Hairy Scary Hands

This rigtale is brought to you by Noelle. She shared this story several months ago after making a job on a small jack up rig. Upon stepping off the personnel basket and into the dispatcher’s office to receive her room assignment, Noelle was met with opposition.

 

The dispatcher looked her up and down, declaring “You’re going to be a problem.” This statement refers to the difficulty to fine accommodations for a female on such a small rig. She was placed in the supervisors room with the company men and drilling engineers on the rig. In theory, this is the nicest room the rig has to offer.

Noelle describes walking in the room “There were 9 beds in there. 8 are occupied by other people, and the 9th is mine.”

Noelle went to sleep while waiting on the rig to be ready for the wireline operation. “Normally when someone comes in to wake you up, they will like… try to call your name, maybe poke your shoulder or something. This guy comes in, and puts his dirty, greasy, hairy hand on my pillow right next to my face and says ‘Time for work, GIRL!’ I didn’t just wake up… I sat up GASPING in terror.”

 

Ladies of the oilfield….

 

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Loose Ends and Strangers

The last several weeks have been an emotional whirlwind. I’ve cried and laughed. I’ve screamed. I’ve even become violent at times. Now, I feel completely at peace and happy about the way certain events transpired. The goodwill in Houma has inherited several pounds of my personal belongings. My life in Houma has been shaken, shattered, destroyed, and all loose ends neatly tied into place. I have friends and enemies. There are people I don’t want to leave, those I can’t wait to meet soon, and some I never want to see again. I’ve come to realize this is all part of life.

I am lucky to have a supportive family. Aunt Sesame stopped by New Orleans a few weeks ago. We visited about my move and she gave me unforeseen pointers:

  •  Bring all your medications, from prescription to TUMS. You may not find a replacement for simple medications and don’t want to be stuck without them.
  • Take enough shampoo, conditioner and toiletries to last several months.
  • Bring any comfort foods you may have. Nothing is worse that being stuck in a different country and not having your coveted gummy bears or whatever your snack is. In this case, I will bring a cooler of Chick Fil A breakfasts and spicy chicken sandwiches.
I am lucky to have supportive strangers. An engineer transferred to the North Gulf Coast recently, and I had the chance to get to know him before leaving for Qatar. The beauty of a stranger is they have no ties to your life. They know nothing about you other that what is in front of them, what you choose to share. Being a stranger, you have no reason to filter what you share. I have made a new friend out of a stranger, but feel he will remain a stranger, as I am moving across the world.
 
After months of anxious limbo, I finally have a set timeline of events. I have a work visa, I have my shipping and storing of personal items arranged. I am waiting on my degree to be authenticated by the US ministry of foreign affairs and US embassy in Qatar. This process will take roughly 2 weeks. After this, I am all flanged up and ready to move. I have two suitcases, a large purse/laptop bag, and a violin. I have my wits about me; I have peace of mind. I have support from strangers, friends, co workers, and family. I have everything in the world that I could ever need.

Party City

I turned in my keys and cleaned out my desk. I told Dennis the Menace I was not coming back to work, and I have not. I have been trying to clean, only to make a bigger mess. Hoarding is a habit. Though I am struggling with my hoarding tendencies, I’ve decided I am not a hoarder, but rather a collector. I collect novelty items which turn into sentimental keepsakes. I keep them around me and it creates my unique ‘space’ no matter where on earth I may be.

Today is St Patrick’s day. Yesterday I went to the parade in New Orleans. Decorated in parade float spoils, I celebrated along Magazine Street, soaking up the beautiful weather and dodging packets of beads being hurled at my face.

Green Pearls

The floats threw all sorts of goodies including:

beads. lots of beads.

cabbage

flags

flowers

plastic pipes

carrots

underpants

footballs

ramen noodles!

I caught tiaras, clover crowns, and shamrock headbands. I kicked around a dirty cabbage with my friends like it was a soccer ball.

Now the street looks like this:

Mounds

Trash mounds create a hilly landscape across the land. The aftermath of all this party and festivity is a filthy street, covered in useless novelty holiday costume pieces and a stickiness which can only be achieved by spoiled produce and green beer.

Sadness

How Far Into Memphis, Son?

I’m finally back in Houma, after two months of vacation, training, and personal time. Today, I received my official transfer letter to Doha, Qatar. I sat in Dennis the Menace’s office, holding the stack of papers and staring blankly at the wall. I’ve had over a month to process this, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.

