The Admiral and the Signal

This is a short story I shared at a recent gathering.

There’s an old urban legend that unfolded in the pacific about an Admiral who took command of a ship.

The ongoing battle had stopped as the intense storm rose. The Captain of the ship was headed back to port when the Admiral took over in the choppy waters. Not because of the Captain’s dereliction of duties, but rather due to the Admiral’s inability to do nothing.

The pitch-black storm made maneuvering difficult and radio static forced the Admiral to require the presence of a signalman on the bridge and not a moment too soon. Everyone could see the blinking light in the distance off the ship’s bow and the signalman quickly interpreted it.

The signal flashed, “Divert your course 15 degrees to portside to avoid collision.”

The Admiral was incensed and commanded that the return message state, “Divert your course 15 degrees to port to avoid collision.”

The signalman cringed, as he read out loud the response to the Admiral, “No, I repeat, divert your course.”

The Admiral’s face filled with rage from the disrespectful response. He demanded that the signalman request the rank of the one sending the message.

A simple reply followed, “Petty Officer 2nd Class.”

With that the Admiral’s chest puffed up and he sent another message reading, “You are communicating with an Admiral, divert your course.”

The signalman nervously read the next response, “Unable to comply, divert your course.”

The Admiral grabbed the signal light and flashed it himself, “We are a battleship destroyer, divert your course.”

The Admiral and signalman stood in amazement as they watched the return message, “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”

No matter how high we get in our work, social or family life, we always need the insights and perspectives of others. It’s therefore prudent to be a good listener before demanding that our choice is implemented.

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