Saturday, April 29, 2017

“Teetotaller” in Uniform – Hilarious Story from my Navy Days


Delightful Memories of my Halcyon Navy Days
A Spoof

The TEETOTALLER ALCOHOLIC  a Rum Tale by Vikram Karve

Long back  more than 39 years ago  sometime in the late 1970 we were young officers just introduced to the pleasures of alcohol during our specialisation course.

We youngsters thoroughly enjoyed our newly found freedom by topping up to the hilt  – drinking copiously – in the Wardroom Bar every evening (in the Navy – Wardroom means Officers Mess)

Though this “Stone Frigate was supposed to be a Technical Training Establishment  the atmosphere was more OG than Gunnery School.

And – to make matters worse  we were located in a desolate remote place in the back of beyond.

Apart from playing sports  the only recreation for us bachelors was drinking alcohol. 

Also  in order to sleep soundly in the bedbug infested cabins  you had to imbibe a reasonable amount of alcohol every evening.

So  every evening  after a vigorous round of games – we would assemble in the wardroom bar  and top-up – till the last sitting for dinner was announced.

In order to curb our excesses  the PMC set a daily limit of 3 Large Pegs of Rum for each individual officer. 

The PMC (President Mess Committee) was the seniormost member of the Wardroom. 

In this “Stone Frigate” – the PMC happened to be the Executive Officer (XO) – also known as the Base Commander – the secondmost senior officer in the Naval Base 

(The seniormost officer – the Captain (aka Commanding Officer) was not a member of the Wardroom as per Naval Tradition) 

For reasons best known to him  the PMC set a daily limit of 3 Large Pegs of Rum for each individual officer.  

Well  during those days  we drank only large pegs – and 3 large pegs total about 180 ml of hard liquor – less than a quarter of a bottle of rum  which has almost 13 large pegs.

Now  for tough young Naval Officers like us in their early 20’s  only 3 large pegs of rum were just too little  especially for an ardent drinker like me.

So  I devised a simple strategy. 

I caught hold of my course-mate “X” – who was a strict teetotaller.

Of course – like most “Teetotallers in Uniform  my friend “X” was quite a money-minded “Businessmen in Uniform too. 

You will be surprised – but – “X” was the only strict teetotaller in our course.

Nowadays – you find a large number of “Teetotallers in Uniform”. 

Anyway – let me get back to the story of “X”. 

I saw “X” sitting in the bar with a soft drink – so – I walked over to him and made him a proposition: 

“If you let me have your Rum Quota  I will pay your entire Wine Bill  including whatever Soft Drinks and Snacks you have.”

“You will pay my entire Bar Bill...?” an unbelieveing “X” asked me.

“Yes – I will pay your entire Bar Bill. You see your daily 3 peg rum quota is going waste  since you are a teetotaller. I am a heavy drinker – and the rum quotaof 3 large pegs of rum is too little for me – and – I need at least 4/5 pegs every day. So – if you give me your daily rum quota – I will pay your entire bar bill every month....” I said to “X”

Being a “Businessman in Uniform – “X” readily agreed – since I would be paying for his soft-drinks and snacks too. 

In fact  I am sure that in his heart he jumped with joy. 

So  we instructed the bar steward accordingly. 

The Bar SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) was as follows. 

Every evening  the steward would put my first 3 large pegs of rum in X’s bar-book.

Whatever subsequent pegs I drank beyond the first 3 pegs  they would be entered in my bar-book. 

Yes  those days – in Navy wardrooms – we had bar-books which we had to sign at the end of the evening  or by next morning.

So  every evening  as I sat down to drink  my first 3 large pegs of rum would be written in X’s bar-book.

In case I drank a 4th or 5th or 6th peg of rum  the steward would write them in my own bar-book.

I seldom drank more than 6 large pegs  except on rare occasions like parties  but on such occasions of unrestricted drinking  booze was on the house  and we were not subject to any drinking quota.

So  thanks to my friend “X”  every evening  I would enjoy a generous amount of booze.

This raised my spirits – so my morale was high  and I was quite happy.

“X” was delighted with this arrangement. 

“X” sat down with us in the evenings  downing soft-drink after soft-drink  eating plenty of small eats – knowing that I was paying for all his soft-drinks and snacks too. 

