Cook: A lesson from the bubble-heads
In the early part of my Navy career, I served in the nuclear submarine service, the famous "Silent Service." Of course, we had other handles, like "sewer pipe sailors" — which is self explanatory.
We were also called "bubble-heads," which comes from the use of a "bubble" like that of a carpenter level to determine the angle of the boat.
It was with fear and awe that I walked aboard my first sub: the USS Hammerhead. She was a newly commissioned nuclear "fast attack" submarine. I was overwhelmed by the complexity of this marvelous machine. We would spend three months completely submerged: never surface, never re-supply. She was nuclear, no need for refueling. We made our own pure water from the sea, and using hydrolysis, made our own oxygen from the pure water. And we had equipment that got rid of the bad air.
The only limiting factor of how long a sub could stay submerged was the amount of food we could take aboard, and the morale of the crew.
I had spent two years in nuclear training to arrive at this moment and now I was here: a nuclear-powered submarine. I was proud. I also had fear — fear that I would push the wrong button or open the wrong valve.
After a week at sea, I experienced my first deep dive. I was being trained in the engine room — an awesome responsibility.
So, I asked the Chief if there were any special procedures to observe during the dive. I was puzzled when he replied by asking me how good my mental arithmetic was. He went on to explain the golden rule of the submarine service: "Count how many times we dive, add the number of times we surface, and divide by two. If there is one left over, don't open the hatch!"
In a submarine or in life, there is no place to hide from responsibility. Everybody, regardless of title or job, has responsibilities — to their family, to the community, and to the nation. It is also easy to dodge those responsibilities.
I frequently meet folks that live their life as if someone else is responsible for their happiness. When our attitudes are such that we accept responsibility as our own, we can move on with confidence in life. Then we don't have to worry about that open hatch.
Now that is something to think about.
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