Circus Peanuts

The rest of my last job was equally eventful as the first part. All the details are highly technical. The only thing that matters is: I was ready to go home.

You may remember, dear readers, that I went to the gym for a short period of time a few months ago. During my short lived membership at the Y, I met a man named Pastry. Pastry is a helicopter pilot by day and a step class instructor and fitness enthusiast by night. When I say “by day”, I mean every other week; “by night”, every other week.

I got the CoMan to sign the ticket (for which I had to, again, assign myself no bonus), and headed outside to meet the chopper. Lo and behold, holding the door for me outside was Pastry, the friendly fitness instructor. “Laila!”, he cried, “I haven’t seen you at the gym in a while.”… Totally busted. Mr. Boxes eyed me as I hugged the pilot and explained that I had started to meet my exercise needs in the outdoors (*bed*), and was working offshore a lot. “Well, I guess I will be taking you back home!”

“Did you meet that guy at a bar??”-Mr. Boxes.

“I met him at the gym, you a-hole!”-Me

The soft humming of the helicopter put me to sleep yet again as we traversed the waters from above the clouds. In a matter of dreams, I was home again. Pastry and I made plans to play soccer the next day. Back in my comfort zone and among my friends, we decided to go to New Orleans to both commiserate and celebrate the completion of my “break out job”. The “official” break out is pending on my manager’s approval. We went to eat at a fancy place with a set menu. I ate a filet, rare per usual. We went to a place called “Rock and Bowl”, which is just as it sounds. This venue is a bowling alley with a stage on the side, and a huge dance floor. We watched some live music and met up with Englewood and his fiance. Albert, Alice, Beverly, DWShorty, Chelly (a Columbian open hole engineer who just transferred from Holland), Englwood, his fiance, and myself danced and hula hooped the night away. All my worries from the Development Driller 1 (DD1) job melted away.  

We woke the next morning and ate at our favorite bagel spot before heading back to Houma. In the car, DWShorty received a call from Lauren. She instructed him that we have to go back out to the DD1 for additional service to the well. “You need to be at the heliport at 3:00 pm.” The time is currently 12:34pm. I received a text from Pastry, “I thought I was done. I may have to go off to DD1. Be back by 5:30.”….”I’ll see you at the heliport,” I replied.

The crew out here now is Jeau, Harry1, Winnie, DWShorty, and myself. My first day back on the rig, nearly everyone I passed in the living quarters or in the galley said to me “You’re back!?” or “Where’s Mr.Boxes?”

“Oh, I’ll get it stuck just as good as anybody. And I get it unstuck, too!!”-Jeau on driving the winch. On our last trip out here, we had trouble getting our tool back up the hole and had to leave it at the bottom. This is a product of “getting stuck” in the well.

“I had a nightmare… They woke us up and said ”get up, you’re going home….on a boat!'” -Harry1

“Well, f*$%, I can’t let an empty chopper leave the rig!” Jeau’s reaction to the announcement that a helicopter would be leaving carrying no passengers.

“Ha-Haaah! Snack Pack, you crazy.”-Winnie

Yesterday, I was popping pop corn in the galley before going to the theater to watch a movie with DWShorty and Jeau. I watched the microwave intently as my snack prepared, kernel by kernel. “WHAT YOU DOING!!!” I felt someone shaking me from behind and I jumped into the air, hitting my knees on the cabinets. “JESUS!!” I yelled in terror. I turned around to see one of the galley hands laughing hysterically. Everyone else in the room laughed too. “Whoa! I didn’t know you could jump so high!” This was both frightening and embarrassing.

“I shouldn’t have answered my phone! I could be at home drinking beers right now!”-Harry1

“No, Harry1, I always need you to answer the phone!!”-Me

“Yeah, it’s not so bad, at least I’m offshore with you.”-Harry1

“I may run out of cigarettes”-Harry1 noted as he pulled out his inventory from his offshore bag. I immediately began to panic.

“We can get some more sent out to you. Just let me know and I’ll call someone on shore to send some.”-Me

“No, I’ll be okay.”-Harry1

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’ve got a full prescription of happy pills ready to go!”

This morning, the CoMan woke us all up at 0400 so that we may have time to eat breakfast and connect our tools and get it together. Winnie was woken up first and he had to go around and wake us all up. While we were eating he explained his encounter with the rig had who woke him up.

“He asked me, ‘What room number is the engineer in?’ I says ‘234’. He says’…This is 234′. Oh, DAMN it’s early.”-Winnie

“I thought ‘I hope this isn’t a dream’ What a f*$%ed up dream would that be!? If I got up and woke everybody up!!”-Winnie

….

