I work with a colorful team. In every sense of the word- colorful. A favorite character is a Syrian crew chief, let’s call him Cyril of the Mountains. He walks tall and always wears a cowboy safety hat with the official Whataberger logo on the front. He often greets me by tipping his hard hat or saluting me, saying “Welcome, Welcome!” He’s intense, but kind and exudes a familiar energy which only comes from classically humble, hard working souls. I guess you can say he is an ‘old school’ type of guy. He listens to others and shares many stories.
Today, he bought me lunch and we talked about life, family and work. “Do you know why I stay in this job?” He says following an anecdote where he admits to not being able to chew gum and listen to a conversation simultaneously. “I remember all these jobs like they were since yesterday. You know I’ve been in this job for many, many years.” His left eyebrow raises and eyes focus on myself and the other engineer at the table. We lean in to listen intently.
>>A rig tale from a true oldschool oilfield hand<<
“I will tell you about this one job when I was in Syria. This was in 1998, before cell phones. It was big open hole super combo. An old tool- very huge…not like today. We were stuck, and so we had to fish. It was maybe 4,000 meters”
In wireline, fishing means trying to get your tools and cable out of a hole in which they have become stuck. It is excruciating, time consuming, can be risky and awful. With the particular aforementioned “super combo”, the stuck tools contain radioactive sources, which adds an additional element of concern.
“We were there for days. And back then, for fishing job, they maybe send one extra guy to help. Not like today- when there is fishing job, everybody will go to help. So there was one guy and we worked 12 and 12 (back to back shifts). The sun comes up, and I am on the rig floor. The sun goes down and I am on the rig floor. On the third day- I still remember what time it was. He was late to relieve me, it was 9:30. I was wondering, ‘where is he?! I am so tired and I need to go smoke’. Then one of the rig crew asked to me ‘Is that your guy?’ and pointed to the road. There, you can see the main road from the rig floor. I saw him. I still remember his name- George. There he was, in his blue coveralls, walking with his bag to the road. He hailed one of the busses, got on the bus and left. I never saw that guy again!
“This is before cell phones. We could not call anyone. I was so shocked. The engineer was yelling at me through the radio, ‘Why are you stopping?! What are you doing?!’ He was an angry Colombian or Ecuadorian… some place in Latin America. The driller was Canadian. He heard him and the driller got on the radio, ‘You @#$%!&* piece of $&(*! Your guy is run away!!’ So we had to send a radio Damascus, tell them what happened. They sent TWO crews after that. I was on the rig for one month.
“You know why I stay in this job? I always want to make it on my own in life.”