The words "Cold," "Energy" and "Conserve," are on everyone's lips, making most of our conversations sound like the opening act of Thornton Wilder's play, "The Skin of Our Teeth," as the Antrobus family lives through the ice age.
The situation is a serious one, but if President Carter, a former submariner, remembers some of the conservation efforts put forth by submarine personnel during long patrol runs and puts them to use, America should pull out of it.
A submarine leaving port and headed for a station thousands of miles from a friendly harbor is a lonely, self-contained unit.
In World II, when the order "Rig Ship For Sea" came over the loudspeaker it mean 70 to 80 days of confinement and excitement, but also an extreme curtailment of the comforts of everyday life for the officers and crew.
Water had the highest priority. Making fresh water from sea water meant running it through a condenser situated in the lower flat of the engine room. This process used up electricity that was being generated by an auxillary engine, which needed precious fuel to operate.
As a result, we only had one shower a week. But even that was cut back.
When loading the sub for sea, every available space was used for storing food and water and whatever else was necessary for the long sea voyage.
The chief steward always found the crew's showers a good place to store his sacks of potatoes. Most of the crew liked potatoes so no one really minded. We would only walk around smelling ripe for a few weeks until the potatoes were eaten and then we could get back to cleaning up.
The engine room crew responsible for the frest water were the conservative users of it, and watched other crew members with a wary eye at all times. One quart of water a day was allowed for each sailor to do with as he pleased.
The spigot in the crew's mess that was a grab-a-mouth-of-water'as-you-pass-by fountain, had three holes to sip from. Late one night when most of the crew were sleeping two of the holes were soldered shut.
A fireman whose shut it was to convert salt water to fresh also took an extreme measure to conserve water. It happened one day when he had been putting in more time than he thought he should down by the condenser.
A few days before, a lookout had reported a school of dead fish floating on the surface and we sailed right through it.
The fireman borrowed some hamburger from the cook and when most of the crew were eating he brought the salt water intake strainer into the mess with a blob of hamburger on it and made sure everyone got a loot at it.
There was little water used for next few days.
If the enginemen were tough on conserving their section of energy, the electricians fought back harder to conserve a lot of time on battery charges.
The first piece of comfort equipment to disappear was the sun lamp.
Then all the little fans that provide a tiny breeze while you slept disappeared.
Light bulbs were next, until it became so dark in some parts of the sub that we began carrying flashlights.
The ship's cooks got sore at the enginemen for the chintzy water supply and at the electricians for the bulb and fan snatching and began to prepare exotic meals such as baked stuffed sardines and a few other highly indigestible dishes.
On each patrol run a sailor would get the laundry concession and be able to pick up some extra money. The laundry sailor got angry at the electricians for pulling the plug once in a while when his machine was churning away and at the water makers who complained that he was using too much water.
He fired back by turning out of a wash that gave us a tattletale dark gray look.
Hand-lettered signs would go up all over the place urging others sailors to take it easy on the water and electricity. One such sign hanging from a bulb asked, "Why is this bulb left burning all the time?" Under it in a scawl was the answer, "Because it's our only source of heat."
Actually heat was no problem in the South Pacific, but air conditioning was important, although it was a high user of energy. Even the electricians avoided fooling with that.
Toward the end of the patrol run the officers' shower nozzle disappeared, but they didn't complain much.
Things would ease up when we were ordered back to port and we knew we could get a second shower that week. Even the cooks would get generous with the meals they had been holding back from us.
It was always a good feeling, tying up at the pier and walking around topside, all of us pale and smelly as we watched the relief crew attaching fresh water and electricity from the pier.
We ate heads of fresh lettuce, bowls of ice cream, and read our three-month-old maiL, most of which started with, "You should be happy to be where you are, it's freezing back here -"