My family and I recently returned from a special Cub Scout overnight trip aboard the U.S.S. Midway, a historic aircraft carrier turned museum in San Diego.
We were guided around the massive ship by experienced docents, many of whom were decorated Navy veterans. The docents were stationed in the areas of their expertise, which lent authenticity and drama to their stories. They gave us a glimpse into the complicated workings of what is really a small floating city.
But soon, a pattern began to emerge. Each docent, at one point or another in their tour, intoned with emphasis, “This is the most important job on the ship.”
Now, this made sense when we heard it on the bridge. That’s where the captain and his officers are positioned. It made sense down in the engine room — without them, the ship couldn’t move. I nodded when I heard it in the CIC, or Combat Information Center, where tactical information is processed quickly. And it made sense when we saw all the top secret parts of the ship not open to the public. (I’d tell you about it, but then I’d have to kill you.)
The boys noticed the repetition. We were in the area that controls the catapult, which launches planes into the sky, when the distinguished Navy pilot guiding us explained that if the person manning the catapult miscalculated, it was disastrous. Too much pressure, and the pilot would be permanently blinded by excessive G-forces. Too little, and the plane was launched into the sea. So of course, he says, “This is the most important job on the ship.”
Well, this time, the boys were having none of it. “But everyone else said their job was the most important!” cried one. “How can they all be the most important? Doesn’t that mean they’re all just normal jobs?”
The old-timer smiled and said, “But it’s true that each person holds the most important job. Think about it: When you know your job is important, you take care to do it right. Just one person treating his job as unimportant will make mistakes. And on this ship, a single mistake can jeopardize not only the mission, but many people’s lives. So everyone’s job on this ship is the most important.”
This really struck me as a valuable lesson. But when I thought about it, aquatics folks already know this. After all, one of the tenets of our industry is to make water safe for everyone. We spread water safety messages, teach swimming, lifeguard pools — all in an effort to save lives.
So if you weren’t already aware of it, let me tell you right now: You have the most important job.