I’m offshore for the second time in the Persian Gulf. The humidity blurs the horizon line, creating a different look entirely from the Gulf of Mexico. The water looks like a foreign country. The rigs are different too, mainly, the rig CREWS are different. The working class is predominantly Indian and Filipino, while the supervisors are a mix of Europeans, Americans, Arabs and few Indians. (More on the cultural break down later..) The rig crews are terrified of me, to say the least.
I’ve been in a supervisors meeting in the company man’s office. The office is large, with a couch along one wall and a row of desks and chairs along the other. I enter the office a few minutes prior to the meeting and sit on one end of the couch. Gradually, service hands file into the room and systematically bypass the couch to stand along the adjacent wall. I sat lonely on the couch. The company man, a Scottish fellow, turned to the crowd and said “She doesn’t bite, I’ve been told.”
On a smaller scale, rig hands seem to freeze in their tracks when they see me on the rig. Every corner I turn, I catch deer in the headlights. While walking down the narrow stairwell, if someone sees me, they will just top moving. This is meant out of politeness, however, they just end up standing in my way. When I walk into the galley, people will freeze, often blocking the doorway, or more importantly, the soda fridge.
When arriving to a rig, everyone recieves an orientation. During these meetings, I often get some one on one time with the rig safety officer. He will come up to me specifically and explain all the safety rules, as if I have never been offshore before. It’s sweet, but also a little patronizing.
Today, I was walking up the stairs to my room and saw a man in the doorway on the second floor. He saw me through the window and abruptly aborted his plan to also enter the stairwell. As I walked passed, I saw he was shirtless. Needless to say, I was appreciative of his shame. Simultaneously, I feel like I’m invading someone’s home. Where that man used to walk shirtless, he can no longer. To me, a rig is a place of work. To me, it is the last place I would walk shirtless, pantless, shoeless, or even sockless. To these men, it’s a home.
If I were a boy, no one would give a damn about me being on this rig. No one would pay careful attention to what I’m eating, where I’m walking, or whether I understood the safety rules. I often brainstorm things I could do to shake their alien behavior towards me. It would have to be something drastic…..
What if I just used the bathroom like the rest of the crews…
There is a community bathrooom/locker room on this rig. The crews go in there to shower after shifts, or use the restroom while on shift without having to change to go into the living quarters. It is not allowed to wear your dirty coveralls in the living quarters. It is allowed for me. I can go anywhere. I also have to go to my room to use the restroom while on shift. I dream about marching into this locker room, and just using a stall. The door to the locker room has a glass window- it’s not a private space.