Over Weight and Under Dressed

I threw myself onto the floor between my desk and the wall. “Please don’t make me go!” I cried out to my co worker. My manager had just called to tell me I am going back to the rig which I was kicked off of a few months ago. Déjà vu, I’m also running the same service as the previous time. All the things I’d rather do come to mind. As most are rather graphic, I’ll spare you, dearest readers.


This morning, I go to the heliport, armed with two dozen chocolate truffles and a turkey sandwich to calm my nerves. My trusty operator and I check in for the flight. Each of our bags is well over the allowed weight. Typically, this is not a problem, and the guy at the counter will let it slide…. not today.

“Your bag is too heavy.” He said with the utmost unsympathetic focus.

“Okay…” The poker-faced staring contest begins.

He raises, “What will you to do?”

Nothing, I think to myself. “Do you want me to unpack right here and you tell me what to leave?”  A rather taunting dare.

“The limit is 30 pounds.” Ol’ PokerFace is not budging this morning.

It should be mentioned that my bag(s) is 45 lbs. I carry two laptops with associated accessories and cables (both for work), steel toed boots, hard hat, 2 t-shirts, a handful of dirty undergarments to be washed once I get to the rig, 2 coveralls, an unknown and mysterious quantity of socks, a handful of toiletries, and one jump rope. “I can’t leave anything behind.” I say, wishing I had chosen another time to wear my bright red “Comedy Barn” t shirt. After years of experience, I finally succumb to the sad reality- people let you get away with things when you dress nicely and wash your face. I dust off residual turkey sandwich crumbs from the rooster on my t shirt and try to flash a cheeky grin. Femininity eludes me this morning.

hot mess cat

We were relegated to the second chopper of the day, arriving to the rig around 2 pm. I get here to a crew who has been on board for a day. I bust out my chocolates and get ready for whatever will transpire over the next few days.

All the Kings Horses

Immediately after writing my dramatically boring post, I received news that I would be leaving the rig the following morning. And so, I fled the rig, returning from whence I came. That is, first I took a boat to a neighboring rig to catch the chopper from there. Instead of being lifted to that rig via the personnel basket, the boat just backed up to a grated platform with some stairs leading to what is called a “jacket”.


I jumped from the boat to the platform, climbed all the stairs to the jacket, took another set of very precariously placed stairs suspended above the water and beneath the rig floor from the jacket to the rig and trekked across the deck and up another four flight of stairs to the helicopter briefing room.


It felt like I should be receiving some sort of participants trophy, but I suppose the weekend in town is reward enough.

I made it into Doha just in time to go to dinner with friends, and to Dukhan the next day for more jobs. I finished a job in Dukhan in just in time to go back to Doha for dinner and offshore the next day.

When joining a group of people who have been stranded offshore, it is customary to come baring gifts. The crew requested cigarettes. I went to the gas station to buy an assortment of cigarettes. Whilst in line to pay for my assortment, a man approached me,

Man, in Arabic- “Do you speak Arabic”

Me- …..sure?

Man, still in Arabic- “Where are you from?”


Man- You said you were Arab?

Me- ..*Annoyed, ‘leave me to buy all these cancer sticks in peace’ face*…

Man- What’s you’re name?

Me- Laila

Man- That’s an Arabic name.

Me- Yes, it is.

Man- And you have a very Arabic face.

Me- Yes, I do.  *exit gas station*

Oddly, and much to my extreme annoyance and frustration, these conversations have become routine in my life. No one asked you to approach me. Furthermore, I have NO problem talking to strangers (I love meeting strangers), but why argue with a stranger over a personal question you asked them uninvited and clearly unwelcomed? The answer is INCONCLUSIVE as to WHAT is the obsession with where you’re from and whether or not you are Arab.

Alas, I am back on the rig, Al-Zubarah, having bypassed all the standby time.

Bread in Captivity

The sun comes up, I guess. Only the particular ache in my back which comes after laying in this bed for ten hours serves as an indication of any time passing. This is the destructive type of standby time. Standby for an indefinite time and no anticipation drains all the excitement and enthusiasm from my mind. I’ve lost all will to do anything but lay in bed, hoping to fall asleep for an hour or two at a time, watching TV series over and over. I dream about it being tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will dream about it being the next day.


Yet, I’m exhausted. It’s an emotional drain to simply refrain from walking into the company man’s office and throwing an absolute f#$@ing tantrum, because if I was an uninhibited animal with free will, that’s what I’d do. I’d pick up plates and bowls in the galley and smash them on the floor. I’d run a muck, pick fights with anyone who looks in my direction, sing loudly in the shower… I’d run onto the helideck as soon as the next chopper lands, snatch a seat and never give it up, demanding to be lifted off this rig.

Alas, a tamed beast sits idly in her room. I get out of bed only when my co worker knocks on my door to tell me to eat. I wonder about all the many things I could be doing with my life. One of those tomorrows, I’ll get off this rig and move my body around. It will feel like the first time, and I will roam the city with the fervor of a child whose grounding sentence just expired.

Covert Operations

A few months ago, I was banned from Qatar Petroleum offshore jobs. It was a relief and I felt accomplished in a way, as if being banned is a right of passage in the life of a field engineer. Yesterday, my manager informed me he would be “sneaking” me to QP offshore to help a fellow engineer friend with his job. I am pretending to be a spy, having penetrated the organization illegally. I’m hiding out inside the wireline unit, and letting my colleague deal with all the headache.

Together, we arrived at the heliport and received an Ebola screening. On the symptoms part of the questionnaire, I indicated:

[YES] Lethargy

[Yes] Other: sadness

Clearly, no one reads the questionnaire…. I had my temperature taken and proceeded through the check in and helicopter briefing process like any other day. We flew to one rig, waited for about 30 minutes there, then took a boat over to the next rig. This is the first time since 2012 I have taken a personnel basket on and off of a rig. Having snuck my phone offshore, I commemorated the occasion with some photos.


This is the QP rig which I have infiltrated.


The personnel basket to lift us to the rig. It seems that I am not able to rotate images which are sideways on my phone…In any case, it is a nice day in the Persian Gulf.