Telling Jokes 412 Feet Down

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong


Nobody enjoys off-color stories like American blue jackets.

We are a bardic people... We tell stories. 'No-shitters' make up the oral tradition of our Navy. A navy bluejacket can turn trivial incidents into epic tales by beefing up the recounting of the tale with a dose of the most amazing bullshit ever fabricated by man.

One of the best ways to pass time in an iron cylinder plowing saltwater with a few hundred feet of ocean between it and fresh air, is telling jokes.

Dirty jokes travel faster than electrical impulses... Years ago, they were spread coast to coast by late night telephone operators and train crews... You could tell one about some guy 'getting in the farmer's daughter's pants' in San Diego and hear the same story in Bangor, Maine two days later. That's America... The land of the three-minute smile.

It was also boat service. Always started with somthing like,

"Hey Dex... Did you hear the one about the girl and the drunk coal miner?"

And it triggered a string of follow-on...

"That reminds me about the one about the girl and the postman..."

"The girl and the salesman..."

That could last for an hour or so.

If you think back, you will remember nights where you parked your hippockets in the crews mess... Drank two or three cups of that magic, bottom of the pot coffee and laughed half the night. The more absurd the joke, the funnier it was. A boat without laughter isn't a boat... It's a can full of zombies.

I may be wrong, but I get the distinct feeling that in the new order of sensitive sailoring with mixed gender close proximity living, if a torpedo pusher came aft, drew a mocha latte al la almond doo-dah with Jasmine scent surprise and said,

"Excuse me girls, any of you bastards hear the one about the blind nympho and the circus monkeys?"

He would have to undergo mental rehab for ten weeks.

Hell, in the old days guys would have busted their mates out of the rack with,

"Hey Dex... They're telling jokes in the messdeck."

And you would crawl out of your rack.. Dust off a couple of well worn raunchies and haul forward to see that Hogans Alley was properly represented.

One time on Requin, the exec scheduled an 'all hands not on watch' practical factors lecture on the care and use of the 45 pistol. We all collected in the after battery fully expecting one of those bullshit long-winded discourses that were like watching paint dry.

The Chief of the Boat came in... Held up a 45 pistol, and said,

"Any one of your idiots ever seen one of these? It's a 45 pistol... Holds eight rounds... Clip goes in here... Pull the slide back... Depress slide release... This chambers the first round. This is the safety. If the safety is off... Squeeze trigger... Very loud noise... Round comes out here, heads in the direction that this tube is pointed and travels in that direction until the progress of the projectile is interupted by some object, in which it leaves one giant hole in."

"Any frigging questions?"

"Good. This ends the lecture on the care and use of your 45 side arm."

"Anyone heard any good jokes?"

By the time the exec came aft to see how the practical factors lecture was going, we were laughing at one about some guy so drunk that making love was like poking a raw oyster in a parking meter. The COB explained that any kid who had ever stood a late night topside watch and had taken apart his 45 and put it back together so many times, he could do it in his sleep. There was a point where a 12 to 4 topside watch could actually hear his armpit hair grow...

Monkeying with a 45 was an educational thing... Unless you dropped a spring or a small part into the superstructure and had to explain to the duty officer what you were doing below the walking deck on your hands and knees poking around with a flashlight and had a foulweather jacket pocket full of loose pistol parts.

To today's bluejackets, old pigboat sailors must look very unprofessional. But we really weren't, not at all. We were great at what we did. We didn't have interchangable crews. We were it... Our hull numbers were the only address we had. Riding submarines was our full time job. We knew our boats... We knew our jobs... We had so damn much pride and morale, we could have sold the excess in Army Navy surplus stores.

We laughed... We kept wornout boats operational and going to sea regularly. We had a 'mission ready' record second to none and we laughed at hardship and lived a life on par with sewer diggers... Happy sewer diggers.

Look at the way boatsailors pass jokes on the Internet. I hope the service I loved never loses the ability to laugh. I hope that humor is always interwoven in the fabric upon which Dophins are pinned. I hope that there are still unshaven lads in tattered dungaree shirts that still ride deep-diving iron, who come into their messdeck, draw a cup of coffee and say...

"Hey... Anyone heard the one about the old boatsailor and the admiral's widow?" .