2014: You Can’t Handle Me

It’s been a rigtale tradition to compile a year end summary highlighting significant events in my life. I started 2014 with no real goals, and a lot of angst. I finished the year with clear goals and peace of mind. So here’s the highly anticipated year end report! Enjoy. 

1. In a fit of rage, I kicked and shattered a mirror in the staff house elevator in Doha. I had a meeting with HR about it. It was embarrassing. Soon after, they installed cameras in the elevators of my building.  

2.I got kicked off a rig, and subsequently banned from Qatar Petroleum offshore jobs. [A tremendous blessing.]

3. I boarded over 25 plane flights.

4. I had my passport stamped in 8 different countries.

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5. I visited Robben Island.

6. I got my PADI open water, advanced open water and enriched air diver certifications. 

7. I’ve been SCUBA diving in 3 different countries. 

The Fish

8. I spent more than a full calendar year without returning home. 

9. I got a speeding ticket in France, which my father intercepted in the mail. My father intercepts all my post.

10. I had a psychologist. She helped me.

11. I started playing soccer again.

12. I tore a muscle. For the first time. I felt so old. 

13. I went over a full year without hugging or even seeing my parents. It changed me. 

14. I really struggled at work. I also really thrived at work. Sometimes, I didn’t know the difference. 

15. I made new friends. 

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16. I approved and signed someone’s promotion.

17. I spotted three grey hairs on my head. I felt so old. 

18. I moved rooms to have roommates. We do roommate things. 

19. I swam on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Arabian Gulf, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Great Australian Bight

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20. I saw the southern hemisphere for the first and second times.

21. I went to sleep many nights thinking to myself, “My mom is the only person who really understands me.”

22. I held a Koala. It held me back.

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23. I got athletes foot on a rig. I cried from disgust at myself.

24. I won a highly competitive industry challenge with my co workers and teammates. (see maerskoilandqpchallenge.com)

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25. I didn’t sweat the small stuff. I didn’t loose sleep.

26. I let go of not letting go.

27. I ended the year by seeing my parents. I now really know the meaning when “nothing changes”

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The Sun and the Snow

I’m thinking about all the Thanksgivings when my uncle would proudly declare, “Every day is Thanksgiving!” In my family- Thanksgiving is sacred. We didn’t always make turkey. We were always together. Sometimes we were fasting. Other times we were flying kites, lighting fireworks, or seeing movies. I remember being taught that ‘you should be thankful everyday’. We were.

TurkeyI’m thinking about the Thanksgivings with my college roommate, Rabbit and her family. We would stuff our faces and eat outside in sunny November weather in Arizona. We would watch football and nap. We would go shopping at midnight and have breakfast before the sun came up.

I’m thinking about the Thanksgivings spent eating store bought dinners. Sometimes in hotel rooms with my dad during soccer tournaments. Other times in my friends apartment while dancing around to YouTube videos in my sweatpants.

I’m thinking about Thanksgiving 2008, when my sister, close friend and myself drove to Dallas from Phoenix, acquiring two speeding tickets in one night out in west Texas. The police officer said to us, “You hit a deer going 96 in this tin can, and you’re dead.”

I’m thinking about Thanksgiving 2011, when Albert and Edwin hiked the Grand Canyon with a pie and a can of baked beans during our first few months of employment. We spent the night in Albuquerque and hiked in the snow. I’m thinking about my only Thanksgiving in Louisiana, when we had a pot luck and fried a turkey by the pool. I made stuffing and baked brie.

Let us not forget last year’s Thanksgiving, as it is the last time I was home and saw my family. It has been my first and only trip back to the US since moving abroad. We made this video while frying turkeys, perhaps you’ve seen  it.

I’m thinking about all these things as I sit at work surrounded by the bustle of another busy day in the oilfield. It’s sunny outside, like Arizona. I feel cold inside, like New Mexico. I’m thinking about how much Thanksgiving really means to me. It’s a time I’ve always been surrounded by family and friends. It’s a time I’ve always been home- that dynamic place.

This is the first year that Thanksgiving is just a day. The truth is, any day is Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for them all.

Thanksgiving

When Nature Doesn’t Call

This morning, I gently persuaded myself out of bed around 3:45 am. In the morning.

I reluctantly finished packing my offshore bag and reassured myself that this is all worth it. Today is the day you become a woman, I thought. I drove to work and boarded the People Hauler’s Suburban, which would take us to the heliport. Heliports work like airports, except you don’t have a set departure time. Your departure times are either, 1st flight, 2nd flight… and so on. Unlike flying in an airplane, you do not have a predetermined flight time. You show up at your check in time, which is usually 5 a.m. (in the morning) and wait.

