A STORY FOR THE YOUNG AT HEART
One morning we received a message from HQ on planet Earth asking us to rendez-vous with another spaceship carrying the famous Ambassador Depp Lomacy. Apparently he was an expert mediator and he had been invited to chair and broker peace talks between two warring factions on the planet Army Geddon. It seems the two sides had been fighting for hundreds of years and there was no end in sight to their disagreements. Our mission was to take Ambassador Depp Lomacy to the planet Army Geddon so that he may mediate peace talks.
As soon as he arrived on board our spaceship Ambassador Depp Lomacy said to the Captain, "Hello fish face ... by Jove you're ugly. The last time I saw a salmon like you I put it out of its misery by having it for lunch".
The Captain was taken aback by this unwarranted insult from the eminent diplomat and said politely, "Welcome to our starship, Ambassador!"
"Oh ... it talks as well," said Depp Lomacy, "the salmon I ate for lunch did not talk. You must be a lower species!"
We were all aghast at this diplomat's use of language but chose not to challenge him. Perhaps he was testing us to see how we would react.
"All right," said the diplomat, "where are my quarters until we reach this planet where I'm supposed to mediate between idiots who have been killing each other for centuries?"
"If you walk this way, Ambassador," said Number One, "I'll show you to your room."
"And why would you want me to walk this way?" asked Depp Lomacy, "I don't have a Spatial Anomaly like your Captain!"
The Captain pulled me aside and asked me to go with them. He suggested I spend time with the diplomat and make sure all is as he wishes in case he complains to HQ.
"Who is this dwarf following us?" asked the diplomat.
"He is VM" explained Number One, "a reporter writing an article about this starship".
"Hello shorty," said the diplomat, "I hope your article won't be as short as you because then it will be too long!"
I chose not to answer. We arrived at the diplomat's room and the doors went "wooosh" as they opened.
"VM will show you around," said Number One.
"What if I want to be shown a square, or a triangle?" asked Ambassador Depp tersely, "why is this man showing me a round?
Our Commander smiled and then left.
"I hope you'll find the room comfortable, Sir," I said, "please let me know if there is anything you need. This is the replicator. Ask for any food and drinks and they will appear here instantly.
"To switch the lights on and off, or to dim them just say so and the computer will control the lights. Also the air conditioning environment, the music should you wish it and ..."
"Sit down lad," Depp said, "relax. Let's have a drink." He went to the replicator and said, "Scotch neat ... large," then looking at me he asked, "same?" I nodded and he brought the drinks to the table as we sat down.
"You look nervous, young man," he smiled, "I don't bite you know. What's on your mind?"
"Nothing, Sir," I hesitated, "it's that the forthright way you talk ..."
"There's no need for the Sir," he interrupted gently, "call me Depp. Now be honest, VM, what's bothering you?"
"Well ..." I hesitated even more, "it's the way you called the Captain fish face and ..."
"Oh ... think nothing of it," he smiled, "let me explain. I am a diplomat. I have been a diplomat for 35 years now and it is a very exhausting job I tell you. I have to travel to far flung planets in many Galaxies often in tin-pot type ships, not as good as this one I may add, and have to mediate between warring factions and disagreements that often have gone on for far too long."
He sipped his whisky and smiled.
"Do you know what a diplomat's job is?" he asked. I shook my head.
"It is to build golden bridges for the other side to retreat on," he said, "often, when I meet people who disagree vehemently with each other, to the point of declaring wars that last for years and killing and maiming millions, positions become entrenched. Everyone thinks he is right and therefore it follows the other person is wrong. There is no middle ground.
"History gets re-written and re-invented; especially if the wars have gone on for several generations. The first casualty of war, as they say, is the truth. No one can give way because this will be seen as weakness to be taken advantage of by the other side. So arguments intensify rather than calm down a little for negotiations to star. Do you understand?"
I nodded and said nothing.
"Do you realise how difficult this is for me?" he explained, still in his gentle calm voice, "I am brought in over several light years away. I have to read the background history of the disagreement; taking into account both sides' versions of events.
"I have to sit them round the table. Understand each species special peculiarities, customs, and attitudes and so on. You'd be surprised how many different species of life forms I have met in this universe. Each have different customs and traditions and ways of doing or saying things. The slightest mistake on my part, or on the part of the other side they are negotiating with, and arguments and wars would start all over again.
"And then somehow, when I have managed to get them to stop fighting for a while whilst peace talks go on, I have to get them to listen carefully and talk constructively in order to reach an amicable solution to their disagreements which would last for longer than they have been fighting."
He stopped to sip his whisky again and I smiled.
"Whenever a conference starts," he said, "I have to listen carefully at what everyone is saying. I have to look for body language, not easy with some species. I have to choose my words carefully in case anything I say is misinterpreted or misunderstood and it starts another war against me and planet Earth. This nearly happened once ... I leant back in my chair and this was seen as a sign to that particular species that I thought they were lying. It took ages to explain that I was just relaxing."
He got up and brought two more whiskies to the table.
"As I said," he went on, "I did this for 35 years for hundreds of times, in many planets over long distances apart. It takes it off you, you know.
"That's why when I relax, I swear at people and call them fish face and other things much worse. It's my way of letting off steam. I don't mean it. If I were to let all the pressure of work build up inside me it will be too much and it would probably make me ill and kill me. And a dead diplomat is of no use to anyone. So I relax by calling people names and being generally obnoxious when I am not working. Do you understand fish face?"
"I don't mean it young man," he said, "I wish you well with the article you are writing about this ship, and please be gentle with me when you write about me!"
I left his room with a totally new understanding of his type of work and the character of this man.
TO BE CONTINUED ... FISH FACE
Thought of the day: Spare a thought for a moment or two for your priest, vicar, minister, padre or whatever you call him or her. Consider how often they have to listen to peoples' concerns, worries, troubles and problems, or to gossip even and to disagreements; and yet they have to remain calm, impartial, non-judgemental and have to dispense good advice and practical help.
How do you think they feel when they are alone? Do they scream "fish face" to the mirror?
Spare a thought also to God, having to listen to all your whining and troubles instead of you having half a mustard's worth of faith. Do you give God a headache?