Cabin Fever

A week on standby offshore can be very exciting. You have a lot of time to think, study for your upcoming promotion, study about your job in general, read up on operating procedures for the service you’re about to perform, read books, do little projects, work on your novel, start and finish a new TV series, craft poetry or practice sewing.

I have spent the last week re-watching the same TV shows, deliberately not studying, ignoring e mails, being angry over e mails, chatting with friends and family back in the states, facebooking my friends and family, day dreaming about seeing my friends and family, looking at my kindle thinking “reading will make me tired”, searching for fish in the water, watching a plastic bottle float across the Gulf, challenging myself to stay in bed for as long as possible, and challenging myself to not eat 4 packages of RITZ crackers every day. I usually fail at this.

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Of course, there are a few moments a day I spend in the sad sad state of sharing a putrid jack up rig bathroom with 7 men. Squatting in disappointment, limiting inhalation as this air could very well be toxic, bundling my clothes in my hand so they don’t touch the wet floor, I wonder to myself-where is my life headed. I look at my watch to see the 8th month of the year is coming to an end. I’ve been at this job for nearly two years. I have accomplished…. enough to get me in this bathroom, fearing to touch anything and legitimately praying to God that whatever liquid is covering the floor does not touch my clothes or splatter onto my feet.

This bleak scene is a reality, but really a metaphor for the life style. After having my femininity stripped, I walk outside to my wireline unit, my little office. In there is a phone. Anytime I encounter a phone, the first thing I do is attempt to call out of the country. I call my mom. I call my sister. I hear the phone make sounds, “I’m confused” the receiver says to me in a series of beeps. This is a satellite phone- it has no excuse to not call the USA. I also find it offensive since most personnel on this rig hail from other nations. I wonder what is going on with my folks today. What concoction of tuna salad and leftovers did my dad make…. I bet it’s delicious. Certainly better than the food I’m stuffing my face with while withering my youth away on this tiny metal island. They serve Indian food for breakfast. Spicy potatoes and other trays that look like a curry of sorts. There are some meats which look like long Vienna sausages and chicken burgers. I opt for oatmeal and dress it with honey.

Its a rat race. A hamster wheel. Chasing carrots. It’s cabin fever, because once I get back to Doha, I leave the tiny metal island behind.

It’s Cool

We find ourselves offshore again, at last. An extended break from work, as I can easily feign poor internet connection (though I usually don’t need too).

This is a sister rig to the one with no internet or TV’s which I hated so much. In preparation for this job, I had a co worker give me WEEKS worth of TV shows and movies to watch, in case times got desperate. I brought my own pillow and am ready to settle in. Upon arriving to the rig, I learned that my wireline computer cab has an internet connection annnd each bed on the rig has its own little TV which connects to satteline and has a USB plug in. It’s like keeping children calm in your minivan. The company man is from Odessa, and we’ve been reminscing about Texas.

MEANWHILE— I am here to run a slew of wireline services, most of which I have never seen. They are all “contingency plans” which means they may or may not run depending on what happens in the well. While I play it cool with my managers and the company man, I secretly hide in this wireline unit reading as much as I possibly can about these services, and also praying we don’t run the awful ones.

Previously in Houma, engineers do not run services they have never seen before. Qatar works a bit differently, which frightend me at first. When going to run my first open hole services, I was terrified. I was transparent about this terror, and communicated how uncomfortable I was to Mighty Mouse. This time around, we are supposed to convey one of our services on what is known as “TLC” or Tough Logging Conditions. If you’ve been paying attention, you may remember that I am a Wireline Field Engineer. Most of what this entails is putting tools onto a wireline cable, and lowering them into a well for various measurements and services. TLC means that instead of being lowered on wireline cable, our tools will be connected to drill pipe, and pushed through the well by means of this pipe.

I called Mighty Mouse for a briefing of the job plan. He said, “I think you may be on your own for this one, I don’t have anyone to send out.” I replied “It’s cool, I’m not afraid anymore!”

To Be A Human Adult

Things that get better with age and my recent encounters with them:

1- Vacations: Children don’t deserve them. I remember going on really great vacations and spending quality time with my family. I remember how much fun it was and have kept pretty much all my souvenirs from those trips. Being a working adult in comparison, vacation is so much sweeter when you’re a human adult.

2- Family: During the vacation previously alluded to, I went to Bahrain to visit my aunt, cousins, and their families. My cousins children are quite young and they were all excited to see me and sit and talk with me like little adults (except for the youngest one, who told me the colorful tale of how I threw her in a trash can, then she climbed out and went to the hospital, then came home and took a shower, then was stranded in the desert then burried alive….). They talked to me about their school and asked me all about my life. They even brought me coffee and tea. I realized: These people think I’m a real human adult. A scary thought, but I’m settling into it.

3- Travelling: I recently passed through the Dubai airport on my vacation. I saw the unaccompanied minors lounge and was reminded of how crappy it is to be trapped in that room while there’s a great big airport just beyond the airline guards. In the summer of 2003, my sister and I went to Egypt together flying KLM airlines. I was 14, and she was 15. Per KLM policy an unaccompanied minor is 14 or younger. An adult is 16 or older. As such, My sister and I were BOTH held captive for a cumulative 18 hours in the Amsterdam airports “Junior Jet Lounge”. Our supervisors at least felt badly for us and allowed us to explore the airport for an hour alone. We ate McDonalds. One of the other JJ Loungers protested: “Hey!! How come they get to leave?!!?” The Dutch lady replied: “BECAUSE!! They are OLDER than you, and they are not ANNOYING like you.” All the politics and drama of JJLounging totally disappear when you’re a real human adult.