On this particular day, my crew and I were on the first flight out. We are going offshore for BP- the big bad wolf of oilfield companies… This is my first job to be the solo engineer. This rig’s hourly rate is more than all my loved one’s combined would pay for my ransom if I was kidnapped. I would rather be kidnapped. But I guess it is part of growing up to be scared shitless and then have to answer, “I am” when someone asks, “Who is in charge of your group…?” It feels like I am making a prank phone call. (“Is your refrigerator running…?”) I am prank calling all these people.

The tone we are trying to set here is serious. I was feeling very serious this morning. I got to the heliport and was pulled for a random drug and alcohol screening. No big deal. I walk into the room, produce some breath, blow 0.00 on my alcohol screen. I walked into the toilet room, and failed to produce 5 mL of pee. embarrassing. I walked out and showed the exam proctor my sorry sample. He said I could wait outside, drink no more than 8 cups of water, and try again.

I walked into the waiting area, drank 12 glasses of water, and waited almost 30 minutes. The heliport called for my flight to be briefed. They called the drug testing center to inquire about the hold up. I tried to pee again, but still only produced < 5mL.

I was sent back outside, told not to drink anymore, and wait. I waited. I chatted with the desk clerk. The heliport called for my flight again, giving me an ultimatum: produce pee in 30 minutes, or you and your crew will be moved to 2nd flight.  I chatted some more with the desk clerk. He gave me orange juice and talked about healthcare and the housing crisis, which happen to be two topics I love to talk about. Especially at work. At minute 25, I cut the desk clerk off, declaring, “I really have to go now!!” I ran into the testing room, this time quite familiar with the routine. I filled up the cup and then some.

“Took you long enough….” -Harry1, as I shamefully walk into the briefing room.

Now, imagine you have drunk nearly 3 pints of fluid and only peed once, then board a helicopter for a two hour tour of the Gulf. Turbulence is abound as you go through rain clouds. The helicopter lands, I snatch up my luggage, run to the safety briefing room, and demand to use the restroom.

Not feeling so serious anymore….

Logger’s High

I wonder what they’re doing, those who walk on solid ground.

Gazing out upon the ocean, I only hear the sounds,

Of engines humming and hydraulic hoses full of pressure.

The headache within can be contained with no unit of measure.

I wonder what they’re doing, those who can lay in soft grass

Or on their own bed, tucked in good night at last.

The ocean rests calmly today, peaceful and serene.

How she must wonder what it likes to feel clean.

For scattered throughout the waters, rigs host a different life.

No sea creatures here, just people combating strife.

Slaves to the wage, us monkeys of production

Work night and day, climbing the tower of destruction.

We yelp and holler, fling dung and make celebration

Of the dim field life we’ve chosen, aiding in creation.

Black gold lurks somewhere under the crust.

It powers the world. A modern must

Have, though the consequences grave.

Making the ocean and its inhabitants one for slave.

I wonder what they’re doing walking around on land.

Heads happily buried deep beneath the sand.

 

To the Lifeboat!

If the weather today was ‘raining’, then I never want to be caught offshore in the event of a hurricane. There was thunder; there was lightning. Trash cans went flying, and rain mercilessly struck the wireline unit. Even the water puddled on the floor of the rig made cresting waves, like a baby ocean mimicking the restless blue giant below. Selina and I, slaves to the job, stayed in the unit, ignoring the strange storm abrewing. We also did not hear the emergency alarms sound. Yogi, the other engineer on our job came crashing into the unit. Rain dripped from her hard hat as she exclaimed “What the f*$% are you guys doing? The rig is shut down, everyone is in the galley waiting on you and we’ve been trying to page you with the walkie talkie for 15 minutes!!”

Whoops. Together, we three ladies braved the elements, wading in steel-toe deep puddles across the rig to the galley. I thought we would be sitting though a safety meeting or emergency briefing. Rather, the rig took this opportunity to give a presentation on using checklists. I am not exaggerating. In this moment of crisis, we sat in the small galley, smelling of wet rig hands, to listen to a presentation on making checklists. It was an interesting and useful presentation; however, my mind was elsewhere. Mid presentation, the rig alarm sounded. Some guy who I guess was in charge (I feel like everyone is in charge in some capacity. Alls I know is, I am not in charge.) Stood up and declared, “Everyone to your stations.”

