Autobiography, Recent Experiences

A Day in the Life of John Robert Cole

Looking fresh as a daisy at 3:45 in the morning.

Looking fresh as a daisy at 3:45 in the morning.

3:45 a.m.
It was rare, but for once I woke to the alarm on my iPhone. After a six minute “snooze”, I left a sleeping Christine and Milkbone – our English springer spaniel – and hopped into the shower. I’m pretty fast in the morning – thanks mostly to my boot camp experience 30-years ago and my tour aboard the Coast Guard cutter Morgenthau. The Morgenthau, still in service after 46-years, was equipped with showers that would only run if you pressed a button. This saved water but also made you chilly in between squirts. In a nutshell, the faster you washed, the faster you could get into your uniform and get warm.

4:20 a.m.
Each day I spent 5 to 10 minutes snuggling with Christine before I depart. We have a saying we repeat to each other each day before I depart for work:

I love you.
I miss you.
Have a good day.
Be good.
Be safe.
Stay out of trouble.
Don’t punch anyone in their stupid noses.

While the grammar is imperfect, it reminds us to stay patient when faced with people doing dumb things. That seems to happen a lot.

4:30 a.m.
By this time I’m in my Kia Soul tuned to A.M. 740 KCBS out of San Francisco. For the next half hour, I dodge in and out of Bay Area traffic as I make my way from Hercules, California to Alameda, California. Fortunately there are no delays despite the rare July rain.

In the car and ready to go.

In the car and ready to go.

Ain't no rain gonna get in my way!

Ain’t no rain gonna get in my way!

4:55 a.m.
On Coast Guard Island, I pull through the security checkpoint. The Island is quiet. There are no cars, no people, and no sounds of work on the pier. Today we happen to be hosting the Coast Guard cutters WAESCHE and BERTHOFF, the newest class of ship (called National Security Cutters or NSCs), and the cutter formerly known as RUSH. RUSH was decommissioned a few months back and was sold to the Bangladesh navy, rechristened SOMUDRA AVIJAN.

The causeway to Coast Guard Island in Alameda.

The causeway to Coast Guard Island in Alameda.

5:00 a.m. to 6:30 a.m.
The first hour and a half of the day is the only time of day I’m not in crisis mode. The Coast Guard, like any business, requires a careful balance of work activities and personnel management. This is particularly important because budget cuts over the last few years have reduced the number of people we have. Work, however, has not reduced. It has increased. The result is busier people, longer hours, additional stress… and people doing dumb things.

Working hard or hardly working... you choose.

Working hard or hardly working… you choose.

6:30 a.m. to 11:00
As our people start to stream their way through the front gate, firefighting begins! For the last few weeks, I’ve been wearing two hats. My normal job, as the Department Head for electronics and information technology, pulls me towards solving some interesting technical problems. My secondary job as the Base Executive Officer is pulling me towards some interesting people problems. By lunchtime I will have engaged with:

  • An award presentation for a departing member
  • An advancement ceremony for an enlisted member
  • An unreported alcohol incident
  • A possible sexual assault case
  • A member’s car being repossessed
  • Two requests for financial assistance
  • A $12,000 lost part for a cutter
  • Problems with filling personnel vacancies
  • An underperforming member at another unit in southern California

I will also have read about 50 incoming e-mail and sent about 30 (a good day!), participated in 2 scheduled hour-long meetings, 3-4 unscheduled meetings, and taken reports from the Officer of the Day.

Award presentation: a highlight of my day.

Award presentation: a highlight of my day.

11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
I am lucky today and afforded myself lunch. A 30-minute lunch “period” is mandatory although I rarely take it. Today I feast on my favorite: dry cheeseburger, fries, a salad, and a piece of chocolate cake. Immediately after, I walk around Coast Guard Island as part of my exercise routine. Normally I’d take some time in the wee-hours of the morning to run. However, my dual-hat nature is a bit labor intensive so I’ve been skipping it (bad me!).

12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The remaining 4-hours of my workday would be better spent cleaning up loose ends from the morning. Unfortunately this isn’t the case and I end up engaging in new work. This time I add to my growing list with:

  • Making travel plans to fly from California to Norfolk, Virginia for weeklong information technology summit
  • Rescheduling a few meetings because of competing demands
  • Talking to my folks about how to fill a gap with an employee who just put in a 2-week notice
  • Completing an employee evaluation that was somehow overlooked
  • Approving leave
  • Writing a personnel award
  • Managing a conflict between an expected 200-person Bangladesh event running concurrently with a 500-person U.S. Navy event (yikes!)
  • Working with our security folks on a potential threat to Coast Guard Island
One of many fun-filled meetings.

One of many fun-filled meetings.

4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Thankful to be released from another busy day, I spend the next hour and a half in traffic. What should take 25-30 minutes is bogged down with another accident. I’ve yet to depart Alameda and not get stuck in long lines of slow moving vehicles. To be honest, there are too many people in the Bay Area that drive cars… and I’m one of them.

Emeryville, California: the Choke-point of the World.

Emeryville, California: the Choke-point of the World.

Still not home and we are not amused...

Still not home and we are not amused…

5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Once I’m home I feel much better. Christine was kind enough to make dinner and we eat while watching television. I try to sneak a bit of food to Milkbone and get caught. Milkbone has a very sensitive stomach but he’s just too cute.

6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Time to get ready for tomorrow. I wander around upstairs to repack for the morning. I have to get out my work clothes, my “street” clothes, and my exercise clothes (providing I can fit that in). While I’m up there, I check for ants. The dry conditions in California over the past few years have brought these pests too close for my liking. Today is a good day, however, and nary an ant is found.

Finally relaxing with my wife and puppy.

Finally relaxing with my wife and puppy.

7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
As much as I’d like to paint or blog or do something fun, I’m just too tired. I lay a cushion on the floor and rest my weary head. Christine is working on her computer as the television continues its uninterrupted broadcast of the Food Network. I have to push Milkbone off me. Although he’s more than 6-years old – and fixed – he thinks I’m a dog, too, and tries his best to mate with me.

Sometime after 9:00 p.m., Christine wakes me up. It’s time for bed. Within seconds of lying down, I’m out like a light. A few hours later, the alarm rings and it’s time to do it all again.



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