Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Mr. Mabolo and The Electric Vasectomy

Though the AN/SPN-35 air traffic control radar was so old and obsolete that it was generally only assigned to technicians who, like me, did not pay a whole lot of attention in electronics school, it was a formidable beast to behold. It stood over eight feet high and had two elongated, dish-style antennae, one that moved side to side and another that moved up and down. When energized, it sounded like two hundred Dirt Devil vacuum cleaners on crack. Completely enclosed by a dome 12 feet high and 20 feet in diameter on the aft end of the ship’s island structure, its menacing appearance was reminiscent of some sort Death Ray. In fact it was often mistaken for a Top Secret Death Ray, mainly because that was what I several girls I picked up in San Diego nightclubs it was while trying to coax them to one of the few places on the ship that offered working air conditioning and privacy.
The AN/SPN-35 was as temperamental as it looked and broke fairly often. Luckily, it was usually very easy to fix and more often than not, we could bring it back up as quickly as it went down. The key word there is “could”, not that we ever did. A down air traffic control radar was normally a fantastic reason for the ship’s captain, who appeared to hate our division officer nearly as much as we did, to make Lt. Mabolo’s life a living hell.
Lt. Mabolo enlisted in the US Navy from The Philippines and spent 15 years as a cook. When he finally was granted US citizenship and could hold a security clearance, he changed his rating to DS (data systems technician) and was enrolled in his training for the specialty. During this time, the US military was pushing to get more minorities into the officer ranks and six weeks into his school, Mabolo was pulled to go to OCS. He was commissioned as an officer and then, because of his month and a half of electronics training, was made the USS Belleau Wood’s Electronic Materials Officer. Now, we did not hate Lt. Mabolo because he did not know a semi-conductor from a sledge hammer, we hated him because he did not speak English. He would issue orders that no one could understand and then punish you for not following them. As a result, the division as a whole, from the Master Chief on high to Seaman Cromwell took a personal interest in sabotaging his career.
We were on our way to Hawaii once when the SPN radar went down. I took the trouble call and inside of two minutes discovered that I had blown a crystal. It was fixed about thirty seconds after that. Ten seconds later, Lt. Mabolo called me in the radar dome. “Di doo plix da ladal let?”
“Di doo plix da ladal let?”
“Who is this?”
“Lt. Mabolo? Is that you?”
“What are you trying to say? Speak slowly.”
“Could you say the third word again?”
There was a second’s worth of silence and then Master Chief got on the phone. “Jep, how’s the radar?”
“Fixed. How long do you want me to drag it out for?”
“A while?” Obviously, Mabolo was nearby so he could not just say, “Until the captain makes the little panty-waist cry”.
About a half hour and several unintelligible phone conversations with Mabolo later, my master chief called again and said that both he and the lieutenant were on their way down to the dome. This meant I had to make the radar look really broken, but not so much so that I could not get it back up in a couple of minutes. The best way to do this was to remove the high voltage power supply from the radar and put it on the work bench. From there, I could pop a couple of the monster capacitors and make it look like I was deep inside of a trouble shooting regimen.
Now, those monster capacitors are a bitch to work with. They carry a charge measured not in the hundreds, but in the thousands of volts. There is however, very little current involved so though the electrical forces at play there are not really deadly, but can be incredibly painful. Before you stuck your hand in there, you wanted to be absolutely certain that everything was shorted out. This was done with a copper probe that you clipped to a steel support that could act as ground. Once the probe was grounded, you stuck it to the capacitor leads and watched the sparks fly. I was just getting ready to do this when my master chief and lieutenant walked into the dome.
“Bat id da sutatees ob du ladal nauw?”
Not wanting to be down there all day, Master Chief translated, “What is the status of the radar now?”
I knew that. In fact, after a year of dealing with the guy, we all spoke varying amounts of Mabolo-ese. It was just that none of us were willing to admit it. I launched into a little technical speech about radar theory and what I thought was wrong with the device, throwing around a lot of words like “klystron” and “thyratron” that I knew Mabolo would not understand though they had nothing to do with why the radar was down (you may think I borrowed component names from Star Trek TNG, but its actually the other way around – they often named planets after radar components). Eventually he got bored and started looking around the radar. Eventually he reached up to play with the tuning knobs below the crystals and had to be stopped. “Sir, you don’t want to play with that or else we’ll be in rather serious trouble.” It was not a lie. Playing with those would REALLY fix the radar and land the master chief and I in some pretty hot water.
Once I was satisfied that the lieutenant had no idea what was going on, I decided to go back to work. I grabbed the grounding probe and started to short out the power supply.
For what happened next to have occurred, the planets had to have been perfectly aligned. First, the probe had to have been not grounded properly. Next, I had to have been grounded somehow, which is no small feat in a space specifically designed to keep electrical ground and navy radar technicians separated since they have such a long history of not working and playing well together. Though I investigated it thoroughly over the next couple of weeks, I never did figure out how I managed to do that. Next, there had to have been an opening in the insulation covering the grounding strap (I did find that). Last, my zipper had to have been exposed.
With the Zodiac conspiring against me, the probe’s grounding strap brushed against my zipper at the exact moment I touched the lead on the biggest capacitor in the power supply. I had the instant sensation of being kicked in the crotch by a cleat-wearing Clydesdale and shot into the air and onto my back, certain that both of my testicles had exploded. Master Chief swore that I had my pants and underwear pulled down to my knees before I hit the ground, but I don’t see how this would have been possible. I will not argue that once I regained my senses, I was on my knees with my head pressed against the floor, sticking my bare ass right at Lt. Mabolo in a gesture that unintentionally conveyed to the man exactly what I thought of him. My genitals were safely covered protectively with both hands as I just laid there and exhaled for what seemed like a half hour. I thought that I smelled scorched pubic hair but that must have been just psychological.
“POOT DO GADAM PATS OAN LAIT NAUW PEDDY OPPISER JEP! LAIT NAUW! DAS UN OLDAL!” As I was contemplating the end of my sex life as I knew it, Mabolo was ordering me to get dressed. Fortunately, master chief stepped in and told him that if it would be best if he went back to the office and let him deal with the situation. It was just in time too, because if he had not gotten out of there I would have lost it and threatened to beat the living shit out of his incompetent ass, most likely in a voice reminiscent of Helium-huffing Teletubbies.
Amazingly, I suffered no permanent consequences from the accident though, due to a prolonged dating dry streak that hit at about the same time, I was not sure of that for a few months. It is however one of the reasons why any contact with certain parts of my anatomy during foreplay are guaranteed “moment-killers”. The other reason was because of a kick I took to the groin that was delivered by a midget I dated in high school. Well, she wasn’t exactly a midget. She was perfectly proportioned, just very short. I think the technical term for her is “spinner”. `


Anonymous Anonymous said...


7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JEP, a 947 word response to your comment is on the homepage of my blog.
As requested, it is on
what happens when a blogger consumes large quantities of tequila and ex lax instead of coming up with ideas.

Let it never be said that I don't make good on those contest prizes.

11:05 PM  

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