Losing track of priorities or doing things in the wrong order can be detrimental at worst and an inconvenience at best. Doing what is important first, and learning how to determine what is important and ranking it with other things you have to do – is a learned skill. 

First off, I have fed my granddaughters, ate breakfast myself, emptied and reloaded the dishwasher and now I am sitting down at my keyboard, with tea in hand. Priorities are important, but I didn’t always have my priorities straight in my head when I was younger. I kind of went by the law of FBTSOMP (Flying By The Seat Of My Pants).

When I was in the Navy, my wife and I owned a 1980 Ford Pinto. It wasn’t your normal Pinto, because the previous owners added some modifications to it. This car had an upgraded engine, it was at a rake, there were wide tires on the back and an anti-sway bar. In other words, it was a hot rod, and it handled corners like it was on rails.

One particular morning, I did not have my priorities straight. I had to get to the Naval Reserve Station in Seattle, and I lived South of Seattle. On the freeway, it would take me about 30 minutes – without traffic – to get to work. I had a friend that was a barista downtown Seattle in Pioneer Square, and the Wednesday before he said that he wanted me to come by and try a coffee; it would be free.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

I left ten minutes early and headed downtown. I made it there with relatively easy traffic, and my friend made me my coffee – it was a quadruple shot vanilla latte: Delicious!

I still had time to make it to work, and I would have time to spare. I decided to take the freeway, but the freeway was getting backed up. With my time getting shorter, I pulled around the traffic. Because it was the bi-annual dress uniform inspection – I needed to get to work, and fast. 

There were two ways to make it to work, I could get off on the Mercer Street exit, which was the direct route, or I could take the Lake View exit, which was the roundabout way to get to the Reserve Center and a couple of miles up the road – it was sometimes faster, especially when traffic was backed up. 

When I took the exit, I only had about 10 minutes, and at normal speed, the route would take 15 minutes. So I did what any late teenager would do – I pressed the gas pedal aggressively. I took a corner at 55 mph and the speed limit was 35. I rocketed down the street and right in front of two motorcycle police. They turned on their lights and pulled me over.

Photo by Tomas Ryant on

Now it was five minutes till inspection, and I was sitting on the side of the road. The officer came up to my window and looked at me. “Sailor?” he asked. “You were traveling kind of fast, weren’t you?”

I told him that I needed to get to the Reserve Center for a Dress Uniform Inspection. He smiled, “Who is your Commanding Officer?” I told him, and he escorted me to the center. He walked me into my CO’s office and explained what I did. 

He then gave my CO the option of him disciplining me or he could write me a ticket, however, since I was going almost twice the speed limit, he would have to take me to jail. My CO said that he would take care of me, and the officer left me in his custody.

I don’t remember exactly what my Captain said, but I do remember that I had extra duties for a month, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but they were duties like – cleaning the head (restroom), cleaning the bilge in the boat, organizing the supply locker – all this on top of my normal duties. My eight hour days expanded to twelve and thirteen hour days, and my lunch was cut short.

The point is, I didn’t have my priorities straight, I should have gone straight to work and not to my friend’s coffee shop: I would not have been stopped by the police, embarrassed by having a police escort to my Captain’s office and I wouldn’t have had to do extra work. Priorities are important, by the way, I never went back to my friend’s coffee shop.  

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