Always Take First Watch

Always take the first watch. I received this sage advice many years ago, from a friend who spent most of his life in the United States Navy. The rationale is that one will be less tired during the first watch than in later shifts. First watch, of course, is usually the daytime hours, such as 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with the evening watch being from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and the “mid” watch lasting from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Sometimes, however, first watch doesn’t refer to a particular time, but to the first of several shifts. For example, many years ago, Magnus worked on a case in Charleston, South Carolina and my research team members and I, along with one of our clients, had to leave earlier than we had planned due to the approach of a hurricane in south Florida. All of us had flown to Charleston, but because all flights were cancelled when we needed to leave, we commandeered a rental car and sped down I-95. Magnus’ client, who had served our country as a JAG lawyer in the Marine Corps, quickly volunteered to take the first watch by being the first among us to drive through the night as we hurried home. I remarked to our client that I knew exactly what he was doing by being so quick to volunteer and that my two team members, both of whom had served our country in the Army, had been caught by surprise by his apparent (but, of course, false) display of magnanimity. He smiled and said, “I will get this over with as soon as possible and then I will sleep while the others drive after being awake for almost 24 hours.” In many things in my life, I have volunteered to take the first watch. I’ll go first, while you are still trying to decide what to do. I’ll get it over with; you can wait till later. And, when there’s damage to the roof, I’ll gladly deal with the roofers and someone else (sorry, David!) can share in our ordeal by handling the insurance company. Always, always, take the first watch!

Always take first watch, unless Melissa beats you to it!  After that, I’m not sure which is better, 2nd or 3rd watch.  It might depend on whether it is night or day, and whether sleep is possible.  Though I wasn’t onboard for the hurricane avoidance drive, I remember it well.  I had the outsider’s view, kind of like an air traffic controller and played 2 roles – first, to reserve a vehicle, a van as I recall because we needed the size, and few vehicles were available to chose from.  And, second, my role was to monitor the weather and relay information via telephone.  You see, this was before smart phones but the research team needed information.  So, sometimes those not taking watch have a role.  Yeah, Melissa made the quick choice to deal with roofers – I got stuck with the insurance company and lawyers.  But, that’s the division of labor in a relationship sometimes.  Keeping to the work environment, I want to expand on the watch issue to add that, even if someone has the watch, others on the team need to stay engaged if possible (other than if sleep is necessary to get to the end of the race).  Specifically, the watch keeper needs a co-pilot, someone to monitor conditions, weather reports, maps, traffic, or, if not present in the same location, watching these things remotely.  Melissa and I had another hurricane encounter that required us rent a car at La Guardia airport when we learned an approaching hurricane cancelled our flight (and our destination airport in Ft. Lauderdale was shut down due to hurricane damage).  We got in the car and headed south to get below the storm line, looking for an alternative working airport.  Again, pre smart phones, but we stayed in contact with one or more of our Magnus team to navigate the trip directions and weather conditions.  I drove, while Melissa navigated, to Baltimore.  Our team secured us a flight from Baltimore to Ft. Myers and rented yet another car to get home.  It was an adventure, a stressful one, especially because the power was out on most of the east coast of Florida (meaning no working traffic lights) and there was lots of debris.  My point in this story though, is working together to arrive safely at a destination.  I try to point out the need to work together to team members using some of these examples.  A few times we’ve had team members who thought it was just fine to nap while someone else, usually their boss, drove.  Staying alert and making sure everyone else does is a team player move.  Napping in the car, well, not so much.

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