Niagara Gazette

September 13, 2013

HAMILTON: Thinking back to 'Quiet! I can't see'

By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Have you ever noticed that often the stated solution to a problem is in no way related to the real problem? Take this personal case, for instance.

After a two-month cruise in the Caribbean Sea, the USS Farragut was returning to its homeport of Norfolk, Va., and was approaching the outermost buoy that marked the Chesapeake Channel into harbor. The crews of Navy ships are often very excited when homeward-bound after being out to sea for awhile, and the phenomena known as ‘channel fever’ sets in. It is then when military decorum goes out the portholes and the bridge watch becomes rather chatty.

Such it was on that summery day, as Farragut made her way home; and as the noise of the pilothouse cascaded of Junior Officer-of-the-Deck (JOOD) Ensign E.P. Kiss’ 5-foot-5 or so frame.

The excessive noise bothered Mr. Kiss, who was a stickler for military decorum — and honestly, it was a tad bit disturbing for even me. I stood by and watched, calling out information from the Combat Information Center on ships and other conditions that may have presented a hazard to our guided missile destroyer.

Initially, Kiss stood head-high at the window, diligently doing his job, his binoculars scanning the sea for ships.

However, a part of Kiss’ job was actually to maintain bridge order for the Officer-of-the-Deck, who was his immediate watch supervisor; even if the OOD didn’t seem to mind the moral breakdown.

It became obvious to most of the bridge watch that Kiss was disturbed when the diminutive man lowered his binoculars, angrily turned towards us and emitted the sternest grimace that his innocuous face could muster. But no one seemed to pay him any attention. He turned and continued his horizon scans.

However, his ignored chastisement seemed to fuel the chatter more than to quell it, and as we passed yet another buoy on our way to port, Kiss’ real anger erupted. He again turned, grasping his binoculars firmly in his hands, the strap burying itself into the back of his neck, Kiss mustered up an even sterner admonition. Being the professional that he was, he had to quickly make the best case that he could for a return to decorum, one that was linked to the ability of the bridge watch and him to do our jobs.

What came out of his mouth didn’t initially help his case, though; and it made him look embarrassingly foolish. The short ensign ordered us in his sternest, most commanding voice, “Quiet! I can’t see.”

Everyone on the bridge stopped his chatter. A hush so thick that you could almost hear the salt of the briny sea tap beneath the keel of the ship as we slid towards home; and it lasted for about four-seconds.

Then, almost as if on cue, everyone, including the OOD, broke out into a roaring laugh. Ensign Kiss embarrassingly turned and continued his horizon scans. The bridge did become quieter; but no sooner than it would have had he said nothing and Farragut again successfully moored at the Naval Station’s Destroyer and Submarine Piers.

I thought of Ensign Kiss and “quiet, I can’t see” when I looked at the results of Tuesdays’ primary elections. They were more closely related than obviously what the voters may realize. It would seem that the voters, in their quest to either have political decorum that, as in the case of channel fever and their frustration with things not going as they thought that it should.

In this primary, the Democratic voters, who seemingly suffered from the phenomena of perhaps ‘election fever’ turned out a four-year incumbent, based upon the fact that he actually did something that was needed, but they did not like. But they returned two incumbents — a 16-year and a four-year incumbents — that most voters cannot tell anyone what they did during their terms, if they did anything at all; and they did this because they said that they wanted change.

I just shake my head, as I did on that summery day with Ensign Kiss. And like Kiss, I can’t see how the voters’ request changes anything — but perhaps it is because of all of the media noise!

Contact Ken Hamilton at