This transcript is from the radio conversation of a U.S. naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995:
Americans: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.”
Canadians: “Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.”
Americans: “This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert your course.”
Canadians: “No. I say again, you divert your course.”
Americans: “This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States Atlantic Fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers, and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change your course 15 degrees north—that’s one-five-degrees north—or counter-measures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.”
Canadians: “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”
I first heard this story in 2000 while facilitating a retreat of college leaders interested in environmental sustainability. I still recall the wave of laughter that swept through the room when Ray Anderson told it.
While it turns out the story’s been circulating on the Internet for years, it’s not true, just a very tenacious urban myth. It’s still worth a chuckle, though, because we all recognize it for what it is: The way too many arguments unfold.
Seems like a good way to win and lose at the same time.