My Super Foods

I returned from offshore last weekend. The trip went a little something like this:

Day 1: Get to the rig, set up all your equipment and check all your equipment. It is about one full day’s worth of work.

Days 2-4: Sit. Or lay. Or walk around the rig with nothing to do. I took this time to finish two books and run on a treadmill. Eventful.

Day 5: Work all day. Day 5 will bleed into Day 6. Before you know it, you’ve been up for 40 hours and haven’t even left the cab to use the restroom.

Day 7: Wake at 06:00, board helicopter, go home.

It’s over before you know it.

The photo below was taken at a frozen yoghurt shop a few weeks ago. This is the best flavor.

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A Holy Time

Before I get going on a rather personal post, let’s throw in some rigtales.

My crew for this job is Harry1, Fergie, and a guy named Dolly. They are actually assigned to MP07 with me. This is “my crew”, along with Daffy Duck. They report to me and I am their manager. Yesterday at meal time, Fergie and Harry1 took bets over whether or not I comb my hair.

“What’s happnen, girlfriend!” – This is how Fergie commonly greets me.

This rig has daily pre-tower safety meetings. Among safety, toilet usage is a common topic in these meetings.

“How many times should you flush the toilet, even if you’re going number one?” -Meeting Leader. The answer is two. Once to function test before you go, and once after, to actually flush…..”If you’re going number two and making a large deposit, flush before the deposit gets too large, and flush again when you’re done.” The meeting leader calls on someone in the back.

“Uh, yes. There is a sign posted saying, ‘do not put foreign object in the toilet. I am English’.” – The English Halliburton hand. 

“Does anyone have any safe work examples?” -Meeting Leader

“Uh… yes. My crew and I made a commitment to each other to monitor our fluid intake, to make sure everyone was staying hydrated. We also made a commitment to monitor each other’s urine…” -The English Halliburton hand, who thinks these meetings are ridiculous.

Tonight begins the holy month of Ramadan. This has always been a special time for me, as it is one of the few traditions I enjoy. I liken it to Christmas time. Even for the non-religious, Christmas always holds some significance. This is my Christmas, and it lasts for about 30 days. I liked this article and all the links are informative, for those of you not familiar with the tradition. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/07/19/157030238/ramadan-begins-at-sundown

How is this a rigtale? It is not yet. Though I called my grandfather from my satellite phone today to wish him a happy holiday. He asked me “Are there Muslims on the rig with you??” Honestly, I am so out of touch with life that I would not have known this event was coming up until I spoke with my mother on the phone today. I have decided to give it a shot and fast, though I will be working and under much stress and pressure. Not to mention it’s July and I am in the Gulf of Mexico.

Fasting means not eating, drinking, or smoking from sun up to sun down- every day, for the duration of the lunar month. It teaches you patience, self restraint, and discipline, qualities which I feel you never really posses unless you practice. You never know you can resist temptation unless you are actively resisting temptation. It forces you to draw your energy from somewhere else. It puts you in a different place, mentally. You do not worry about worldly things. Since food is put out of your mind, and food is the fundamental sustenance of life, other mundane things also take a backseat in your mind. I find I am less stressed about work or school. I am focused on just being. It is a unique feeling.

I grew up in a religiously disciplined family. Sometimes I felt like there is no way I could ever be as devout and committed as my surrounding role models. I asked my grandmother why I felt this way, and if I would ever grow out of it. Though I don’t think I share much in common with my family in the way of faith; her answer has stuck with me since I was seven.

She told me: Everyone has different capacities in this world. Some people stay up all night praying and worshiping, but do not have the capacity to do other things. For example, a teacher contributes so much to society and enriches the lives and minds of young people. This is a form of worship. But a teacher has to be awake and patient all day long. A teacher can not pray and worship through the night. Some people are tremendous athletes, and seem to have an endless physical capacity. They may inspire people and are in a position to influence masses. Sharing their gift with the world is a form of worship. Some people have a hard time fasting. They may be physically incapable, or they do not enjoy it. I have always found that fasting comes easily. It is the best way I know how to worship.

When Nature Doesn’t Call

This morning, I gently persuaded myself out of bed around 3:45 am. In the morning.

I reluctantly finished packing my offshore bag and reassured myself that this is all worth it. Today is the day you become a woman, I thought. I drove to work and boarded the People Hauler’s Suburban, which would take us to the heliport. Heliports work like airports, except you don’t have a set departure time. Your departure times are either, 1st flight, 2nd flight… and so on. Unlike flying in an airplane, you do not have a predetermined flight time. You show up at your check in time, which is usually 5 a.m. (in the morning) and wait.

On this particular day, my crew and I were on the first flight out. We are going offshore for BP- the big bad wolf of oilfield companies… This is my first job to be the solo engineer. This rig’s hourly rate is more than all my loved one’s combined would pay for my ransom if I was kidnapped. I would rather be kidnapped. But I guess it is part of growing up to be scared shitless and then have to answer, “I am” when someone asks, “Who is in charge of your group…?” It feels like I am making a prank phone call. (“Is your refrigerator running…?”) I am prank calling all these people.

The tone we are trying to set here is serious. I was feeling very serious this morning. I got to the heliport and was pulled for a random drug and alcohol screening. No big deal. I walk into the room, produce some breath, blow 0.00 on my alcohol screen. I walked into the toilet room, and failed to produce 5 mL of pee. embarrassing. I walked out and showed the exam proctor my sorry sample. He said I could wait outside, drink no more than 8 cups of water, and try again.

I walked into the waiting area, drank 12 glasses of water, and waited almost 30 minutes. The heliport called for my flight to be briefed. They called the drug testing center to inquire about the hold up. I tried to pee again, but still only produced < 5mL.

