Ah, the memories. It is indeed one of life’s pleasures to sit back and reminisce about the experiences that come from being on a ship. The sunsets. The aqua-blue clarity of the water as you near the Hawaiian islands. The adrenaline rush of naval operations. The joy of returning home after a long deployment. The list goes on and on.
Great memories. But none of them can compare to a good nap.
As a young buck stationed on a small boy, naps were verboten. We were expected to get up – and stay up – from reveille until close of business. It didn’t matter if you had the rev watch (4am to 7am) or not. If the XO caught you in your rack, you were in some kind of trouble, fella. So if you did manage to sneak away for a good midday snooze, the sleep was made even more delicious by the forbidden nature of it all.
Nevertheless, Surface Warriors often spent time bragging about how LITTLE sleep they got. “I only got three hours last night.” “That’s nothing. I haven’t slept since last Wednesday.” The more one suffered, the higher the esteem.
It wasn’t until I spent some time on a carrier that I realized there was a whole new way to look at naps. Aviators not only embraced the concept, they somehow managed to make it official by labeling it “crew rest.” Bragging rights for aviators were the opposite of their SWO counterparts. “I slept for fourteen hours last night.” “That’s nothing. I’ve been in my pit for two days now. In fact, I’m STILL asleep.”
But non-aviators couldn’t claim crew rest privileges, and although no one said anything if you slipped out for a snooze, you could never compete with the professionals when it came to hours in the rack.
So the perfect nap remained elusive – at least, until I got on a staff. Maybe because staffs contain personnel from all warfare specialties, the staffer’s nap had evolved into an art form. On my staff, Wednesdays became the unofficial official day for sleep because that was Double Cheeseburger day. No meetings were ever scheduled after lunch on Wednesday because, quite frankly, no one would attend.
After downing a Double Cheeseburger (plus fries, of course), the staff would disappear without a word, not to be seen again until the effects of the meal had run thier course. Later in the afternoon, the officers would emerge again, going about their business as if nothing had happened. It was a little unnerving to carry on a conversation with a staffer while trying to ignore the mattress burns lining his face, but we were professionals and carried on.
Afterward, there was no bragging among the staff about naps, because there was no need. Bragging is for those who aspire to be the best – not for those who are already there.
Well, they say you can’t go back, and nowadays I’ll have to be content with basking in old memories, rather than trying to make new ones. But every so often, as a tip of the hat to the service I loved, I’ll gorge myself on a massive cheeseburger and spirit myself off to a comfortable sofa for a good snooze. It’s my homage to my brothers-and-sisters-in-arms who are still serving.
At least that’s what I tell my wife.