“Winnie is going to drive the winch for the whole run, so let’s let him go to bed now. Once we start running in the hole, you and Jeau will take turns sleeping.”- Me, reviewing my fatigue management plan with Harry1

“Not me, I’m about to jump overboard.”-Harry1

It is now 1015 (almost lunch time)…. the rig still has two more hours until they are ready for us to perform our service. We have been done and sitting around since 0730.

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The World’s Tiniest Violin

Yesterday, I cried at my job. I just typed, deleted and retyped that sentence four times. I feel starting this post any other way would be a brutal lie. This is a post I hope my sister will read and laugh at my self pity. I hope my friends will tell me how embarrassing I am. I know my mother will call me as soon as I get back on land and reassure me that all my shortcomings start and end in my own mind. I would also like to note that this rig smells like stale smoke and dry erase markers.

After doing everything I was told, the data acquisition software on my laptop experienced processing errors and failed to produce any data. With Ren witnessing and carefully documenting the series of events, I called my manager. I called my Software guru man in Beijing. I was forced to surrender to the older software and helplessly observe while other engineers ran the data acquisition.

On any other day, these events would have been met with mild frustration quickly turned to indifference and then amusement. However, this was supposed to be my breakout job. All my hand written notes and hints were carefully placed around the desk to facilitate my first independent logging experience. I felt ready, and I was excited. I wanted to do a great job and be awesome and make everyone proud of me. I was beyond excited. I set up my job in the computer and logged onto the viewer session, where other engineers and data quality champions can witness everything you do on the screen. DWShorty and Beverly had signed in to watch my log. I felt comfortable and among friends. Mr. Boxes (aka dad) sat directly behind me. When all that turned to shit, I had a hard time keeping it together. I stayed in the logging unit until the log was started, my cheeks certainly glowing red as my blood boiled. I felt the anger seeping through my face and filling up my itchy eyes. Soon, I could not take it anymore. I darted out of the logging unit, ran downstairs and into the living quarters. The women’s change room door slammed behind me as the tears started to uncontrollably burst from my face. I allowed myself 45 seconds of uninterrupted crying before washing my face off with cold water.

There, there,” I told myself in the mirror. “This happens to everyone, and this job can still turn around.” The angry girl looking back at me did not agree. Time for some tough love. “Get over yourself! This is your f*$%ing job!”

She still did not look convinced. “But, I’m so sad…”

 “If you show you can keep your cool and still manage your crew, then this little hiccup should not reflect on your worth as a human being. Now, dry off your face and march your happy ass outside like a boss!”

I convinced myself that this was not the end of the world. My hand waved in front of the paper towel dispenser. The machine made a noise to acknowledge my wave, but no paper towels came out. Looking up, I noticed the bathroom was out of paper towels, and my face was dripping wet with salty tears and sink water. I reached my fingers into the paper towel dispenser and desperately fished out the last tiny bit of crumpled paper towel to dry off my consoled face.

Looking in the mirror, I chuckled to myself. “I am so embarrassing.” I said out loud.

The Blank

I wonder why more people don’t infiltrate the offshore oil community for film substance. It should be second to making movies about war. I arrived on this rig Monday morning. Everyone faced a horrific nightmare:

This is a semi submersible rig in over 4000 feet of water. The rig is staffed with the company men, geologists, drillers, tool pushers, roustabouts, roughnecks, third party inspectors, painters, service hands (that’s me!), medics, dispatchers, cleaning people, cooks, and other people. After sitting through a few meetings upon arrival, I ran down to my room to relieve my heavy bladder of its burden. Just before doing my business, I noticed the toilet was full of someone else’s business. I overlooked the grossness and attempted to flush it and move on with my life. No success. I ran back upstairs and alerted Mr. Boxes. “Yeah, sometimes that will happen. Try the bathroom in the women’s change room. Those have a tendency to break less.” I ran back downstairs to the change room only to find that those restrooms were also out of order. I asked a cleaning lady where I could find a functioning commode. “Fifth floor”. Dear readers, for a day and a half, this rig had a single functioning toilet for approximately 155 people on board to share.

The last time I was on this rig (one month ago), I was with my dearest mentor, Lynn. Since then, Lynn has taken a leave of absence from Whataberger and will be gone for 3 months. This happened a few weeks ago, and I was too depressed to post about it. I fear that I will grow tired and miserable of the Whataberger life too. Until then, I’ll be kickin it in the Gulf on various rigs.

Let us now introduce a new segment of the blog. It’s called Fortunately, Unfortunately..A series of events in a typical day….

