When I was on my ship during the Navy, someone ponied up some dough to replace a magnetic tape recorder (from the 80’s?) with a “fancy” digital recording device to record outbound transmissions. There was a rumor that this new recording device was capable of recording inter-ship communication, which worried me considering how many jokes we cracked and pranks we pulled on newer sailors.
Being court marshalled for bush league shit is something that always happened to someone else on an aircraft carrier or on the admiral’s staff. But cosmic forces align for the damnedest reasons.
I faintly remember watching my chief and our operations officer standing at the recorder’s cabinet, their pecking at buttons. The Ops Officer did a great job at trying to impress our chief on how smart he was and how “capable” this made our fighting ability. (Never mind I was on a ship that was nearly 30 years old, close to decommissioning , and stocked with some aged tactical equipment).
I watched the Ops Officer fool around with that doohickey like a 14 year old boy that first discovered his genitals. If it wasn’t my chief hearing about it, it was another officer. But the coolest thing I had overheard wasn’t from that officer, it was from another sailor I worked with. The recorder had a digital interface screen with a screensaver that erased when it timed out.
When no one was there, I jumped on the recorder and looked at its functions. Very few, outside of storage options. No notepad or Office functions. Bare bones. But there was a crappy version of Microsoft Paint.
It was hard to use without a cursor but I managed to pull something together. I made this yellow background monstrosity, with a penguin guarding a nest of eggs. Over the serene but migraine inducing scene were the words “Eat Penguin Shit!” for continuity. I thought nothing of this. I admired my handy work, knowing within 30 seconds it would blow away like dust in the wind.
The recorder went to sleep at the time I thought it would. A black screen gave me a reason to step away. I went across the room to see what my buddy “Charleston” was doing, which was generic busy work. It was like clockwork when the Ops Officer stepped inn the room, hopping along, heading for the recorder. I thought nothing of it.
I remember his shrill voice yelling: “Eat Penguin Shit?, Eat Penguin Shit?”. He followed up with “Who in the fuck did this?” and “Did you do this?”. He pointed at me and Charleston. With a straight face, I denied it naturally. Charleston did too, he was too busy to pay attention to what I was doing earlier.
The officer left our space and stormed off. A short time later, our chief was in tow. Ops Officer was pissed, laying into our chief. He was screaming that he was going to show what one of the chief’s guys did to the recorder, messing with government property. He reaches out to touch the screen and there was nothing. Chief didn’t say anything. Ops Officer was flabbergasted. Both of them left shortly after.
Charleston turned to me and said with a smile; “mother*cker”. He had seen me erase it shortly after the officer left the first time.
Chief never spoke a word of it. Charleston never ratted me out. And here today, I speak of “penguin sh*t” pranks of mice and men.