved my bacon from time to time. I was ordered once to march around the barracks holding my white belt in front of me at arm's length for more than an hour because it wasn't scrubbed white enough. I was screamed at more than once, "Simons, you fuck up and you're in a world of shit!" After every time the Commander would scream, I would repeat the Eleven General Orders as a mantra, over and over, again. It had a rather soothing effect after awhile. OM.
The Eleven General Orders
To take charge of this post and all government property in view.
To walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.
To report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce.
To repeat all calls from posts more distant from the guardhouse than my own.
To quit my post only when properly relieved.
To receive, obey and pass on to the sentry who relieves me all orders from the Commanding Officer, Command Duty Officer, Officer of the Deck, and Officers and Petty Officers of the Watch.
To talk to no one except in the line of duty.
To give the alarm in case of fire or disorder.
To call the Officer of the Deck in any case not covered by instructions.
To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.
To be especially watchful at night, and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post, and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.
One day, just like any other day, if you were travelling alone, across the grinder, you had to run. As I was running along, a Chief Petty Officer on a bicycle was pedalling across and he hailed me. I was ordered to state the Eleven General Orders from memory, which he then ordered me to give him fifty push-ups and provide him with any information as to where I was going, what was my Company number, my name and serial number. I thought this rather excessive, but Marching Parties, and other disciplines I was exposed to, made this sort of ordinary par for the course. I was grabbed by a 1st Class Petty officer, after doing my routine assigned chores for only shining the toes and heels of my boon dockers. He proceeded to throw me against the wall and threaten me to go back and shine my shoes evenly, and invited me to take a swing at him if I wanted to. I am not a coward, and I sure wanted to kick him in the groin, because I thought he could kick my ass if he wanted to. I just froze. He eventually let me go, and I had to report back to him in twenty-four hours with my shoes totally shined. I did so, and the episode ended right there, but I was always in fear of 4050.
Boot-camp always comes back to me when I think of how anyone who is committed can overcome anything. I had to teach all the guys in my company 279, how to properly shine shoes, but it was a lasting lesson. I actually learned the ninety-one count manual with a piece,( bolt-action Springfield rifle), funny the things I actually remember about that time in my life. I also wore my dress-whites with leggings, strapped up perfectly, I may add, in the parade around the grinder with my company. Even though my marching skills, really were bad, I cannot overemphasize that point, I graduated with my class and made it to Class "A" FTA School in Bainbridge, Maryland.
I arrived in Bainbridge in October of 1970, and started taking my E-3 courses to make Seaman. With the help of several people, syncronicity won out, and before I got out of "A" school, I actually became a FTGSN, not a petty-officer, but better than a Seaman Apprentice, in some cases. My 18 weeks at Bainbridge, Maryland, totally changed me to a proverbial drunken sailor, that never sailed, as of yet. I discovered the enlisted man's club, called the "Fiddler's Green." Beer pitchers became a staple in those days, I graduated to double Rum and Cokes in about 6 weeks though. It seemed that basic electricity and basic electronics were not my friend. After seeing 110 V the Deadly Shipmate, and a few other safety movies, alcohol was not the friend I needed. If you passed 2 weeks in a row, you could continue without embarrassment. Not so me. I would do quite well for a week, and then fail the next week. We were allowed to continue on, unless you failed 2 weeks in a row, which I eventually did. In either case, the failures had to stand in the hall, as people passed you by, and gawk at you. When my turn came up, I went in to the Commandants office, head hung low, while he reviewed my standing at the school. Now this guy was a force to reckoned with. He was one of those officers that made it through the ranks as an enlisted man.
I had a sour feeling as he reviewed my weekly grades that ran like a checkerboard, red and black. He sent me back to the class 2 weeks before, and I was told that if I failed that class, I would be shipped out. I was stunned, yet I finished the remaining classes and I graduated, last in my class, whatever that meant.
