You might have heard of a "navy shower." What you do is turn on the water, wet yourself down and then shut off the water. You soap yourself up, turn on the water, rinse yourself down, and you're done.
Navy ships do not have water to waste (and I will write about how fresh water is produced some other time). The standard for the use of potable water was 25 gallons a day for each person on the ship. So if you have a ship with 250 officers and sailors, that works out to 6,250 gallons of fresh water per day. That is not just for showering, that is for all uses: Cooking, washing pots and pans, laundry, showering, swabbing the decks, drinking, everything (except flushing toilets-- that was done with seawater).
Fresh water use is a critical item, for if a ship runs low on fresh water, then "water hours" are imposed. During water hours, the showers are secured except at designated times and, often, for designated people. The cooks get to shower, the sailors who got really filthy at work get to shower, but the "radar girls" up in CIC, the radiomen, and the sonar techs, among others, have to suck it up and do without.
So some genius at the Naval Sea Systems Command came up with the idea of a special low-flow hand-held shower head. The user would have to bring the nozzle up close to his or her body and then hold down a button on the shower head to spritz down their body. Needless to say, they were not popular. Some folks on the ships thought they were hazardous, as a sailor would have to rub down the rinsing area to make it work better, so that was one hand holding the nozzle, one hand rinsing off. That left no hands to grab onto the grab iron in each shower in the event of a severe roll of the ship.
Add to that the fact that some ships were pretty disciplined on water use and, unless there was an engineering casualty, had refilled their freshwater tanks by the beginning of the work day.
So we go now to one of those ships. The supply system had delivered enough of the new shower heads to refit every shower on the ship, with some left over for spares. The Chief Engineer ("Cheng"), who was intimately familiar with the ship's use of potable water, regarded those shower heads with the skepticism due any bright idea from the shore pukes. Cheng ordered the division officer whose sailors would install the nozzles to put them aside and to work on more important things, important being defined as "everything else."
The Supply Officer, who knew that the new shower nozzles had arrived, asked Cheng when they would be installed. Cheng politely advised the SuppO to "fuckin' mind yer own fuckin' business."
The XO soon found out that the new shower heads were on board. He asked Cheng if they had been installed. Cheng said no, that the sailors who would do the work were "busy." The XO caustically observed that if Engineering waited until they weren't busy to install the new shower heads, they'd never be installed. The XO ordered Cheng to "start installing those goddamned shower heads."
And so Cheng did. The shower heads were installed first in all of the showers in Officer Country, including the showers in the private heads of the Captain and the XO, and they were also installed in the head in the Goat Locker (the slang term for the "Chief Petty Officers' Quarters"). Cheng then sat back and waited.
The Captain advised the XO that the new shower heads "sucked." The XO, of course, knew that from personal observation. The junior officers grumbled audibly. But the biggest reaction came from the Goat Locker. The chiefs in B and M divisions knew what the fresh water usage of the ship was, they knew that the new shower heads were not needed. They made that point vocally to the other chiefs. The Command Master Chief relayed the complaints to the Captain and the XO.
And the chiefs had a plan. The R division chief ordered his sailors to reinstall the old shower heads and to "forget you ever saw the new shower heads." The sailors, who didn't want to have to use them themselves, were happy to comply. The chief storekeeper made sure that the supply records of the ship did not show that the new shower heads or any of the spare parts had ever been received.
And so, the next time that the ship went to sea, the R division chief threw the new shower heads over the side.
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