He sure had me pegged. Did I meet him in my surreal existence in the alternate universe, perhaps in a bar in Hong Kong or Malaya?
"The majority were men who, like himself, thrown there by some accident, had remained as officers of country ships. They had now a horror of the home service, with its harder conditions, severer view of duty, the hazard of stormy oceans. They were attuned to the eternal peace of the Eastern sky and sea. They loved short passages, good deck chairs, large native crews, and the distinction of being white. They shuddered at the thought of hard work, and led precariously easy lives, always on the verge of dismissal, always on the verge of engagement, serving Chinamen, Arabs, half castes-would have served the devil himself if he had made it easy enough. They talked everlastingly of the turns of luck: how So and so got charge of a boat on the coast of China-a soft thing; how this one had an easy billet in Japan somewhere, and that one was doing well in the Siamese navy; and in all they said-in their actions, in their looks, in their persons-could be detected the soft spot, the place of decay, the determination to lounge safely through existence.
To Jim that gossiping crowd, viewed as seamen, seemed at first more unsubstantial than so many shadows. But at length he found a fascination in the sight of those men, in their appearance of doing so well in such a small allowance of danger and toil."
H/T to Expat @ Large for the idea.