I was allowed to grow a beard, which I never had before, and hung out every night at the Fiddler's Green, drinking rum and cokes, and listening to the live bands. One night, half in the bag after drinking a pitcher of draft, a sweet blonde girl came to my table and asked if I wanted to dance. It was a slow dance, so I swaggered behind her and tried to act cool. I could not dance then, and I can't dance now, but I hoped somehow I could fake it. I did all right with a beer in my right hand, slow stepping, but then the music changed. Now it was a fast dance, and I really was giving my all, till I felt some rumbling in my stomach. Everything went in circles, and there were women everywhere dancing fast. Alcohol was rising fast out of my mouth, and I cupped my hand over it as beer was shooting through my fingers like a squirt gun and my aim was horribly perfect. I threw up beer right in the cleavage of a black girl, all over the floor, and then in every direction around me. I ran like a mad man out the side exit, under a tall pine tree and continued to barf until I was sober. I could see a couple of guys looking for me clenching their fists in fury, but I was out of sight in the darkness. I quickly slunk away between parked cars hidden from sight until I got to the barracks. I changed my vomit soaked clothes and jumped in the showers. After a quick shave and change of clothes I went back to the club and sat in a different area, an unknown guy trying not to draw attention to myself. The weekend was over now, back to class, clean shaven. The new duty roster was up and I was scheduled to stand watch at 0000-0400. I finished class and changed into my undress blues for barracks watch, later that evening. I reported to my duty station and signed the log at 2345. I lit up a smoke and stood around watching drunk sailors come back from the club or elsewhere till about 0200. I started reading the log book that went back several years. Several of the hourly reports were weird and freaky. Such as, "Heard strange sound in the hall way and went to investigate, saw nothing and went back." "Heard strange noise again at 0230 and went toward sound, saw nothing and headed back to the podium when, I heard voices." "I turned around and saw nothing, but the voices got louder." 0300 "Heard voices again, stayed where I was…" I found reading the log time consuming, funny and frightening, but it passed the time. I saw a cockroach crawling on the wall beside me. I quickly pulled out my Zippo lighter and put a flame under it. It quickly sped upwards as I followed it up the wall just ahead of the flame. How stupid things amused me. I knew that doing this was stupid, yet I continued until I heard a voice behind me saying sternly, "Having fun, sailor?" I turned around and there was more brass on that man than I had ever seen. He was the Commander of the base. I could feel the tension in my body rise, as I quickly saluted. He returned the salute, and said,"I don't want to see you screwing off on watch again, or you'll report to me!" Quickly I stood silent at attention and said, "Yes sir, I won't sir, sorry sir." He turned away and I stood frozen for about another thirty minutes. The cockroach finished crawling up the wall and I left it alone.
The next evening a fire-drill startled me. I ran to the corridor where the duty roster for fire duties were hung on the wall. A looked down the list and did not see my name, so I just mustered outside with everyone else. The watch leader came over to me and shouted, "Where the hell were you, You were supposed to be in the fire detail?" I said that I read the roster and my name wasn't there, so I didn't go. It turns out they spelled my name so completely wrong, that I refused to go. That almost didn't work as an excuse, but it did. I thought after last night with that damn cockroach, and now not going to fire detail, I was going to the brig sooner than later. I sighed in my rack that night hoping I don't screw up again before I get out of school. The next morning Friday, was the last class I was to be graded on. As I sat in class the First Class, the instructor that week, read the results to each sailor. I knew that if I failed that test, I would be standing in front of the Commandants Office again. A fate I did not want to think about. When my grade for the week was read, 70%, I thought my heart was going to stop.
That last week was a given, pass or fail, I would get to choose my next duty station. I chose Rome, Italy, the North Atlantic, or the South Atlantic. I never in a million years believed that I would get my first choice… and be shipped out to Rome, Italy. Now the fun was going to start. I never really believed how much I had changed in just ten months. I was a cigarette smoking, booze hound, and I felt that my life was on a merry-go-round.
I went home on leave and got this book from my grandfather,"The Hypnotic Eye" and brought it back with me after reading it from cover to cover, and decided that, well, shit I can do that…I now needed a subject, but who? Randy. He was a funny guy from Missouri, I think who could wiggle his ears, I thought it was cool then. When we were in downtown Baltimore, some chicks were selling some marijuana, and asked us if we were interested. He burst into the conversation and said that, "No way, we were ever going to get involved with that shit!" Then he pushed me ahead and the conversation was lost.
That night I told Randy that I could hypnotize people, and he really thought I was bullshitting. I carefully got his attention and before you know it he was mesmerized and doing whatever I told him to. Other guys there didn't believe he was under and burned him with a cigarette, and I told him in advance that nothing could hurt him. He didn't even flinch, so all of the guys there now believed me, which worked to my advantage many times after that. Not only could I hypnotize people, I realized that I could convince people of all kinds of things, and get away with it. Now I started to freak out, just when you get used to a being in a certain place and time, you have to go. Change from high school to boot-camp, change from boot-camp to "A" School, then change countries, a whole new way of life aboard a ship, I was about to have a meltdown.