The Ocean Doesn’t Care

Do you know why I like sailing?

I sigh with resignation as I settle into my chair and click the icon on my desktop to launch the mandatory Prevention of Sexual Harassment training that it’s very important I complete by the end of the day. It’s mandated that I take it every year. That, along with a whole list of other very important training such as Combatting Human Trafficking, Cyber Security, Information Awareness, and on and on ad nauseum.

Now mind you, it’s not that I’m being singled out for this punishment. It’s an annual requirement for everyone who punches the clock for Uncle Sam. But I’ve worked for the Navy in one capacity or another for my entire adult life, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never once sexually harassed anyone. But no matter, it’s a requirement. All told, I’ll bet I’ve taken this very important training several dozen times. It’s probably a week of my life lost to the administrivia gods.

About a third of the way through, my supervisor stops by to ask if I’d complete and submit some information services request orders. He’s tied up and they need to be in today. Thankful for something slightly more meaningful to do, I say “No problemo” and launch the appropriate form. A few clicks and some typing, a brief dive under some desks to verify port numbers, and I’m done. Hitting “Submit,” I reluctantly return to my very important mind-numbing soul-sucking computer-based training.

Ten minutes later, I have mail. It’s from the IT shop. It says “Information services request forms can only be submitted by Branch Heads, Division Heads, or Department Heads. Please have your supervisor submit these requests.”

Sigh. I pick up the phone and call. “So, my Branch Head asked me to do this for him. He’s pretty busy today.”

“He’ll have to submit the forms,” came the curt reply.

“So even though he asked me to do it for him, you won’t do it unless he submits them.”

“That’s right. Please have him submit the forms.”

“So you’re going to make me forward these completed requests to him, just so that he can then forward them to you.”

“That’s right. Then we can act on the requests.”

“But they’ll be the same forms with the same info, just from a different email address,” I say, foolishly believing that I could somehow prevail through the application of logic.

“Only Branch Heads, Division Heads, and Department Heads can submit information services request forms.”

“I got it,  I got it. OK, fine. Thanks. Goodbye,” I say, and then forward the requests to my Branch Head with an apology, explaining that due to my lack of worthiness in the eyes of the IT department, I am unable to assist him as requested. After hitting “Send,” I once again return to my very important training.

Do you know why I like sailing?

Because the ocean doesn’t care if you’ve completed Prevention of Sexual Harassment Training 37 times. When you turn the wheel, the boat responds without asking if you have the appropriate title to operate the helm. Things that don’t matter are voluntary, and you’re very much aware of the things that DO matter, like keeping the water out, the people onboard, the sails full, and the keel underneath you.

So much of what we call life seems to consist of doing things that really don’t matter, they’re just very important.

Sailing is the exact opposite. The ocean is a stern teacher that demands great respect. But I love it. Because it doesn’t waste your time…


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