When the sub is submerged, everything stays nice, level, and calm. You might as well be tied up in port. Sure, somewhere inside you know the walls have contracted a bit, and the gauges showing the incoming seawater temperature are cold in a way that sends existential terror shooting through your subconscious, but at least things are stable. Submarines are meant to be submerged. Now take that brilliantly engineered tin can and put it on the surface. The damn thing wallows like a pig in mud. And since you're inside, you have no frame of reference. You don't realize how much easier it is to deal with a rocking boat when you can see the waves, or at least the horizon. Inside the sub, it's basically a carnival fun house, with everything liable to tilt wildly at complete random and with no warning.
Oh, and make sure you keep the most powerful and dangerous energy source ever built from killing everyone slowly and horribly.
There's this thing on the roof of the submarine, right in the middle of the main walkway, called a rising stem valve. It looks like this:
That's a closed one, but when it's open, that center piece projects outward about a foot. It's pretty easy to avoid when you're submerged and the ground hasn't spontaneously come to life, motivated only by its hatred for you -- but when you're on the surface and the ship is pitching and rolling ... well, one way you can tell someone served on a submarine is the forehead scars.
But that isn't so bad compared to the showers.
There are only three showers on board, so each one of them has about 40 guys using it every day. And sure, we clean them ... but 40 guys a day? Forty guys ... with no other privacy, sealed up away from the world for months? Let's not be delicate: Everyone's jerked off in there. You really don't want to touch the walls. I can't stress that enough. You shower like you're in an iron maiden. But then, when you're surfaced, showering means something terrible. Something unspeakable. It means constantly getting slammed face-first into a wall covered in the crusted semen of crusty seamen.
Subukkaked, if you will.
With all that said, lifetime submariners are a salty, hard-boiled bunch of awesome bastards. I wish I had the stones to be like them. The only time I ever thought I might want it was during our transit from Norfolk to Pearl Harbor, when we surfaced as we entered the Panama Canal. I popped out of the hatch and breathed in the first fresh air I'd tasted in weeks, stretched out, and saw the sun coming up over a lone mountain beside the canal. SEALs were racing around in their small boats to escort us, giant freighters were lined up so far into the distance that they disappeared, salt water was spraying, the birds were calling and singing. My master chief was standing to next to me, showing a rare smile.
"Almost makes it worth it, huh, Langdale?"
"What the hell is that smell?"
"That's not-fart, Master Chief."
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Cleve wrote a book! Sort of! It's a cynical comic book about a political superhero, and you can read it at Voterman.com! It's funny! Pretty funny! You can tell this is exciting news because there's exclamation points!!!!! You can also reach him on Twitter at @CleveLangdale.
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