On the Job

How to Know When it’s Time to Go

23 June 2022 By Gavin Rothenburger
An illustration of an alarm clock going off saying that it is time to quit.

Gavin Rothenburger has been the author of Dockwalk’s humor column Last Laugh since 2008. For questions, concerns, or for general badmouthing, you can write to me at gavinrothenburger@yahoo.com.

It’s been a good run. You’ve made it through another season without a complete mental collapse, the bank account no longer looks as empty as your stocking did that Christmas after you burned down the garage, and you’re gearing up for the next phase. Do you do another season, take a break, or look for something new? Here are a few thoughts on when it might be time to leave:

1. The small bag of personal items and clothes you had when you joined has evolved into a container-load of impulse buys, souvenirs, an outfit inventory to rival the boss’s, and garnered you an invitation to join a psychological study on hoarding. It might be time for a refresh.


2. If the crew starts slipping pamphlets for crew agents under your door and drops vague hints of needing to hire a hitman for some unclear but imminent purpose. Back slowly away.

3. When you discover that the stress of the last two seasons has completely broken your tear ducts and, at the same time, realize your sanity went AWOL three charters ago and is holding a gun to the head of your soul while threatening to pull the trigger if you don’t do something about mending your shattered humanity. That’s usually a pretty good indicator.

4. The crew affectionately compares you to a favorite, old pair of slippers that, despite being completely worn out, they just don’t have the heart to throw away.


5. If, upon waking, you spend the first 10 minutes of every day screaming because you’ve just remembered where you are.

6. If you’ve been on the boat longer than the new deckhand’s been alive.

7. If you joined the boat to try to solve your drinking problem, stayed on the boat to fund your drinking problem, and now firmly believe the boat to be the cause of your drinking problem. Time to find another program.

8. If you’ve quietly purchased a rock hammer and, every night, chip slowly away at your cabin wall dreaming of the day you’ll crawl 400 feet down a sewage pipe and come out clean on the other side. That’s a reference to a movie about a guy who climbs 400 feet down a sewage pipe and comes out clean on the other side. But, really, if you’re doing this, you’ve probably gone a little around the bend and should just leave.

9. When everybody around you begs you to please just bugger off.


10. When, for the past four years, you’ve put your heart and soul into doing the best job and being the best person you can be and the owner suddenly introduces himself because he thinks he’s never seen you before.

11. When you realize that everybody else has already left and begin to seriously question if the rule really is that the second stew always goes down with the ship.

12. When you no longer remember a time you didn’t get up in the morning and put on a uniform that makes you look like that guy trying to sell air conditioner warranties to people at the hardware store.

13. The owner occasionally sits on you because she’s taken the saying that you’ve been there so long that “you’re now part of the furniture” just a little too literally.

There are any number of reasons to stay or go and the only one who truly knows what’s right is you. That is, unless your sanity has just been spotted holding a loaded weapon.


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