I was sent back outside, told not to drink anymore, and wait. I waited. I chatted with the desk clerk. The heliport called for my flight again, giving me an ultimatum: produce pee in 30 minutes, or you and your crew will be moved to 2nd flight.  I chatted some more with the desk clerk. He gave me orange juice and talked about healthcare and the housing crisis, which happen to be two topics I love to talk about. Especially at work. At minute 25, I cut the desk clerk off, declaring, “I really have to go now!!” I ran into the testing room, this time quite familiar with the routine. I filled up the cup and then some.

“Took you long enough….” -Harry1, as I shamefully walk into the briefing room.

Now, imagine you have drunk nearly 3 pints of fluid and only peed once, then board a helicopter for a two hour tour of the Gulf. Turbulence is abound as you go through rain clouds. The helicopter lands, I snatch up my luggage, run to the safety briefing room, and demand to use the restroom.

Not feeling so serious anymore….

Turbulence

Recently, I’ve been on one job a week. I went on what is referred to as “an open hole job”, where I just show up, turn on the tool, and run the data acquisition. No dealing with company men or job logistics. Just logging. I met some new operators with more colorful stories about the “old days” in the oilfield.

“We went to this one well. It was in maybe ten feet of water. Real old well. I saw them pull a tree out of the well. Apparently, this tree had been there for a long time and was covered by the ocean. They stuck the pipe. When they finally got it free and pulled it out, it dragged a tree with it.”

The ride home was one of the scariest. After being awake for 24+ hours, I fell right to sleep on the chopper. I was woken by the feeling of free falling. I’ve read that the one fear all babies have in common is falling. It is the single most innate fear to a new born human. Being woken from your dreams, (I was dreaming of logs, by the way) with your stomach in your chest can cause you to almost pee your pants. Almost….. anyhow. I looked out my window to see this:

[photos coming soon]

I also decided this was the time to snap some illegal helicopter photos… I then mentally reviewed what I was prepared to do to bust the windows off this helicopter, when I had a sudden epiphany.

My parents are on a small road trip of the South with my Egyptian cousin and her new husband. They stopped by New Orleans and Houma for a while. I am ready to make my first restaurant recommendation as a ‘local’ in of the New Orleans area. It is a little place on Magazine Street called Salu. The menu changes based on what the chef fancies and it includes a variety of unique dishes. Highly, highly recommended.

“This…. is….. AWESOME!” -Dad, on dining at Salu!

“Laila, you hit the jack pot. Not like your sister….. took us to eat pizza with no cheese.”-Dad

http://www.salurestaurant.com/

Logger’s High

I wonder what they’re doing, those who walk on solid ground.

Gazing out upon the ocean, I only hear the sounds,

Of engines humming and hydraulic hoses full of pressure.

The headache within can be contained with no unit of measure.

I wonder what they’re doing, those who can lay in soft grass

Or on their own bed, tucked in good night at last.

The ocean rests calmly today, peaceful and serene.

How she must wonder what it likes to feel clean.

For scattered throughout the waters, rigs host a different life.

No sea creatures here, just people combating strife.

Slaves to the wage, us monkeys of production

Work night and day, climbing the tower of destruction.

We yelp and holler, fling dung and make celebration

Of the dim field life we’ve chosen, aiding in creation.

Black gold lurks somewhere under the crust.

It powers the world. A modern must

Have, though the consequences grave.

Making the ocean and its inhabitants one for slave.

I wonder what they’re doing walking around on land.

Heads happily buried deep beneath the sand.

 

Book One, Chapter Three

At last, we made it offshore for my break out job. I did the same casing inspection that Albert had done a month prior for his break out.

Things I did not consider when I told my recruiters “I would love any offshore location”

1. I get very sea sick.

2. I am very sensitive to drowsiness in sea sickness pills.

3. I get motion sick when on a personnel basket.

4. I can’t help myself when on a personnel basket and I start to lean back and forth, rocking the basket and scarring the other passengers. This does not help my cause in #3.

5. No cell phone service.

6. The humidity makes my hairs do this:

However, all these things do not begin to chip away at the way I feel after 3 days of little to no sleep when I have finished my job, submitted my data, and can tell the crew “We’re going home as soon as we get ourselves on that boat!”

I felt great. I felt high on oil field life and full of energy*. After arriving to the shop, I called my parents to tell them I was safe and back on land. The conversation went more or less like this:

Dad: Hello

Me: Assalamu Alaikum (Peace be upon you- its how we say hello)

Dad: Wa Alaikum Asalam (back at you)

Me: Hey dad, what’s up

Dad: Oh, Hi! It’s you! Where are you calling from.

Me: I’m calling from my cell phone!! Did you not recognize me?

Dad: No, you sound totally different. You must be very tired.

Yes, my own father did not recognize my voice (or apparently my phone number), as I was so tired.

My official promotion is pending on my manager’s discretion during our job debrief, to take place tomorrow. However, I am calling this the end of Chapter Two: Junior Status. We may now begin Chapter Three: Job Bonu$.

Let’s recap some of my favorite things in my first few months as a new engineer in Houma:

The land of milk and honey. By milk and honey, I mean Crawfish and Mosquitos.

I have met some of the most interesting, hard working people in the world. Never underestimate the power of a bitter oil field service hand.

Little things, Like reeling up a Red Snapper from 200 ft below the surface and 150 feet up to a rig, can make a wireline job much more rewarding.

I can wear a onesy to work and hide from my managers in crew boxes from 8-5.

Straight clowning.

One of many men in my life, Jerome.

Playing with my Benelli Super Nova 12 gauge pump gun and the Southern Shooting Center, where Rupert calls us all retards.

The dream of a hurrication

I get to look at this name tag every day. It is on the door to one of my managers office.