A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

During my stint in the Argentine Navy in the mid 60s I learned to manipulate my superiors. It was the only way that I could prevent my immediate superiors, the Argentine Marine Corps corporals and other petty officers from making my life hell. This technique had all to do with appearances. Captain USN Onofrio Salvia, who was the senior US Naval Advisor in Argentina, and my superior since I had been seconded by the Argentine Navy as his translator, had a chauffeured black Chevrolet Impala. The Impala would not have turned heads in the US. In Buenos Aires it did. There were very few American cars in Argentina in the 60s. I decided to play a game. Captain Salvia had instructed me to deliver a letter to the Argentine Admiralty. He told me, “I need this delivered immediately so ask Juan to take you in the car.” I looked for my beautiful and supple black Argentine leather gloves, I picked up my very nice Lopez Taibo black briefcase and put on my sunglasses. I told Juan to take me to the admiralty and that I was going to play a trick and sit in the back seat. When we arrived at the admiralty I asked Juan to open the door for me. When I left the car every posted guard saluted and came to attention. They all ignored that I was simply a lowly Argentine Navy conscript. My appearance had trumped it.

A few months after that funny incident, I was being harassed and given orders to go to refresher boot camp sessions. I hated them. In boot camp I had no protection from the understanding Captain Salvia who tried his best to bend the rules to keep me in his office. But even he had his limits and his pull only went so far. One of my methods for avoiding boot camp was plain and square insubordination masked as forgetfullness. This did not work and I spent many a day in the brig and still going to boot camp.

One afternoon as I nursed my sore muscles from the many push-ups I had been forced to execute I had an idea. I went to the Captain’s picture files and I removed a glossy 8x10 of Almirante Benigno Varela who was the Argentine Chief of Naval Operations. In my best handwriting I wrote in Spanish (to my good friend Conscripto Jorge Waterhouse-Hayward and signed with a flourish Almirante Benigno Varela, Comandante de Operaciones Navales, ARA. I slipped the picture under the glass of my desk. It was soon noticed.

As I expected the harassing stopped and I was treated with kid’s gloves by the corporals and petty officers. I had learned the importance of appearances.

It was my intention to write about elitism today. I began it with the chauffeur incident above and quickly realized its connection to elitism was tenuous. I will continue tomorrow.


Previous Posts
We Would Rather Not Smile

The Colour Of Money Is Blue

Argentine Nostalgia

Argentine Nostalgia

Kyuquot, Essences & Plato's Cave Via Halsman, Sand...

Waiting For Godot, Bowler Hats, Irish Pipes & Morr...

Snow White's Evil Queen Looks At Herself In The Mi...

Ballet BC, Seriously Funny (Donald Sales) & Funny ...

Transubstantiating Into HTML

The Armenian In A Kilt

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010