This is not a drill, I thought. As I rounded the corner to my assigned lifeboat, lifeboat 2, everyone did an about-face mumbling “false alarm”…. At least the checklist meeting is over, I thought. A brief moment of panic was quickly overcome, and we returned to the logging unit to pack up our stuff.

The weather continues to grow more unfavorable….

“Oh my gosh… what IS that?” – Selina, on my Snuggie.

My mentor, Lynn, comes to the rig tomorrow to relieve Selina as she goes on days off. Someday, when I am no longer a trainee, I will get days off too. Rest assured I will come visit every one of you in turn, dear readers. Anyhow, I have yet to make a job offshore with my mentor. She is pretty much my hero, so I want to show her what a great trainee I am. I feel like tomorrow is my first day of Kindergarten….when I met Mrs. Murphy for the first time. I was so excited and wanted so badly for my teacher to like me. I remember Mrs. Murphy asked me how old I was and I got nervous and answered 4 instead of 5. I feel more or less like that, except I can keep my cool much better now. I am 23 (as of one month and one day ago). I think people have ‘adult kindergarten’ experiences. They keep you young.

As I type this:

*Crashing Thunder*

“Hollie Sh!t” -Yogi

“I think I just peed a little..”-Laila

“In your Snuggie?”….”Did you really just pee?” -Yogi

“No!”-Laila

“I can never tell with you.”-Yogi

Who Is ‘Snack Pack’??

As I walked to my desk today, I heard Lauren (mngr) ask this…. “Is that you?” She turned to face me.

This will be a two part post.

The Davy Jones job was a huge success. As always, I learned a lot. The crew I went out with consisted of Winnie, the former NFL line-backer and now oil field hand/DJ, Justin, DaffyDuck, Mr. Boxes, and PokerFace. The dock we left from is about three hours away from the office. On the way there, we stopped at a gas station. Not unlike all Louisiana gas stations, this one had a kitchen inside and served fried chicken and a variety of other fried snacks. I ate some fries and stocked up on some snacks. Apparently, I snack more than the average bear, as I walked out with a grocery bag full of raisinettes, PB&J crackers, Chex Mix, Starburst and a Prailene. At that moment, Winnie named me “Snack-Pack.” This name stuck, and has spread to the upper management and Whataberger sales personnel, some of whom I’ve never met, but now refer to me as “Snack Pack.”

Sadly, I finished over half my snacks on the hour boat ride to Davy Jones. This rig is huge! (I realize I say that every time I get to a job, but seriously, it was huge!)

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This is the rig floor.

This is the well head. The rig sits on top of it.

Here you can see the rig, the well head and a little lift boat off to the side.

Upon arriving, we sat on the boat for a few minutes. Coincidentially, It was meal time on the rig. Meal times are consistent across the Gulf: 4:30-7 and 10:30-1:00, am and pm. We suspected the rig was delaying getting us off the boat to conserve food on the rig.

“We know you got food up there. Don’t even act like you don’t have food up there!” -Winnie.

“I observed you, Snak-Pack. You were staning over there watching, out the way. Good job!” *fist pound*-Winnie

“I’m not trying to rush anyone, but this rig costs 60 thousand an hour”-Random Guy

One of the services we run is called a “Junk Basket.” It is exactly as it sounds. Run a basket down the hole to clean out some junk…

“I was kinda hoping we’d find more quarters in the Junk Basket!”-Justin

One of our other services involved 100 ft of exploisve guns. While rigging up this system, we found a little green frog on the guns. Naturally, I scooped him up and made him a habitat out of some cups. I labeled the top cup “Gunner.” The frog’s name is gunner. He stayed in the logging cab for the duration of the job.

“Gunner?! We should rename him “Goner”, because I’m about to throw his ass outside!”-Winnie

“I’m on that 5 hour!!”-Winnie and Justin, throughout the job, hopped up on 5 hour energy shots.

There were several company men on this job. Some of them were nicer than others. One CompanyMan sat in the logging cab with me and called me “baby girl”. My crew all took notice of this and proceeded to make fun of me the rest of the job. This same company man was actually pretty cool. At one point, the Galley claimed to be ‘out of candy’. This made Winnie, Justin, and myself very distraught. BabyGirlCoMan then picked up his walkie talkie, “Rig Floor?”…”Yes sir.”…”Can we see if somebody can bring us some snacks to the wireline unit??”. Moments later, a rig hand shows up at the door with a sack full of chips and candy.

