A long time ago, an old captain of mine had a great term for crewmembers who could almost always reliably be found in the galley if they were not otherwise immediately and unavoidably occupied performing a specific duty. He called them “galley creatures.”

These crewmembers were typically parked in front of the television almost full-time. They often had very little interest in, or even a basic awareness of, what was going on around them. It was amazing to pull this off in the typically high-energy environment of New York Harbor. Galley creatures, by definition, would not let career ambitions and gaining valuable knowledge and experience get in the way of, say, watching an episode of the “Jerry Springer Show.” Are these “creatures” merely watching for entertainment, or are they dreaming of auditioning for the show themselves? Who knows?

The important point is that for anyone who desires to advance beyond being an OS deckhand, the early portion of one’s career should not be entirely spent watching television, going down the infinite number of internet rabbit holes, or “gaming” on your smartphone.

Knowledge and experience are something you must extract from your activities and surroundings. It is not a passive process. You will not magically gain knowledge and experience through osmosis. Nor does anyone “owe you” anything unless you consciously meet your obligation to be a willing and active learner.

If you show a continuing and sincere interest and effort to learn, it will go a long, long way towards motivating others to make an effort — above and beyond the call of duty — on your behalf. Regardless of your background, you are owed nothing — absolutely nothing. Make that your mantra.

To all recent graduates of two- or four-year programs at maritime academies or other training institutions: your attendance and “achievements” do not constitute already having “paid your dues.” Any behavior displayed that indicates such a belief will undoubtedly result in negative reactions from those who have, in fact, paid their dues and then some.

And please don’t be a galley creature.

Joel Milton works on towing vessels. He can be reached at [email protected].