I’d like to tell you the story of Mr. Coconut.
I didn’t meet him as Mr. Coconut. I met him as the intimidating safety officer whose accent I couldn’t understand. On our first day onboard Mr. Coconut was drilling safety info into our heads, and a few days later he quizzed me on information (as he must do for every new crewmember) before signing off that I was sufficiently trained. Mr. Coconut likes to watch you squirm. He likes to ask you question after question, and make you think you didn’t know even when you did, until there’s something you don’t answer correctly and then he says “you have a lot to learn my dear.”
And quite honestly, he’s right.
Every ship is different when it comes to how they prepare you for safety procedures (like fires, general emergencies, or medical emergencies, etc.) but on this ship we have Mr. Coconut, who wants to be absolutely sure that we know what we’re doing. On all ships your life raft has a drill once a month, but (at least from what I’ve heard) most of the time you just meet, go over some basic questions and then get back to work. For our raft drills, Mr. Coconut likes to make sure we learn a new skill every time.
Last week we learned, among other things, how to pull people out of the water and into our life raft. There’s a method.
Now you may be wondering how we practiced this. Well, it involved a pool…. And my raft was first, and Mr. Coconut graciously volunteered me.
I need to backtrack and first explain that while Mr. Coconut scared me initially, I got to know him a bit over the last few weeks, and he is really a sweetheart. And really funny. He’s devoted to his job, so he can seem a little intimidating as he’s demanding answers from you, but ultimately he’s just a man who sits and laughs at the crazy things those silly Americans say.
Oh and we call him Mr. Coconut because the server at the ice cream station always leaves a small bowl of coconut ice cream out for him. It’s his favorite.
Anyway, we started our raft drill and Mr. Coconut asks for volunteers to get into the pool. No one from our entire (fully clothed) raft offers. So Mr. Coconut picks me. And I say “you’re serious?”
“yes. Empty your pockets and take off your shoes and get in the pool.”
“I have to go back to work after this!”
“you’ll go change. It’s ok, no one’s in the library anyway”
So, fully clothed, in my uniform of navy slacks and an orange polo shirt I get into the pool where the raft is set up and then an officer demonstrates to the rest of my raft the proper way to pull someone into the raft.
And that, my friends, is what it’s like (sometimes) to work on a ship.