As a first-time visitor to San Diego, here for the IABC world conference, I was eager to see some of the sights. Yesterday my friend Sue Horner and I spent a couple of hours on a tour that gave us a glimpse into the various sections of the city, from the Old Town to Little Italy to the Gaslamp District to Balboa Park, as well as nearby Coronado Island. Lovely.
Today I spent a fascinating two hours aboard the USS Midway, now turned into an historical site. As the child of a U.S. Navy sailor, I was very interested to see the ship’s quarters, thinking of my then-17-year old father, lying about his age and joining the fight during World War Two. Although he served on an LST landing ship and not an aircraft carrier like the massive Midway, the environment must have been just as challenging for him. And cramped.
To me, the best part of the tour was listening to the docent for the catapult area, a former Navy man with a voice like Chuck Yeager, explaining the exquisitely choreographed ballet of hand signals and rapid (but never rushed) activities on deck, as the men (and only men served on the Midway) prepared to catapult a 3,800-lb. plane off the end of the ship. Imagine that machine speeding from zero to 160 miles per hour in 2.6 seconds.
We could all learn a few things from these sailors. As a communicator, I was thinking about how each crew member had to focus on the message he was transmitting to the next crew member, and to watch to ensure that the message had been received. They all had a common goal: to launch the planes and their pilots safely, then to help them land at the end of their mission, often at night, on the deck of what appeared to be a “postage stamp floating on the sea.”
This evening I’ll be at a reception for leaders of IABC and people who will be speaking at this year’s conference. I’m hoping that some of them have visited the Midway, because I’d love to compare notes!
One more thing: Kudos to the organizers of the USS Midway tour. The self-guided audio kit provides not only the standard narrative about the ship’s facts and figures, but also tales from sailors, talking about what life was really like on the ship. Wonderful storytelling.