Tempus fugit

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 10:15pm

While rowing out to my sailboat a few weeks ago, I passed a 70-foot sailing yacht named tempus fugit — time flies in Latin. Leave it to the Romans to figure out such a precise phrase like that to give the good citizens of Rome something to think about while they were paying their taxes and cobbling together an empire. The Romans were sharp folks. For example, they gave us engineering marvels like the aqueducts and they knew how to build a functional city with great aesthetics. These wily folks had Euclidian geometry down, and applied it quite handily to build a city which lasted about 500 years—ahem, tempus fugit when you’re having fun building and expanding an empire, and then dominating the world. My wife was in Rome last year having lunch across the street from the Coliseum, and then she went walking around the city checking out the sights. She seizes the tempus fugit idea. Cindy literally flies all over the world to look at stuff; my bride doesn’t like wasting time and messing around with trivial pursuits. Conversely, I — the stick in the mud that I am — just sail my boat, read good books, and don’t stray far from home. However, I share her position that life is short and we need to charge! We both don’t like to waste time because, as we’re getting on in years, it seems to be flying by at mach speeds. My wife is constantly aware of this as a result of the work she does.

“When you get to be my age, years go by like months,” said the late Arthur Dipetrillo. Arthur and I worked together for about 15 years — maybe longer — and we had a blast discussing the human condition while helping load the cars onto the ferry. He was a worldly guy with a terrific sense of the absurd, and he had me constantly in stitches — I miss Arthur’s stories, laughter and smile. His son David — another character — started working on the ferry way back in the day as a deck hand, and over the years he worked his way into the wheelhouse and sailed as Captain. (I remember peeling masking tape off the seats of the new M/V Nelseco with David when we worked on that ferry together — he was a scrappy little kid.) David’s sons now work on the Athena. Moreover, Arthur’s son Michael, and his grandson, Gabe Brunelli, also worked at the ferry — three generations. Indeed, time does fly.

Another poignant Latin construction is carpe diem — seize the day. Both of these simple phrases will get our attention if we let them rattle around in our heads for a few minutes. Place them together and the implication is simple and direct — as language should be — and we see the connection. Simply, the Roman’s knew that life was short, yet they charged ahead anyway; no retreat and no surrender. Moreover, they didn’t waste time and got things done, because they did seize the day and studied science, literature, math, philosophy, and art. As a result, they thrived and survived, for a time. They had a good run before the Roman Empire went sideways on them. 

All of us parents out there understand how time flies regarding our kids growing up; we are told this unsolicited truth about time flying by us from other parents who know the drill of raising kids. As a parent, and now a grandparent, I can attest to this example of time zipping by on the quick, and it truly does. My little grand kid Leo is telling his mom and dad that he wants a motorcycle — the kid is two-and-a-half years old. Leo is charging ahead toward his future and his parents and grandparents are dialed in to the fact that we need to pay attention to this little Dude.

On the way to clock in at work a few weeks ago, I saw Capt. Matty Rooney talking with a guy next to a Harley-Davidson. As I approached the guys and my eyes adjusted, I saw it was our old shipmate, Wayne Browning — instantly, memories flew back to our younger and crazier days. When we all worked on the M/V Quonset our First Mate, Buster Hyde, would always be saying, “Where’s Wayne, dat little bastid!” It was a cat-and-mouse game with Buster and Wayne, and they were hilarious times. “After working on oil rig supply ships, a guy I knew from the industry asked me, ‘Do you think you can drive a tugboat?’ said Browning. “I’ll try anything once,“ he said. Wayne went on to ship as Master on a Moran tug in Baltimore for 32 years. Again, time does fly.

Capt. Matty Rooney hired me in 1974. He was 18 with a 100-ton license and I was just out of college humping fish onto trucks at the Fisherman’s Co-op.

Me, Matty, Captain Wayne, Skip and Rick Hull, Janette Centracchio, the Fogarty brothers, Capt. Grant Parker, Capt. Steve Kimball et al, started out at these docks a long time ago. Janette, Matty, Steve and I are still here, and can attest to one absolute, and that is tempus fugit.