The S.S. Administration

The S.S. Administration

The old fisherman stood by the docks as the master of ceremonies broke the champagne bottle across the bow and the blocks were released to launch the new pride of the government fleet, the S.S. Administration!

It was heralded as a great feat in the achievements of man.  A ship of a revolutionary design that was to be completely powered by man himself!  The design was further revolutionary because the hydrofoil design left a huge hole all the way down the middle of the ship.

The government planners said that this was intentional.  The idea was to show the power of the combined force of human cooperation.  “Small ribs cut diagonally on both the outer and inner hull surfaces made the excess buoyancy of a solid craft completely unnecessary,” boasted a government planner.  “The engines of the ship are powered by a series of interconnected treadmills, stair-stepping machines and stationary bicycles in the fitness center on board.  We plan to promote good health while showing that this revolutionary design will not only be completely powered by the brute force of combined manpower, but the ribbed hull will channel the water around it so that very forward momentum will also keep it afloat!”

There was a mild applause from the gathered crowd, but the old sailor just took a puff off his pipe and shook his head before heading back to his small day cruiser.

“But that is not all,” said the spokesman proudly, “I have the pleasure of announcing a great new deal! Since the ship is run completely on ‘human power‘, anyone who agrees to power the ship from their port of origin to the next, can remain on board and enjoy all the comforts of the remainder of the ship at their leisure until the next port of call for no charge what-so-ever!!”

The crowd cheered!  Many of the people in attendance had never been on board a luxury liner – they had never even considered it.  And the thought of doing so for free thrilled them, even if they did have to ride a treadmill or pedal a bike for the first leg of the trip.

The news of the ship’s launch had spread far and wide.  Many people from the crowd at the first launching lined up to volunteer for the free trip.  A couple hundred people were led on board and the ship went under way.  By the next port of call the word had spread across the telegraph wires of the free offer and many hundreds more were waiting to take the places of the first volunteers so they could go relax on the main deck.

At each port of call the numbers grew little by little.  At the third port the passengers from the first got off and were replaced by even more than had been picked up at the second and so on as the day went along.  And it continued until close to dark until the regimen of the ‘manpower’ numbered well above 1800 and the passengers from the previous leg numbered 1500.

The added weight of passengers and their luggage added to the requirement to keep the ship ‘buoyant’ by maintaining a reasonable speed, but the added manpower more than compensated.  The day’s trip had been a full circle and they had but one more leg to go before returning to the home port.  The captain pulled into the especially designed cradle birth that kept the loaded ship afloat when not under speed and settled in to pick up his last group of passengers for the evening.

“How many at this port?” asked the captain.

“It looks like just 600 this time,” said a crewmen.  “it is getting late, that is to be expected.  Especially since these have to wait until tomorrow for their pleasure cruise.”

The captain nodded and waited until the ship was fully unloaded and reloaded before getting under way.  As he pulled out of port, he quickly found that with the 1800 ‘passengers’ and only 600 human ‘motors’, it was no longer possible to maintain buoyancy of the ship as he started to head out to deeper water.

He made a quick announcment that additional volunteers would be necessary to help keep the ship at speed.  A couple hundred of the young men gladly volunteered with the understanding they would get an additional ticket for the following day.

But the captain quickly found that this too was not enough and the ship was still sinking ever deeper.  He put out another call for volunteers and another hundred came forward, but that too came up short.  There were still 1500 people up top and only 900 working below.

The captain had to think fast. He put out an order that any under the age of 30 ‘had’ to go help work.  Murmurs started to go through the crowd as only a few people stepped forward, most of the young had already volunteered.  The age was raised to 35 and a few more came forward then again to 40.  There were about 150 new conscripts and they were put to work propelling the ship.

There were now 1050 below and 1350 above but by this time, the extra demands on the first 600 under the added strain started to take it’s toll and they were running out of strength to go on.

The captain got desperate and raised his requirement to 50 years of age, then 55, then 60.  More than 3/4ths of the entire regimen of people on board were now on the treadmills, bicycles and stair climbers but the 1800 were already well tired and the 600 newcomers were made tired early on from the extra strain of their initial workload.  Soon everyone on board, including some of the crew, was set to work as the captain screamed out pleas mixed with demands to “Work harder, work harder!”

They were barely able to maintain speed and the speed was decreasing but the port was coming in site.  The captain screamed louder but it seemed to be no use.  The ship was sinking ever lower, and the added drag made it go still slower, increasing the work on all the passengers and wearing them out even further.

“Dammit,” cried the captain, “this ship is a miracle of man power – I will not be responsible for it’s sinking, everyone MUST work harder so we can complete our day’s journey!”

Just then he heard a voice shouting from the ship’s starboard side.  It was the old fisherman on his way back to port.

“I knew she wouldn’t be able to stay afloat mat-ee!  I’d suggest ya tell all yer passengers to grab on fast to anythang that floats and take tharr chances on swimmin’ ta shore!” he said in his thick sailor’s brogue.

“No, damn you!” cried the captain, “I will not be the one responsible for letting this ship sink! I’ll never work as a captain again!”

“Y’a will ne’er be a cap’n again if ya should drown tither laddy!  Consider one thang fine sir….
It twas a plain fool that designed a ship as thus,
it tis be a fool that climbs on board ‘er too!
And I’ll grant ya, tis be a fool cap’n who cain’t see she’s not a’seaworthy and let’s the lot of em on board…,”

He paused to puff his pipe.

“But it tis a far greater fool who doesn’t save the lot of em when it’s so obvious she’s a’goin down!  It t’would be a scads worse crime to not give yer wayfarers a chance to get off than t’would be to let the ship sink without em!”

SWWood Scott Webster Wood
TheWild Webster
Thoughts from the Wild
The ObjectOpus
Things You Ought to Know
  1. Ya know, now that I think of it – yeah, not getting people off when it’s sinking is bad but staying on board and yelling at the captain to somehow “make it float” while many others are screaming at you “GET OFF DUMBASS, IT’S SINKING!!!!” is equally as stupid!

  2. Donald Armeggi says:

    The old fisherman should have kept his mouth shut. Letting a shipload of fools drown has got to have net improvement on the gene pool.

    • lol – what a sadist you are! The point of the story came to me about the 239,430th time I heard someone say about social security (but the same applies to medicare and other social welfare programs) that no politicians want to be the one to say they have to make the hard choices to either gut it or eliminate it.

  3. […] too long ago, I wrote the story “The S.S. Administration” after realizing that modern politicians seem timid to point out the obvious pending failure […]

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