The Flying Desk Caper

by R. Bruce Miller, LCDR, USN (ret)

Once upon a time there were four fun-loving, happy-go-lucky Naval Officers. They thoroughly enjoyed each others company and had been known to alternately go out for some fun together and play harmless practical jokes on each other. Three of these gentlemen were submariners (Steely Eyed Killers of the Deep) and the fourth was a Limited Duty Officer (Surface Warfare) Lieutenant. These four compatriots had the good fortune to be stationed together at the Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, Newport News, during a time when the construction of 688 Class submarines was at its peak. Because of the heavy load of construction in the submarine arena, even the SWO-LDO was pressed into service to manage one of the submarine construction projects.

Being the only 'Skimmer' in the group and an LDO besides, the Lieutenant decided that he needed to take it upon himself to show these upstart 'Bubbleheads' the appropriate way to have fun, work, deal with the shipyard, build submarines, live, eat, breathe, etc. He basically enjoyed being a 'Sea Daddy' to this poor misguided group of submariners and tried to teach the others in this happy little band how to do everything. As a result, the group was sometimes regaled with innumerable parables (read: Sea Stories) concerning every possible topic under the sun. These training sessions could and would cover everything from determining the speed of a surface ship from the height of its bow wave in relation to its hull number, to the appropriate home rules for raising a teenage daughter. Although these lessons were quite informative, it soon became evident, even to these poor, unlearned, naive submariners, that some of his tales might be a tad overblown and maybe even somewhat inflated or even, (dare I say it), exaggerated. However; due to the dignified and mature nature of the gentleman in question, these stories could NEVER be called lies.

Once this realization set in, the three, young (by comparison), polite submariners would listen quietly, nod in approval of the moral to the story being espoused by their learned colleague, but do their best to NOT encourage additional discourse. Any comment uttered by one of the three dolphin wearers in response to any given point was considered an open invitation for the SWO-sage to expound on any tangent that may be related in some way to the topic at hand. Any comment made by one of the three was frowned upon by the other two. Unfortunately, this form of finesse was somewhat lost on our LDO hero, and the stories would continue unabated in even greater style, flair, and dramatization. At one point, our intrepid set of three had become so exhausted by the flow, that they made a small mistake. The LDO was detailing his Herculean exploits on the waterfront of the shipyard and the deck plates of the boat itself. He was describing how he never had time at his desk in the project office because of these efforts and that it wouldn't matter if he had a desk on the waterfront because he would be onboard and not able to get to it. He swore that even through all of these travails he would still accomplish his given task. The fateful words uttered were something to the effect,

"I don't care if my desk is in the overhead, I'll still get it all done!"

It was at this point that our submariners made their error. They sighed, rolled their eyes, and then gave each other a sly, knowing sneer. The LDO, being wise in the ways of his compatriots, saw this and then proceeded to commit an even larger, more grievous error. He indicated that the three friends did not possess enough of those qualities, attributes or physical characteristics necessary to be called 'real' men or to accomplish that which he thought they were considering.

Next Scene: The next morning, in the office of the four friends. The LDO enters to hear his phone ringing. He looks for his desk and locates it twelve feet in the air with all of its associated equipment (files, computer, phone, light, calendar, desk pad, etc.) all intact. His shoulders sag, he slowly shakes his head, turns and walks out. His weekly time sheet entry for the day indicates 'Sick Leave'.

New Scene: Our three 'Steely Eyed Killers of the Deep' are at attention, on the carpet in the Deputy Supervisor's Office being read the riot act. Apparently a grievance had been filed for an act which had the possibility of introducing potentially harmful industrial dust into the work area (when the ceiling tiles were removed to hoist the desk). The Deputy has to speak in a 'louder than normal' voice in order to be heard over the Supervisor's boisterous laughter in the office next door as he sees the photos of the incident. Our heroes were released on their own recognizance.

(Note: No LDO or other form of wildlife was harmed in the commission of this prank.)