Fortunately, We had minimal work to do today and I slept until 12 pm.

Unfortunately: I had a disturbing dream. Food. I seriously was dreaming that I ate myself into oblivion. I dreamed about sausage links, beans, candy, cereal, spaghetti, meatballs, hambergers. Instead of feeling happy when I woke up, I felt gross.

Fortunately: Eat exclusively salad and fish. This is a nicer rig and has a variety of foods, including a lavish salad bar. I vowed to myself to eat nothing but fish, chickens, eggs and salad for the remainder of my trip.

Unfortunately Everyone sits in the galley for too long.This is a nicer rig and has a variety of foods. After I have eaten my modest meal of fish, salad and hard boiled egg. I then grazed and eat an additional bowl of ice cream, bowl of baked beans, and roll of bread. Not as gross as my nightmare, but still not ideal.

Fortunately. I finally got over myself and went to the gym. I don’t like going to gyms because I get bored on the tread mill and sharing a gym space in tight quarters can be awkward. I’m not trying to lift 10 lb weights while a jacked roustabout inevitably watches. Fortunately, no one was in there.

Unfortunately. I watched BET while running.

This is my “Breakout Job”. It is progressing with mixed feelings. Since it is my break out job, I am effectively the supervisor on the job and am supposed to do everything and tell everyone what to do. I am the “boss.” However, since I am not broken out yet, I can not be the supervisor or “boss”. In this Catch 22, I find myself watching while Mr.Boxes acts as the “boss”, but then tells me it is my break out job and I need to be the “boss.” It is confusing and frustrating.

 There is a third party inspector here to witness the whole job. He works with a partner. Let’s call them “Ren and Stimpy”. Ren is a young guy who used to work for Whataberger. Unlike most third party inspectors, he’s pretty cool and most of his questions arise from curiosity and not accusation. Ren also plays dominos with us while we are hanging out on the rig.

“We better lock this up. This would make a nice home for someone.”-Mr. Boxes, on the wireline unit outside on the rig

“Yeah, squatters living in the unit.”-Me

“Those buggers will roll up on a boat, climb up here and take everything we own.”-Mr. Boxes.

Last Saturday, I went to work for a few hours. On my way home, I stopped at PetsMart and acquired this:

This is my new fish. His name is Bettatron 2.0.

Don’t Go Round Tonight

It is now the time of year when it rains everyday at 3:30 pm. When a storm moves in, it rains all day. I ride to and from work in my truck singing “Bad Moon Rising” as the waves take over the road.

The other day I went to lunch with about 10 other co workers. We called it a “crew meal”, and one of the engineers paid for everyone.

“Hey, I got the crew mean tomorrow. Everyone, meet me at Sam’s Club.”

“Where are we going for lunch?”

“I don’t know, but I have a hair appointment at 2…”DWShorty

Some of my co workers play a game where they park very close to each other and block someone in on the driver’s side. The game has grown, and now they block them in on both sides, forcing the person to crawl through their back window.

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Our shop is also getting new concrete. I have never seen a slab of fresh concrete without marking it. As I was leaving work the other day, the concrete crew was wrapping up. I asked the leader if I could write my name in it. Trying to be discrete, I scribbled my initials in cursive.

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Now I am a part of this place forever…..

Recently, I have been logging some serious hours at the shop. I show up and leave whenever I feel like it. Sometimes, this means spending 5 hours at work on a weekday. Other times, this means spending over 24 hours here on Saturday/Sunday. 

Reasons I like being at work on a weekend:

1. Mom and Dad aren’t home. In the absense of management, I can wear hole-y jeans and act a fool.

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2. Not real business hours. Since it is after 5 or a weekend, the phones don’t ring.

3. Time flies. Before you know it, it’s 2am.

4. Quality bonding time. Staying here after hours means you’re doing something important(ish), and the other people here are relevant to what you’re doing.

In more relevant news, this weekend, I will be embarking on my “break out job”. After controls, this is the final step to getting my Field Engineer promotion. The days of training and being “Junior” will soon be behind me.

Hunter Bowlers

This post is not for the feeble stomach. If you’re feeble, skip to the end.

As a last resort to get Jerome to eat, I decided to attempt feeding him a live mouse in his terrarium. The hopes were that he would hunt it like a real snake. I carefully dangled the mouse in front of him, the dropped it into the tank.

Thinking this would take a while for Jerome to finally attack it, I went to the kitchen to prepare myself a meal, so I could eat and watch Jerome eat too. I turned away for a minute and then came back to this:

Damn, I missed him attacking it. No matter, the mouse was still alive. It kicked its legs while Jerome tightened his grip. Gradually, the mouse’s attempts to escape and his life were squeezed out by my powerful Jerome. The little mouse went limp. Jerome then loosened his grip and began to swallow.

