Music Calms the Savage Desire for Promotion
In order to fully appreciate the following story, you must try to understand the awe and fear in which the lower ranks held their senior officers. In all fairness, very often these people held your career in the palms of their hands. A quiet word, a black mark on someone’s Record of Service could mean endless years in a series of rut-like dead-end jobs with little or no chance of promotion.
The scriptures tell us, not to speak ill of the dead. Unwritten civil service regulations teach us not to speak ill of senior officers. In Special Branch, I was horrified one day when a senior civilian officer said of her more senior disciplined officer, “Every time that man opens his mouth part of his brain falls out.”
There were times when I thought I was suffering the same loss of grey cells, and while I often lamented my poor promotion prospects, in retrospect I am grateful I lasted as long in the service as I did.
One morning I got into the lift with a mixed group of disciplined and civilian officers. Just as the doors were sliding shut one of the Assistant Directors (there were four) entered, humming cheerfully. He was a charming man, rarely known to speak unpleasantly of anyone and when, later, my first book was published, he was one of the first in line at the book signing.
He looked at us and said, “It’s such a charming day I thought a bit of Vivaldi would be suitable.”
Quite innocently, and totally without thinking I opened my mouth and said, “Actually Sir, that was Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance.”
There was an instant silence within the lift. It was the sort of silence you might expect in the bush seconds before the attack of a mighty predator or an earthquake. The temperature dropped noticeably. The disciplined and civilian officers hugged the walls and avoided my eyes.
The ADSB looked up at me and said, “Oh, really.” We all exited the lift in silence.
Copyright John Stewart Sloan – 2007 – Not for Publication