“Are you nervous?” Dennis asks me. I nod my head. I am beyond nervous. I think back on just the last two months and how completely splendid they have been. The night before I came back to Houma sums it all up:

I had the chance to meet one of my heroes. Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin (LOOK THEM UP!!) were playing a show in Lafayette, LA. My dad used to make me copies of his Mary Chapin cassette tapes, to eliminate risk of me destroying his. I memorized all her songs, and as I get older I am finding new meaning in them all the time. This was an important show to attend. I decided not only that I had to go, but I had to take my dad. Not only did I have to take my dad, we had to get VIP tickets and meet them backstage. I let the compulsion consume me. Work be damned; I have dreams to fulfil!

A Celebration of Friendship and Music

A Celebration of Friendship and Music

I tactfully played hookey from work for three days, prolonging my training in Oklahoma so that I could drive back to Louisiana on Wednesday, instead of Monday. My dad and I drove south all day Wednesday, sharing funny stories and new perspectives. We stopped for a crawfish pie on the way.

The meeting backstage was simply magical. A few years ago, I waited in line pissed off for 4 hours to meet the Disney princesses at Disneyland and left giggling and smiling. This experience was nothing like that. I drove 6 hours happy as a clam, did not wait in a line, and left a ball of floating energy, with not a care in the world. Shawn Colvin introduced herself and asked my name. My dad introduced himself by saying “I’m her father”, which makes me laugh. Mary Chapin Carpenter held out her hand and asked my name. I then asked “May I give you a hug?” I then found myself being embraced by her. WOW!

Dad and I then had our picture taken, watched the concert, and drove to New Orleans, where we stayed the night before he had to leave and I had to come back to work. We walked down Bourbon Street to eat some classic New Orleans dishes. Walking back to our hotel, my dad said “We should get a hot dog too.”

One of many New Orleans traditions

One of many New Orleans traditions

I split a lucky dog with my dad on Bourbon, after meeting Mary Chapin Carpenter and watching a PHENOMENAL live acoustic performance with her and Shawn Colvin. The world stopped for that moment. Dad and I stood on this filthy street, in the cool dark night, eating a hot dog. THIS is living, I think to myself.

Today I sat in Dennis’s office, gripping a stack of pages detailing my near future (which I will, in turn, detail in a post soon). I stare blankly at the wall and think about all the amazing people in my life.

MCC and Shawn sang a cover of this song. It’s been in my head.

The Man With a Dragon Tatoo

This rigtale comes to you from the last job I made, when I was stranded offshore with no life jacket. During this job, I met a hand who works for Halliburton, let’s call him Lester. Lester is a colorful loquacious fellow from the Bayou. He is followed around by a silent apprentice. Lester tells many stories and shows many pictures.

“Santa just put all the gifts on the couch!” Lester explains while showing us a photo of toys strewn about a living room. “My little boy woke me up and said ‘Daddy! Santa didn’t wrap any of the presents!’…. That lazy bastard.”

Later, we are sharing a meal together in the galley. Lester is wondering if we would like to play any games to pass the time on the rig. “Oh, you play dominos?! I love dominos. We used to play in jail all the time, it would get heated. We would say ‘lay your biscuits on the line!’ Because in jail, they give you little hard biscuits in the mornings for breakfast. So when we played dominos at night, we would bet our biscuits on it. You may hear me say that when we play ‘Put your biscuits on the line!'”

During the job, the CoMan asked me if I had any tattoos. I said no, and everyone was surprised. Lester took this opportunity to share his favorite tattoo with us. “I have a dinosaur on my arm!” Of course, I thought this was a joke. Lester lifted up his sleeve to reveal a dragon on his right bicep. This dragon was his dinosaur. Lester then disclosed his plans to get a triceratops and t rex fighting on his leg. I do not think this was a joke….

Many of you readers may be wondering if I ever made it off that rig. I did. Later on New Years Day, the helicopter company sent out a little helicopter just for me. It had only four seats on it, and I got to wear my own headset and talk to the pilot. I also snapped this shot of a placard on the wall of the helicopter:

Image

happy deciphering!

I was so happy to leave that rig, that I took vacation immediately. While driving to Dallas, I wrecked my truck in the rain:Image

This unfortunate event happened one day before I am to travel out of the country… my sister picked me up from the scene of the accident, and today I depart for Prague, then Cairo. An unusual timing of events…

Candy Bars and Mars

I am presently on a well dubbed with the nick name “Candy Bars”. The name is all too misleading, as this job experience has been less than ideal. To avoid going into grubby, angsty details, I will instead just give a chronological outline of the last week or so of my life.

