Mess Deck Cups
By Garland Davis
I was night baker in USS Vesuvius AE-15. The galley and bakeshop were located on the main deck and the mess decks and scullery one deck below. There was a dumbwaiter lift from the galley down to the mess deck.
The Mess Deck Master at Arms was a crusty BM1 with over fifteen years’ service who somewhat resembled a big hairy Orangutan. He ran the operation with an iron fist. Any mess cook who gave him a problem would be invited to a counseling session in the scullery. After being threatened with a trip through the dishwashing machine their performance and attitude usually improved greatly.
He didn’t permit any talking in the mess line unless the person was speaking with a cook or a server. The mess line came through a door from the forward berthing compartment into a narrow passage with a bulkhead on one side and the serving line on the other. When BM1 caught someone jacking their jaws he normally would pull them out of the line and bounce them off the bulkhead a couple of times and then put them back in line and ask, “Now, what did you have to say?” A mumbled, “Nothing!” was the only acceptable answer.
The coffee urn was at the end of the mess line. As night baker, I had to set up for Midrats and make coffee for the watches. The Quartermasters made the coffee before breakfast, but that is a story for another time. During the nights, I made many trips down to get coffee. I would use a mess deck cup.
The XO became upset about finding mess deck coffee cups in workspaces throughout the ship and reminded BM1 that it was MDMAA’s responsibility to ensure that mess gear wasn’t taken from the mess decks and evidently, he was doing a poor job because there were coffee cups all over the ship. Pissed BM1 off.
He and a mess cook carrying a fryer basket toured the ship daily collecting coffee cups. When he caught someone trying to take a cup from the mess deck he threatened them with report chits and bodily harm. He decided that the Galley and Bake Shop were also included in the edict that mess gear wasn’t permitted off the mess decks and confiscated the cup I used in the bake shop.
I appealed to him to no avail. I was reduced to using a measuring cup to drink coffee until I remembered a couple of cases of mess deck cups in the storeroom. I was back to using mess deck cups. Each day BM1 would confiscate my cup and each day I would break out another one.
It wasn’t long before BM1 didn’t have enough storage for cups. He took it to mean that he was performing a good job by collecting cups daily and recovering lost mess gear.
Some months later, after the WestPac and BM1 was back in Deck Force, we were having a couple of drinks in the Bank Club, I told him where all the cups came from. He could laugh about it then but would have probably dismembered me and sent my parts through the scullery machine if he had known when it was happening.