Today is Sunday. Many people will make their way to church this morning. If I happened to be a church going fellow, which I’m not, and the urge for a sermon struck me I would need not suffer a long journey in order to hear one. The 2nd Assistant Engineer living across the hall from me is not officially a man of the cloth but in his church it's not necessary to be ordained in order to give a sermon. The religion of “Reverend” Professor Jesus Rapture is a faith and a church unto himself. And as sure as there will be eggs Benedict in the galley this morning he shows it by wearing a reverend’s habit under his coveralls every Sunday.
Though I did change his name I’m really not kidding about this. Professor isn't his first name and Rapture is not his surname but they are pretty comparable. His actual name has a much better ring to it and was legally changed many years ago. It looks absolutely hilarious on the crew lists that are sent to immigration every time we clear in to Singapore.
The philosophy, of which I have only scratched the surface during a brief theological discussion this morning on the cable highway, goes something like this; the Professor is seeking to convert no less than 144,000 followers to his faith. Loosely based in Christianity it is a mixture of Revelations “For the 21st century”, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Though everyone knows he’s not actually doing drugs at the moment somehow cloud ships factor in to the religion at some point, whatever they might be.
One hundred and forty four thousand appears to be the necessary number of humans requiring an awakening to appease god and save the world from destruction. Any less and the other two-thirds majority, whom are all sinners, would have a quorum. Thus Satan’s reign on earth would ensue which for the Reverend and the rest of us is a bad thing. If this sounds about as interesting to you as Scientology does to me don’t worry, there will be a book coming out shortly.
Working (And living) in close proximity to someone you would probably avoid walking down the sidewalk with gives pause for thought. While the Reverend is actually a good guy I have heard numerous stories about people who were really out there often to a hazardous degree. Stories about a guy who carried throwing knives in his back pocket every where he went or another who took a fire axe to the metal bulkheads in a rage and only surrendered after the captain had him convinced he was a prisoner of war back in Vietnam with a pistol drawn on him.
One captain told me about an AB who put on his shore going rig, packed his suitcase and then informed the mate on watch he would be going ashore before stepping off the bridge wing underway. The same captain worked with a second mate who would spend entire days sitting on the fantail shooting sun line after sun line never to plot one.
And then there is my favorite and the most disturbing story. This one a Chief Mate told me last week while we were out to dinner. She had a radio operator onboard who was well known for stealing dirty socks and other undergarments from the crew for his own olfactory enjoyment. He would actually pay the dancing girls in Guam to remove their boots so he could enjoy them as the rest of the crew watched in horror from the far corner of the bar. Surpsingly enough this fellow spent a career in the Navy and is now the radio opeartor on a Military Sealift Command fleet oiler.
Surely the decrease in tolerance for drugs and alcohol and slight increase in training standards has helped dissuade some of the less stable from careers at sea but not all. Anyone who has been working at sea for a while has surely had a run in or two with inebriated crew on duty, drug addicts fiending for a fix or sock sniffers. As far as the Reverend is concerned, I’m not too worried. He’s surprisingly not too much of a proselytizer and like the Chief Mate said, “He’s a nut, but he’s our nut,” or as my favorite quote goes, "Were all here because were not all there."