In this time of trial, I feel sad for those people who are finding themselves isolated from their friends and family.
I especially feel kind of bad that I really don’t feel all that isolated myself. I have a great wife and a very creative cat named Moses. To be honest, I really feel like most of my early life was spent preparing exactly for this moment.
You see, I was trained to be a Submariner back in the days when extended time alone with few outlets was the norm rather than the exception.
To be honest, it was a long time ago. But when some of your formative years are spent preparing to live on the barest minimal support possible, your brain gets rewired. For instance, I am just as comfortable sitting in my Zombie Room punching out stories on my blog than I am doing speeches to hundreds of people. The early training I had was writing letters I couldn’t send and journals that may never be read.
I can remember on my first patrol writing dozens of letters to my then girlfriend and looking forward to the day when I would receive dozens of letters from her. Except when the boat surfaced a few months later and the first mail drop was made, there were not dozens of letters. Actually, there weren’t any. She was not very skilled at social distancing and found several boys to fill her time with. Probably the best gift anyone could give another person. Although at the time, it didn’t feel like it. I spent the next few months feeling very alone and learned to recognize the value of true relationships.
We also practiced being limited on food choices. The fresh food would be gone within a few weeks of deploying and the canned and frozen stuff would become pretty routine within a short period of time. To be fair, we had the best cooks in the Navy and from time to time we had steaks and lobster tails. But most days it was a creative mix of pre approved meals that filled your stomach without challenging your imagination vey much. The next twenty years would not be much different.
There were other shortages too. Toilet paper. Even the stuff the government buys serves a purpose and if the boat got extended past its normal time, rolls would disappear pretty quickly. Recent events actually brought back some memories.
Entertainment was pretty limited. There were no radios or cassette tapes so you listened to the reel to reel tapes o the mess decks. The same with movies. Since personal devices had not yet been invented, you really only had that 16 MM projector to rely on for escape.
In the end, we survived. The time of isolation always came to an end. The sun shown over the quarterdeck once more (or the rain if you were in Guam).
We will all survive this time period too. It just takes some adjustment.
Here’s the deal: if you are struggling, reach out to a Bubblehead. Or anyone who ever served on an aircraft carrier for nine months at a time. We will help you with some tips on surviving. Or just laugh at you. We have wickedly insane senses of humor and sometimes all that social distancing has removed our sympathy bone.