Monday, December 24, a day known to many as Christmas Eve. Laila drives herself 500 miles or so from Atlanta to Houma. (This trip should be several posts in itself.) Theoretically, there are two more days left in the coveted ‘days off’ week, before she is to report to work Thursday morning.

Tuesday, December 25, this day is a national holiday called Christmas. Laila gets a call from her manager, explaining that a job has just called in. She is go to offshore tomorrow and blow some stuff up in the ground. Englewood will prepare the job today and ship out all the equipment. Laila is to coordinate with Eglewood the details.

Wednesday, December 26, this is the last day of Laila’s days off, however she reports to work just to see what is going on. No one seems to know anything about the timing of this job. Laila asks “what rig am I going to?” Only to find out that there is a lot more equipment needed to do this job than was prepared. Laila and managers scramble to get equipment organized and sent to the dock. Then Laila and her crew get to the heliport all before lunch time. Crew is on the rig for dinner.

Thursday, crew gets up at 04:00 to greet the boat with all the Whataberger equipment on it. While unloading and setting up the wireline job, Harry4 realized we are missing some pieces. Laila calls Houma. Meanwhile the company man on the rig calls the heliport to hold it for our remaining pieces. We get our pieces, rig up, and proceed to blow things up in the ground. This operation continues until…

Friday, 15:00. In theory, the crew should be on a chopper…

Saturday to go home. The rig decides, a $40,000 helicopter trip is not worth it to bring home the Whataberger crew. They are scheduled for a flight on..

Sunday. This morning, the crew hears that the helicopter has been turned around. A few moment later, the rig announces “The helicopter for today has been cancelled.” Laila goes to company man to investigate. It turns out the rig may need more wireline work and asks Laila to organize sending more equipment out. Meanwhile, the crew will stay on the rig in the event more work needs to be done. A frenzy of phone calls ensues.

Monday. Crew is still kickin it on the rig waiting to hear if they will get to work or not. Monday evening, Laila gets news that the rig will not be requiring more wireline work, and she and her crew are scheduled for a flight the next day.

Tuesday, New Years Day! Crew wakes early, packs bags, reports to heliwait room, watches safety briefing, greets incoming passengers, dons life vests, and boards helicopter. All the passengers sit waiting for the helicopter to depart, excited to spend the first day of the new year on solid ground. Instead of a departure, they hear an announcement that there is one fewer life vest than passengers. One person is asked to volunteer to stay. Laila thinks, “I’m probably going to have to stay, but I’m not volunteering until I’m told for sure.” Sure enough, five minutes later, the Helicopter Landing Officer gets on the chopper and asks “Who here is from Whataberger?”. Realizing her fate, Laila raises her hand saying “I’ll stay”, unbuckles her seatbelt, and walks back inside the rig. Depression sets in.

This brings us to present time. I should have left this floating vessel days ago, and I feel worlds away from home. I sit in the conference room on the rig angrily assigning myself holiday bonus for all the shenanigans. The rig dispatcher assures me he is working on getting a special flight just for me, as the helicopter company “owes” them free flights. “Let me assure you, that Captain was very embarrassed having to come down here and explain that they did not have enough life vests.”

A Three Hour Tour

Today we voyaged across the seas to a rig called the Deepwater Nautilus. This rig is of the same design and a “sister” to the Deepwater Horizon. (If you are bored, reading about rig order, design, manufacturing, and deployment can provide hours of interesting internet research.) It seems like an older rig, but has proved its character in the 4 hours I’ve been here thus far. This will likely be another job where I sit around for several days, building excitement for the few hours of actual work. Boring, yes. But it sure beats sitting in the office feeling guilty about not doing anything.

Upon arrival to a rig, one embarks on a magical journey known as the safety orientation. Orientations vary drastically from rig to rig. My first offshore orientation on the Hercules 202 (remember that trip… when I didn’t have a bed to sleep in..?) consisted of sitting in the TV room and signing a couple of papers. My second offshore orientation consisted of a video, a power point, signing papers and a short tour.

The Deepwater Nautilus’ safety orientation consists of two long videos, taking up nearly an hour, signing papers, and an extensive guided tour of the rig. This tour revealed the ambiguous indoor, but also outdoor work rooms on the rig. We walked through the mechanic shop and welder’s shop. Before entering the welder’s shop, our tour guide had to ask for permission. We received the go-ahead from the welder and walked through the room quickly. I did catch a glimpse of the welder’s current project. The welder stood with his mask, gloves, and torch over a clean work table. In the center of the table was what appeared to be an empty tin soup can. I can only assume this is some sort of Christmas present art project and not a modified soup can to be used in the well…