I have had to deal with in the area of communication problems was this tug skipper that could not articulate very well.
Without a doubt, he was one of the finest boat handlers I have ever met, but he couldn’t give directions for sour apples.
To him, everywhere was ‘Over yonder’.
It caused mass confusion, as you can well imagine, and the more confusing it got, the more frustrating it got for everyone involved.
It was just a matter of time before something turned sour and someone either got hurt or something got damaged.
I went over to his tug one day and asked him just exactly where ‘over yonder’ was.
He replied by explaining that he was from the south.
Over the years I have had people defend their actions and attitudes by explaining that they are from s certain geographic region. I don’t buy it, but I had to work with this guy.
I told him that he ought to be proud of himself because quite a number of good people came from the south and that I was an admirer of a fine southern gentleman by the name of Robert E. Lee. It seemed to mollify him quite a bit. I had not insulted the south.
When I returned to the subject of the use of the term ‘over yonder’, he seemed upset and explained that he had been using the term all of his life.
Politely and firmly, that I had no problem with the fine southern term, but that it had to be clearly defined.
I told him that ‘over yonder’ meant the twin bits amidships and ONLY the twin bits amidships. He was still free to use the charming southern term, but now it was clearly defined.
Then I made it clear that if he wanted something like a line ‘over yonder’ that he was going to get a line right there, on the twin bits.
If he wanted a line two cleats ahead of the twin bits, he could say that he wanted a line 2 cleats ahead of over yonder.
I knew I would have to stick to my guns with this and it would take a while. It didn’t take long. There were a few small spats. Every time he told me to do something ‘over yonder’ I reported to the twin bits and did what I was told.
It took some time, but he got over it.
Soon he was telling us what to do in a way we could understand. Docking and sailing changed from being a circus to a smooth uneventful operation.
It was mildly amusing when he started asking for something using ‘over yonder’ as a reference point.
This idea was not original. I stole it from a Marine Major that ran a Marine Force Recon company in Vietnam.
Back during the Vietnam War, the GIs there used the term ‘beaucoup’ to mean many. It was not a specific amount and was not very clear. The major told his troops that ‘beaucoup’ was fourteen (or something). If there were 20 enemy troops spotted, you could say ‘beaucoup plus six’ and everyone knew what that meant. It meant twenty.
It worked and the reports the troops made were a lot clearer.
Sometimes you simply have to sit down and define terms.
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