The Great Imposter

In August of 1960 I was put in charge of the Navy’s resident inspectors in Todd’s Seattle Shipyard. Guided-missile destroyers were then being constructed. In each ship the various elements of the analog fire-control system (radars, guns, missile launchers, fire-control directors, etc.), were connected by a Navy-furnished Norton-Ketay switchboard. As was customary for such complicated equipments, each of their manufacturers provided a factory representative who guided the shipyard in installation, test, and light off. With one exception the factory reps were bachelors in their twenties. The exception was Joe Kelly, a reticent forty-something, never-married, and florid-faced reformed alcoholic who represented Norton-Ketay.

Periodically, the yard superintendents and I had lunch in a nearby industrial-area restaurant. More often than not each such meal became boisterous because of Becky, an outgoing zoftic waitress. She regularly out wise-cracked us waterfront denizens. No one ever had the last word with her. She ruled around her tables absolutely. Beckey was confidence personified.

One day I invited Joe Kelly to come along. When Becky charged up to the table, as she usually did, she instantly spotted a stranger on her turf and loudly demanded, “What’s your name?”

Joe surprised us all by replying with what appeared to be one-hundred percent sincerity, “Calmar Bidijiwitz.”

Becky, grinning and with hands on hips said out of the side-of-her-mouth, “What kind of a name is that?”

Joe exploded! His face turned redder than usual and angrily he rapidly shouted the letters, “B-I-D-I-J-I-W-I-T-Z” and added just as angrily, “What’s the matter with you? Why are you making fun of my name?”

Becky was flustered, turned redder than Joe, and apologized profusely. Joe was perfect and he didn’t let up with his red-faced indignation act until the rest of us could no longer keep straight faces.

Calmar Bidijiwitz is that powerful personality who whipped the formidable Becky to a standstill.


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