asleep at the helm

try again boat - March 24, 2013d
 

On this, the 25th anniversary of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, let’s not forget a key fact of that disaster…

At the time, we believed the ship ran aground because the captain was below decks, drunk.

However, the officer at the helm was quite capable of steering the ship…

…if not sleep-deprived.

That was the conclusion reached in the official investigation performed by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

To the misfortune of all, the third mate had only gotten six hours of sleep in the last forty-eight.

He was supposed to have been relieved at 11:45 p.m.  Here’s the irony: he said he stayed on, because he wanted to let his relief get some sleep.

In his place, I probably would’ve done the same thing—we like to push on through, to go beyond our fatigue.  It’s a sign of strength—of mental toughness.  An accomplishment.  So we believe.

Here’s another irony: because sleep deprivation can severely impair our decision-making ability, we may think we’re capable of pushing on through, of performing the task at hand…

…just like the drunk who says he can still drive.

[NOTE: I found the boat in the above photo while walking along the spit of Homer, Alaska.  The Pratt Museum of Homer features an excellent exhibit on the Exxon Valdez oil spill.]

© 2014, Michael R. Patton
This novel is free through March 26

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About Michael Patton

I am a poet, novelist, and fabulist...A new mythologist, a peace miller, a dream worker...I don't qualify as an illustrator or photographer--I just "make pictures"...I have thirteen books available at amazon... I currently reside in northwest Arkansas, but have lived and worked all over the United States... I'm self-taught, for the most part--which is like searching for the right door in the dark. It's an on-going process.... I don't want to write MY story, I want OUR story, so that's what I'm studying: the human story: past, present, future, in its many aspects--including the spiritual. I'm proceeding at a slow crawl.... I don't see the inner world and outer world as separate. By learning about myself, I learn about others, I learn about my world.... Conversely, as I struggle to understand what I see OUT THERE, I learn about myself.... But to be clear: I don't claim any special understanding. I'm still purblind, still only half-awake.... After frustrating experience with the publisher of my first novel, I've published on my own, beginning with e-books, with plans to move into print and audio. Even video.... Along with a second novel, I've now published eight books of poetry. Each poetry book focuses on a theme. For instance, the collection GLORIOUS TEDIOUS TRANSFORMATION is about the slow difficult wonderful process of change.... In that book, as with all my work, I try to be accessible to a general audience, while also striving to achieve a certain literary quality.
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