“Why yes, Laz. You were missed. In fact the better part of 5000 people have been looking for you for the last two hours and…(muffled, aside:) Yes, sir it’s Lazlo. Just a minute, Laz - The Skipper would like to speak to you.”

All throughout Ready Room 8, Compartment 2-242-0-L aboard the USS Constellation, a warship then at sea in execution of national tasking in the Indian Ocean, junior officers lowered their faces thoughtfully into month-old magazines, staring with a fixed and terrible intensity on single words or even punctuation marks in the text while their associated ears nearly herniated themselves in straining to capture every rapturous moment of the tide about to burst upon the person of Lazlo, poor unfortunate Lazlo.

Having caught some whiff of the reason for Lazlo’s unexcused absence from the ship, the CO’s towering rage, which had already been approvingly described as “pretty darned epic” in scale, somehow astonishingly re-doubled itself. The effect took place to such an alarming degree that those who cared for him grew concerned for his well-being, not to mention his state of mind and he was just getting up a good head of steam as he got to the phone, ripping it from the duty officer’s hand and quickly asking of Lazlo whether, in his studied professional opinion, it was really true that the naval service was little more than a transportation system for his wedding tackle? Because that was the way it might appear to the disinterested observer.

Without pausing for reply, the CO then offered Lazlo fairly detailed sartorial advice in preparation for a face-to-face meeting right there in the ready room, just as soon as he could change out of that ridiculous costume the entire ship had seen him wearing, disgrace that he was to his squadron in particular and the service in general. During this meeting it was plausibly forecast to Laz that the CO might frabbing kill him, cork-sticking gasper that he was, even going so far as to offer detailed anatomical descriptions of how the deed might be accomplished, complete with promises of sterner measures which would immediately follow.

All of this was put on hold however, as the squawk box beside the duty officer crackled to life with the stern salutation of, “Ready 8, Bridge!”

“Ready 8 aye!” responded the duty officer, just as he’d been taught, and with perhaps a somewhat greater mindfulness of his duty than usual given the current atmosphere in the ready room. In doing so he manfully forbore from the normally overwhelming temptation to make hilarious squawk box responses such as belches and even worse than belches in reply gentle reader, disgusting as they were and having only the slenderest thread of plausible deniability to go along with them. This would all have been in the time honored aviation tradition of biffing the blackshoe professional surface warfare officer, which although it was a simple sport, not unlike clubbing baby seals, was yet considered worth the effort, if only for the practice that was in it.

Something in the current mood made him pause, and a right good pause it was too, for the very next voice to come through the box itself was that of the Actual Captain of the Whole Frabbing Ship, who in no-nonsense verbiage studded with short, stout, Anglo-Saxon derivatives strongly desired and required of our CO that the sun of a beach piece of carp that had kept the Entire Goram Navy from getting about the nation’s business join him up on the bridge for a short but exciting conversation, adding that it would not be very much resented if the CO came along as well, if he wasn’t too busy?

Collar devices were mentally consulted for relative merit, and as events unfolded, our CO’s leisure suited the Captain’s pleasure. The two of them, Lazlo and The Man (who would in a matter of moments and a nine deck climb be just “a man” again) y-clad not in flight suits gentle reader but in khakis as befits a walk-of-shame, reported to the bridge no very long time later, sweat streaming down their faces, chests heaving and eyes bulging out of their heads. What followed after your humble scribe cannot reliably relay, lacking as he did the physical courage to attempt to follow, and not being able to wheedle it out either from Lazlo himself, nor any of the junior officers on watch up on the bridge, selfish bastiches that they were, and we’d have shared it with them maybe, had the roles been reversed. We are left with the strongest impression that the conversation could not be considered a dialogue really, unless your definition of “dialogue” is expansive enough to cover a discussion wherein the party of the first part is entirely in transmit, and the party of the second almost entirely in receive, apart from a few carefully timed “yessirs” and “nosirs” and the occasional, remorseful “no excuse sirs.”

What I can tell you is that a letter of reprimand is better than no mail at all, and that the next four weeks saw a great deal more of Lazlo at the duty desk and wearing khakis, with only someone to spot him at the desk every seven days or so for him to get a night trap and thereby maintain night currency, great store being set in night currency on the line. Of daylight flights there were few or none, which was all to the good for the rest of us, for we’d gladly take his day hop. When the time came for fitness reports, there were 10 of us in the top 1% category, which is the way things were done in those days, and one of us in the top 5% category, which was the kiss of professional doom. I do not know for a fact that Laz was our anchor man, but if he was not, then some one of the other of us must have been caught by Dad diddling livestock, and word of it never got down to our level.

Laz was with us the best part of year before leaving the service, that being the best thing all the way around, really, and joining a major airline, where I imagine he remains to this day. He has by now no doubt risen to the august rank of airline pilot captain-type guy, and if you’re traveling this Christmas gentle reader, who knows but that you may be placing your life in his hands?

And you know where they have been…