In the early '70s, I was a college student during the week, but once a month I had to complete my Navy Reserve commitment by sailing up and down the Potomac River as a boilerman on a destroyer.
While I was on assignment one day, my engineering officer came up to me and said, "Reynolds, you're the only rated and trained boilerman in the D.C. area, and we want to promote you to boilerman second class." So, the next month I pretended to study the manuals they gave me but still passed the promotion exam.
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in April, I was in the boiler room when the officer called and told me to report to the top bridge for a promotion ceremony, which I had not expected that day. Boilerman was such an awful specialty -- tedious work under unbearably hot and humid conditions -- that regulations were sometimes disregarded, hair being one of them. Mine covered my ears down to my neck. I quickly watered down my mop, shoved it into my hat and climbed up to the bridge.
As I stood at attention and the captain came out to congratulate me, a gust of wind blew my cap overboard. The captain took one look at me, spoke to his executive officer and stomped off.
Later I learned that I had been promoted and demoted simultaneously, a new Navy record. I got a haircut the next month, went through the whole process again and finally got the promotion.
Ranny Reynolds, Reston
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