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Anchors away...

Digressions notwithstanding, sooner or later wed end up at sea. And as soon as we were there wed immediately proceed to the first order of business: studying the ships equipment.

Leave it to Russian submariners to wait until theyre already at sea to start studying the thing theyre sailing on!

But thats exactly what happens: everybody receives a checklist and all of a sudden the whole crew starts going over the boats equipment, moving from compartment to compartment as if in the Louvre, looking for this or that valve. The boats already sailing and there we are just starting to explore it! Well, what other choice do we have? In our navy the only time you can study a ships hardware is when youre miles away from home. At home, nobody will let you do any studying. Instead, theyll think of countless other distractions: shoveling snow, or digging ditches, or standing an astronomical amount of watches.

But just watch what happens if a sub sinks. If a sub sinks the country will be immediately divided into two parts: the first part, the one that thought up all the watches and snow and ditches, will be silent - while the other will begin a grueling interrogation of the survivors in an attempt to find the guilty party.

Its timeless. And inevitable. You cant change it. Of course there have been people whove tried, but some things are just too timeless and inevitable.

And besides: were used to studying this way. Were so used to it, in fact, that even if you freed us from all the digging and shoveling and standing watch, and even if you gave us the chance to study on shore, wed just sit down and do nothing, wed just sit there looking off into the distance, telling the world to kiss our collective ass and waiting for the next trip to sea so that we could begin the studying process for real.

And I was no exception: as soon as we were at sea I received my own checklist and began studying it carefully and unexceptionally. I studied it over and over until the blindfold had been lifted from my eyes and every last pipe was as familiar and friendly as an old family friend.

For a long time after I passed my qualifying tests, I couldnt shake the thought that with the slightest nudge, with the lightest jab of a finger into the side of our sub, the whole contraption would just slip helplessly and silently into the depths.

I mean, of course were going to fight to the last...dont get me wrong: well run from compartment to compartment sealing ourselves in, well send in compressed air and rise to the surface, well do all of that good stuff and more....but its still going to sink in the end - if not this time, then at some later, even more surprising, date.

I dont know why it is...but after you take your qualifying exams on the ships hardware these thoughts tend to follow you in an especially relentless way. Sure, the impression fades over time, but in the beginning all this knowledge can simply curdle your blood.

But hey enough about this. Thats the last time Im going to refer to the fact that a submarine can sink. Ive mentioned this fact a few times already, but I was just mentioning it so as not to mention it any more.

And besides, we dont sink nearly as often as we might.

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