And now for a short ballad of my life from the unusually quiet and reserved T.C. Miller.
Just the other day, I was at work. (Go figure.) But before I even begin, allow me some room to set the stage; Big ship, 5,000 folks plus. Ladder wells up and down e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. Handle bars bordering both sides of each ladder well. Steep stairs, too, like the kind that you almost have to walk side-ways on. The proper approach to transiting to and from these ladder wells is as follows: Walk slowly to the bottom or top of ladder. Face towards ladder, placing both hands simultaneously on the bottom or top of each handrail. Take first step with dominant foot, following in succession foot after solid foot. Do not remove death hold on handrails. Do not slide down, or pull yourself up such handrails. Do not place weight, even 10 lbs, on said handrails. Do not make contact with handrails from any other part of your body. Do not attempt to transit said ladder well at the same time as other sailor, especially if he or she is larger and angrier looking. So there’s the background.
Present day. Well, you may or may not know, that in my former life, (up until a week ago), I was a ninja. Practiced and trained in the lost art of upper-body strength and thin poles, I could pull and hoist and climb anywhere and everywhere, and this I did. During long periods of lunch or dinner, I would hike out to an exclusive ladder well, one rarely used. I would then proceed to spend the next 15-20 minutes doing pull-ups on the ceiling above (ship ceilings all have steel rafters) as well as practice this art of monkey climbing all around and under and above the ladder well, cross beams in the ceiling, rafters, panels, etc. You name it, I climbed it. This was me, relieving tension and having fun. Over a period of a week, I got exceptionally good at walking to the top of the ladder well, firmly placing both hands, and upon picking up my feet, allowing my body to ‘coast’ down the stairs using my hands/arms to prop myself up in an elevator fashion. Day by day I would increase speed, until I was able to hit the top, place the hands and be at the bottom under a second or 2. (At the beginning, I was so slow in sliding that by the time I reached the bottom and turned, I would notice a line behind me of people waiting to get down, meanwhile I in my own little world sliding down these ladders…lol people were taking numbers at the top it was so bad!)
Anyways…One particular Sunday morning, I put on my cleanest uniform and shiniest boots, my ‘Sunday Boots’ I liked to call them, and headed down to Bible Study. (In which we were studying patience in trials and tribulations). I reached one of my favorite ladder wells (favored for its length and exceptional speed potential) and immediately began my ninja trick-of-the-trade. Now, this is where my mind gets a little fuzzy. I will try to recount the event as it happened, in logical sequence of course, disregarding my heightened adrenaline and weak emotional state at this time. It either happened because I forgot that I had my Bible in hand, or it happened because I forgot I had my Bible in my hand, but either way, it happened. Halfway down, my carrying arm (that would be my left, for you non-observing-me folks) began to slide over to the outboard (farther left) side of the railing, which meant my body was only supported on that side now by a thumb and index. A few more stairs blurred by beneath me, and the next thing I knew, my left hand had slipped altogether! My body lurched violently to the left, thus causing my feet to descend towards the narrow steps. My left foot snagged a passing stair, and my body blew full force face down and slightly to the left, until a split second later(and my face centimeters from scraping the staircase), when the ‘never give up’ right hand (that was still securely connected to the right banister) caught firmly and whip-lashed my then free-falling form hard to the right. My head hit the right banister, and my face down body did a whirly-bird Olympic-worthy flip, feet-over-head, down the ladder well, which not only broke my grasp on the right banister, but also left me on my back, sliding the last 5 or 6 stairs to the base, facing forward to come and rest at the feet of one of the prettiest little Navy gals I had ever seen. And for the grand finale, (and I am not making this up!) the previously secured Bible bounced thump, thump, thump and hit me squarely in the back of the skull, coming to rest at the base of my neck and forcing my head to bob forward like some awkward bobble head or more perhaps a finishing bow, legs and arms sprawled every which way, and a now sheepish little boy grin forming upwards in greeting toward the tiny speechless Doll a foot and a half in front of me. In an absolutely futile attempt to regain some much needed confidence and cover a badly bruised ego, I reached out my right hand and stated flatly, “Good morning, I am Petty Officer Miller, and the next show is going to be five bucks please.” The bubbly little girl immediately burst into a fit of giggles and shook my hand, making a feigning attempt to pull me to my feet. I did manage to get up, noticed a slightly pounding head (but not wishing to damage any more of my pride) forced another boyish grin and whispered as I walked by, “Let’s keep this one a secret shall we?” To which another slew of bouncy giggles erupted from the little girl behind me, my back to her and coolly walking away until I turned a corner and stopped to catch my breath and my weakness could safely be shown.
It was surely an eventful morning. One to which I now owe the guidelines written earlier, and to which I adhere too on a very strict basis. 🙂