My uncle Jack served in the late 60s on the aircraft carrier USS Ranger,
CVA-61, in the Tonkin Gulf off the east coast of Vietnam. Having spent his youth
with Ham radio, he became an electronics technician. He came aboard fresh
from high school, Basic Training, and the US Navy's radio repairman's school.
In the radio shop, as probably elsewhere on the ship, in the Navy, and in
military life in general, life is regulated by a strict hierarchy. In small
organizational units, where the hierarchy is rather flat, the pecking order must
be decided by some means other than stripe count. In the Ranger's radio repair
shop, the man with the least seniority was assigned to arrive earlier in the
morning to make the coffee, so it would be ready by the time the rest of the
The first morning out of port, the chief petty officer was giving him the shop
tour, focusing closely on coffee-making procedures.
"Ya see kid, first ya put eight scoops of coffee in da basket, den ya put
da water in da pot, up to dat line. Den ya put da basket in da pot, put da
lid on, and plug it inta da bulkhead. Ya got dat, kid?" "Yes
sir, got it."
Jack didn't drink coffee back then, and he still doesn't care much for it.
And he didn't particularly like the idea of making the coffee for the duration
of the cruise, for everyone else to drink. And he valued those ten extra
minutes in the rack as much as the next sailor, perhaps even more.
So the next morning, Jack put eight scoops of coffee in the filter basket.
The next morning, nine scoops. The morning after that, ten scoops.
And so on...
By the end of the week, the rest of the shop was convinced that Jack, being
incapable even of making a decent pot of coffee, was dumber than the average
tree stump. They arrived at the consensus that the honor of coffee detail
should be removed from his list of responsibilities, and given to someone more
competent. Jack just meekly hung his head at the shame, said "yes sir"
appropriately, and enjoyed those extra ten minutes of sleep for the rest of the