Since he was a “Businessman in Uniform – while drinking soft-drinks and eating snacks  I am sure “X” kept calculating the cost of his soft-drinks and snakcks in his mind – estimating how much money he was saving – since I was paying his entire Bar Bill

I am sure that in his mind he was wondering what a sucker I was.

A couple of months passed happily.

One morning  the PMC suddenly entered the training hall  and he thundered: 

“Who the bloody hell is Sub Lieutenant “X”...?” 

The PMC shouted X’s name  and he looked around the hall.

“X” meekly stood up.

The PMC strode up to “X”.

The PMC brandished X’s bar-book menacingly.

Then  the PMC shouted at “X”: 

“What the hell is wrong with you...? Do you want to become a bloody alcoholic...? You have been religiously drinking 3 large pegs of rum every day for the last two months. I am stopping your booze. No more drinking. You better sober up.”

And then  as suddenly as he had come  the PMC stormed out of the hall  rendering a hapless “X” dumbstruck and speechless.

Poor “X” – his reputation as a “drinker” spread pretty fast. 

At parties  when “X” had his usual glass of cola in his hand  the PMC would suspect that X’s soft drink was was spiked with rum. 

So “X” started drinking lime juice  but even then  the PMC was sure it was spiked with Gin or Vodka. 

The PMC kept telling the Training Officer that he suspected that “X” was still drinking heavily.

Accordingly  the Training Officer kept warning “X” to stop drinking.

Meanwhile  I had found other sources to replenish my “thirst” for alcohol  like picking up a few rum bottles from married officers.

The biggest joke was that the PMC thought that “X” was taking rum bottles from married officers  and – “X” was warned repeatedly by the Training Officer to abstain from drinking.

Soon X’s reputation as an alcoholic was growing.

“X” feared that his appraisal report (OLQ Marks) would be ruined with a remark about his alcohol dependence – and he would be branded as an alcoholic throughout his Naval Career.

So  one day  “X” told the Training Officer the whole story. 

The Training Officer told the PMC the story.

And soon  I found myself being marched up to the PMC.

The PMC had two bar-books in his hand – X’s Bar-Book and My Bar-Book. 

He was turning page after page.

The PMC asked me: 

“Is it true...? You seem to drinking 4 to 5 large pegs of Rum every evening. Sometimes even 6 pegs of Rum.”

“Yes, Sir...” I meekly said to the PMC. 

I was trembling inside  expecting to be logged  or be severely admonished by the PMC – who was also the XO. 

I surely anticipated that my booze was going to be stopped  so I was thinking in my mind what new arrangements I needed to make to obtain an adequate supply of rum to satisfy my “thirst” for booze  maybe my friends in the Army or Air Force could help me out.

The PMC held up the bar-book of “X” and he asked me: 

“And what about this officer  your friend “X”  is he telling the truth that he is a Teetotaller  or  is he also a bloody Alcoholic like you...?” 

“Sir  he is an Alcoholic Teetotaller...” I blurted out.

“What...? Alcoholic Teetotaller...? Bloody Hell...!!! This is the first time I am hearing this crazy oxymoron...” the PMC remarked – looking at me curiously.

“Sir  I meant that “X” is a Teetotaller Alcoholic...” I mumbled sheepishly.

Teetotaller Alcoholic...” the PMC repeated, looking confused.

And – suddenly – the PMC burst out laughing  and he said to me: 

“Come over to my house for a drink this evening. You seem to be an interesting chap.”

Maybe  I reminded him of his youthful days. 

Yes  I did indeed remind him of his wild younger days  that is what he told me after a few drinks – and  I could see that the PMC really enjoyed his liquor.

In the evening  sitting on the lawns of the PMC’s bungalow  as we imbibed peg after peg of the best Rum  the PMC  an old sea-dog  he was overcome by the Auld Lang Syne Complex – so he harked back to his halcyon navy days  and he excitedly told me about his glorious drinking escapades – and we kept drinking and talking till the wee hours of the morning.

Cheers  That calls for a drink...! 

I hope my good friend “Teetotaller Alcoholic” reads this memoir – and has a good laugh.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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1. This yarn is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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