The rigs have been frenzied with activity. The desert has been frenzied with hooligans starting fires in the sand. After completing a job and driving back home, we passed two Land Cruisers parked on the wrong side of the road. A handful of young men stood outside. As we passed, they ran into their cars and drove away, leaving behind this little fire. We pulled over and put it out with sand.
Today, I am offshore on Al Doha, a QP rig. I wasn’t looking forward to coming out here, but suppose its time to just bite the bullet and get back to work. Sitting waiting for the helicopter, I wrapped myself in a concentrated getaway daydream and fell asleep with my chin on my chest. What I would do to escape this place… What is the worst that could happen if I just left to go home? Left my crew and my job, no warning, no excuse… When I was in college, I used to drive between Dallas and Phoenix on summer and winter breaks. Once or twice a year, I would get into my car, and spend 1200 quality miles and 16 unruffled hours alone with the I-10/ I-20. Always before leaving, I felt the compulsion to go. It would wake me at night, the restlessness dragging me out of the door and onto the road sometimes before 4 am. It felt like a migration. How do birds know when to fly? They just do. They get restless and the compulsion makes them know they have to fly away on that particular day. I feel a similar urge. I just want to leave. Suppressing this impulse, I sleep as often as I can. I sleep at 7 pm, I nap in the heliport… I dream about flying away….
I went to see the company man upon arriving. He sat facing his computer, with the back of his chair shielding his body from me. A man informed him, “The Whataberger engineer is here to see you.” Without turning in his chair, he called out to me, “How are you, Miss Laila?” I could tell from his voice he was an older man. “I am well. How are you?” I replied. “Very good. You are Egyptian?” He asked.
Here we go again, I thought to myself. Lately, company men pry about my ethnic background. They insist we speak in Arabic, and they insist we speak about politics. This has resulted in me talking as little as possible, mean mugging every person I see on a rig, refusing to speak in Arabic, and straight up leaving the room when someone begins to talk politics. At their best, these exchanges make me uncomfortable. At their worst, they are insulting and completely unprofessional. They ask about your religion, they ask how much you pray, they ask why your parents allow you to work in the oilfield, they ask a lot of things….. I’ve started ignoring these men. On one occasion- I looked at one and said, “What are you trying to accomplish by this conversation? This just seems completely pointless, If you need me for something relevant, I’ll be outside working.” I digress…
“Yes, I am originally from Egypt, but was born and raised in the States.” This can never be overstated. If I could, I would erase any feature of my name or face which makes everyone ask if I am Egyptian. It is a point of pride, but has also become a point of contention. Someone will notice I am Egyptian before they will notice anything else about me. It’s misleading.
“I see. Welcome. We’re glad to have you on board. Do you like your room?” The chair turns to reveal an old man with glasses. He stands and shakes my hand. “Just give me five minutes, dear. Have you eaten?”
“I ate before I came. I suppose I can eat again. Shall I eat and come back?”
“That will be perfect. If anyone bothers you, you just let me know.” The company man seemed very nice, a clear veteran of the oilfield.
I returned and he talked to me about my job and my co workers he knows. He described Mighty Mouse as an unripened mango.