They are everywhere. They know that people would see through their dirty-tricks but they just can’t help being smart-asses. For example, we had a senior officer’s wife who was a kleptomaniac. One would think that she would have been afraid of being caught in the act or embarrassed or mortified. But, no, kleptomania is a mania beyond you. You just cannot help it. When the urge comes and you think that your host or hostess isn’t looking, you quietly let their expensive Murano glass slip in your purse, kind of naturally. It is the same thing with smart-asses. When the urge comes a calling, they just cannot resist it.
Life is really very interesting because of these smart-asses; they know everything; they have done this and that and make you wonder how life simply ignored you whilst these guys were having the time of their lives.
I give below a few representative cases only; in my nearly 37 years in the Navy, I have come across quite a few of them and I can actually write volumes about their exploits. But, this post is only just the trigger. I actually want you too to share similar experiences in the comments below the post.
Walking in the sun together
This happened with me when I was undergoing my professional course in Communications in Signal School, Kochi. We were accommodated in the Southern Naval Command Mess and dined there too. The Mess was about a kilometer away from the School and unless one had a two-wheeler, one walked in the scorching heat and humidity that sapped your energy.
I had already got my donkey (a Yezdi 250 cc mobike) with some of my own money augmented by a loan from my dad. Hence, shuttling between the Mess and the School had become less tedious.
By the way, the road in the above picture is the what the National Highway (Ha! Ha!) between Mumbai to Goa looked like in 1981. I have always maintained that as far as Indian scene was/is concerned, Highway is a Punjabi word. When you go over a pot hole you end up saying, “Haai wey” (O’ my God; look). But, that’s another story.
Anyway, getting back to Case #1; on a particularly hot summer day (remember the ad: Always Summer, Always Coca-Cola? Well, that kind of typical Indian summer day), I was about to start back from the Signal School. I still remember that it was a Tuesday. How do i remember it after so many years? Well, it is very simple: on Tuesdays the lunch in the mess comprised Channa-Bhatura, my favourite meal during those days and I wanted to quickly reach the mess and gorge on at least a dozen Bhaturas (Distant memory! Nowadays, one feels cautious of having a single one).
I kicked the donkey. It gave a hiss and then got back to sleeping. I gave another. It just ignored me. I gave a series of frantic kicks but my donkey ignored me like a Malyali shopkeeper when you ask him to show a few more shirts (other than the one that he has selected for you) so that you could make a choice. Finally, I realised that time was running short and that if I was late, the mess cooks would run out of the dough to make Bhaturas. So, helmet in hand, I started walking toward the Mess. Lieutenant ABC, who in any case used to walk since he neither had a two-wheeler nor a helmet, accompanied me.
Recently, we (the woman in the above picture and I!) saw the movie Revenant (the one who returned, especially from being dead) starring Leonardo DiCaprio. I can assure you that the one km walk back to the mess with helmet in my hand was more painful than the entire adventure of Hugh Glass in Montana and South Dakota when he was left behind by his friends as dead after he was attacked by a bear. Seeing the helmet in my hand, many other bikers and scooterists offered me a ride; but, I politely declined thinking that Lieutenant ABC who was walking back with me would have to walk alone.
As the next biker stopped to give me a lift and as once again I declined, Lieutenant ABC borrowed my helmet and took off as a pillion with the guy who was offering me a lift.
Looking back, I realised why my loyal donkey ditched me that day; it was only so that I would learn a very useful lesson about life.
“My wife; well, she is different”
I was posted in Vizag. Captain XYZ took over as my new boss. Since I was the second senior most after him, it was left to me to make him feel at home as also for my wife to introduce the other unit ladies to his wife. I told my wife to fix up with the other ladies and take them all in a group to my boss’s house so that all introductions would be done in one go.
In the office I requested the officers to convey this to their wives.
One particular officer, DEF, after the meeting, came to me and said that although the idea was good but his wife didn’t believe in brown-nosing senior officers’ wives and could she be excused? Now, I myself used to be a rebellious type who hardly followed traditions. So, in this particular case, I assured him that it wasn’t an order and was meant to be on voluntary basis only and hence Mrs. DEF should follow what her conscience permitted.
My wife, therefore, took all other ladies sans Mrs DEF to our boss’s house on a forenoon. They had the introductions, coffee and snacks,and nice cozy chat. When they were leaving, my wife told Mrs Boss that Mrs DEF couldn’t join them as she was preoccupied. At this, Mrs Boss responded, “Oh, don’t worry about Mrs DEF; she practically lives in our house since the time we have arrived in town. So sweet of her. She will be bringing home-cooked lunch for me today”.
Good presenters are most professional officers
This officer was the smartest-ass that I have ever come across. The other day,I gave people the accepted definition of a smart-ass during our days: A smart-ass is someone who can sit on a cone of ice-cream and tell you what flavour it is. Well, this one was smart; very very smart and remained – well, buoyant – throughout his career in the Navy because of the natural gas that he possessed in abundance. The following was his motto:
The other day, a senior of mine remarked, “Story-tellers rule the world”. Well, ABC could not just tell a story but also take someone else’s story and tell it as his own. And at the end of it, people had only one reaction: Wow!
ABC dislodged another officer who had done all the hard-work to prepare his department of a ship to be commissioned, just before commissioning and took over as Navigating Officer. He set about remaking all the important books of the department such as Navigation Data Book, Navigation and Direction Standing Orders, Harbour and Sea Check Off Lists. Now all these require enormous hard-work. Fortunately, the Navigating Officer of my previous ship had done all the hard-work and all that ABC did was to borrow all the books from my previous ship, get a team of under-trainee Subaltern Lieutenants and Midshipmen to copy the entire stuff by merely changing the name of the ship wherever it occurred, put the stuff in beautiful looking bound books with lots of coloured borders and catchy titles.
These books are put up to the Commanding Officer every month for signatures and our CO, looking at all the hard-work that had gone in (actually, only presentation skills) had given excellent remarks on the books.
After a few months, we were on our way to a foreign cruise and our ship had the privilege of embarking the Fleet Commander who happened to be my previous ship’s CO (the same ship from where ABC’s minions had copied all the stuff and which the previous CO must have seen any number of times since he too would have these books put up to him every month. I don’t remember any occasion when he had written any complimentary remarks on those books).
One day, we were at sea doing nothing much (there was a break in the exercises schedule with other ships). Fleet Commander and my CO both were on the Bridge when my CO told the Fleet Commander that he would like to show the Fleet Commander the books maintained by his very capable Navigating Officer. For the next hour or so the Fleet Commander went through those books and this was his reaction, “These are simply outstanding.” He called the Fleet Operations Officer (FOO) and told him that on return to harbour he should promulgate these books as the standard to be used in the Fleet.
Later, after I finished my watch on the Bridge, I came down and subjected these books to a cursory glance and found that at a few places the name of my previous ship hadn’t been changed!
Smart-asses make our lives enriching experience for us whilst remaining buoyant throughout their careers.
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