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Now, I am sure my snake is not dying!

I went bowling with some co workers Wednesday night. Canada is back from Canada after a month’s hiatus. He beat everyone quite handedly in bowling, but was also throwing the ball half way down the lane, as I am led to believe is common practice in Canada. I also learned that in Canada, you may bowl three times in a frame, unlike the conventional American style bowling, where you bowl twice.

In other work related news, we have to make a job, but don’t have some of the specialty equipment needed. This means trying to round up the equipment from all over the world, and get it shipped to Houma in a timely manner, so that we can make the job.

“The soonest they can get it here by shipping is next Wednesday, which is too late. Or, they said they can charter a plane for 60 K.” I don’t know if this is funny or interesting. I found it  ridiculous.

Mr. Boxes has a wall calendar next to his desk. coincidentally, it is also next to my desk. One day, Albert sat in Mr. Boxes chair and doodled some event in on his calendar.

After Mr. Boxes returned from offshore, Albert asks him, “What are you doing on August 32nd?”

Mr. Boxes looks at his calendar and studies it for a moment. “Poo. Poop. Poopie. Poop?”…”I’m pooping.”

Last night, I ate sushi with DeepWater Shorty and Beverly. We all ordered clear soup. After getting our soup and starting eating, DWShorty says to Beverly, “I thought you got a potato soup?”

“What are we at… Chili’s??”-Beverly

Swamp Land

I saw a cast member of Swamp People leaving the Buffalo Wild Wings a few weeks ago. I stopped him in the parking lot, “Hey Swamp Person!” He turned and walked towards the patio where I was standing and extended his hand for a hand shake. I quickly explained my intentions, “I don’t want to shake your hand, I just want to give you a high five!”. He seemed taken aback, but we high fived anyways and went about our lives.

“I can’t wait to get back and feel ground beneath my feet. Concrete, carpet, grass, tile…etc” Archie trails off thinking about returning to land.

….

“When we get into the People Haulers van, I’m going to take off my shoes and rub my feet on the carpet.” -Archie

“Wow, you’ve been offshore for a while.”-Harry4

“Three days…?”-DWShorty

In the helicopter ride, I did two illegal things. 1) I did not turn my phone off or store it in my bag, but rather kept it powered on, not in airplane mode, in my pocket. 2)This allowed me to text as well as take pictures during flight.

This helicopter was much larger than most helicopters that I’ve taken. IT seats more like an airplane. I sat next to DWShorty and proceeded to drool on his shoulder for the duration of our hour long flight. This is falsified information, but I feel it adds to the story. Shorty gestured at his chin, trying to tell me that my hair tickled. I took this to mean, “you still have drool on your face.”

After returning to shore, I immediately tried to feed Jerome. No success. I took him to the PetCo to have the experts try. No success. I did get to see this:

This is a photo of approximately 9 ball pythons linked together. I have begun to dream that Jerome shrivels up and dies. Despite his apparent anorexia, he appears quite healthy. 

It has been noted that I have several nick names. One of these colorful names is “Scotch-Brite”, for obvious reasons. Unlike my juvenile self, I now see the humor and try to embrace this as a term of endearment. Last week, a co worker approached me and said, “I put a name tag up on the outside of your cubicle.” I raced up to my desk to be greeted with this:

last Friday was mine and Albert’s “controls”. This is where we try to learn everything about everything and hope no one knows how dumb we really are. Good news: We passed!! The only thing between me and my promotion to being Field Engineer (sans junior) is the elusive “Break Out Job”. This is a job that will come along which my manager deems challenging enough to test my skills. Either Lauren or Turgey will come offshore with me to “break me out”. Much like controls, the break out job is terrifying. While I wait for the perfect break out job to come along, I have been kickin it in the shop and working with my crew, MP Seven. I have been spending some quality time with Harry1, DaffyDuck, and a new operator named Pete. 

Last night we went to the shooting range again. My shoulder is very tender and blue. A great time was had by all: Albert, Harry3, Blake, Selina, DWShorty, Justin, Eyegore, Beverly, and myself. Of course, Rupert was there to insult us and call us retards.  

“Did you guys meet at TARC?”-Rupert

“Shorty rides the short bus to school.”-Rupert

“And tomorrow, we’re going to play with the sharp scissors. We’ll cut strips of paper and make a chain with them.”-Rupert.

“Laila, you look like one of those girls in movies who is ready to murder everybody!”-Selina