Another company man was named Clifford the Big Red Dog. He previously worked for Whataberger for 30 years. Now his job is to hang out on the rig and make the Whataberger service hands’ lives miserable. I shall explain. Whataberger is trying to integrate a new data aquisition software into the field. I have only learned this software. Older, more experienced engineers prefer to use the older software, as it is more reliable and no one is trying to “experiment” on a rig that costs a quarter million a day to operate. It was determined that I would go on this job and run some services using the newer software, with supervision from the older engineers who are responsible for the job. During one of the services, I decided to take a couple hour nap in the logging unit. During this time, CiffordtheBigRedDog comes in. He taps me on the shoulder and says “go grab a bunk.” I am hesitant at first, as he is demanding, and I am groggy. I look over at PokerFace, who says to CiffordtheBigRedDog “She is running the system and just taking a nap.” CliffordtheBigFatDog replies to him “Are you the engineer?” PokerFace says “yes.” CliffordtheFatDog demands again “Please, go grab a bunk”. And so… I was ousted from the logging unit and we were banned from running the new software.

After procuring a two hour nap in my bunk, PokerFace wakes me up to say “I need to make a print on [thenewsoftware]”. I go back in to the logging cab to save the day. We begin our depth shift process. Normally, the Whataberger engineer sits with a correlation log and makes depth adjustments with the CoMan witnessing and aproving. In this scenario, CliffordFatcoMan sat with the correlation log hidden, and barked orders to us. This is not only unconventional, but confusing. After the last of his commands, CliffordRedDog leaves the logging unit.

Later on….. Mr.Boxes was running the explosives section of the job. CliffordTheBigRedDog returned to dictate/witness this portion as well. I came in to the logging unit to observe and learn. Mr.Boxes says “No, you have to go to bed!!” Everyone laughes, except for Clifford. I say, “I would like to stay. I’ll just stand in the corner and be out of the way.” CliffordBigRedDog did not seem pleased, but I was not leaving.

 Before firing the plug, Clifford requests a moment with Mr. Boxes. He says, “Listen, we have invested a lot of blood sweat and tears into this well. I would like to touch him (otherCoMan), and have him touch you. You will fire it with all our hands layed on each other.” And so- the job was completed.  

“I’m serious, I’ve had two of three of them die on me.” BabyGirlCoMan, concerned that CliffordBigRedDog was not snoring in his sleep.

“I said, ‘there ain’t nothing left to close, brother, we’re getting on the boat.’ And we watched it blow out. Never caught fire though.”-BabyGirlCoMan telling tales of abandoning ship.

“I done told you, I’m on that 5 hour!!”-Winnie

“Snack-Pack, where you going? Are you going to the Galley??”-Winnie

“I was going to go to the bathroom. Did you want more candy?”-Me

“Yeah. Handle that!”-Winnie

We have a satellite phone in our logging unit. We are supposed to use it to call management and sales during jobs. We mostly use it to call family. DaffyDuck and Justin tried to call their wives. A lady answers. She sounds like Justin’s wife.

“Hello.”

“Uh.. Hello. Is this [wife]?…”

“No, this is Katie. What’s up?”

“Ummm…”

“I think you have the wrong number. hehehe”

“okay, bye.”

The rest of the job, we would say to each other, “Let’s call Katie!”

To Be Continued….

Sand Reclamation

I have always known that my folks are a bit eccentric. 

 Some of you may know that my dad breeds birds. He has a bird room filled with hundreds of exotic finches. The other day, I helped my mother clean out the cages. I thought this task consisted of sizing fresh newspapers to line the bottom of the cages, replacing the old lining with the new lining, and sprinkling it with fresh sand. It is almost like changing their sheets, except they are messy eaters and crap all over their bedding. 

“Don’t throw away the [bird sh!t] with the old news paper at the bottom of the cage,” My mother instructed me. “Dump it on the floor so we can reclaim the sand!”

These are all the tools you need to start you own sand reclamation project.

I then started dumping the bird excrements on the ground, curious about this “reclamation” project. Once I finished laying fresh lenins in the bird cages, I tried to tip toe out of the room unnoticed. I failed at this task because the bird room is a converted 11×11 bedroom.

 
“Don’t think you’re done yet!”……”Now, what you do is sweep everything into a big pile.”
*Laila sweeps everything into a big pile*
 
“Good, now what you do is pick out all of the hay and large pieces and throw them away. Then, sit on the ground, scoop up some of the pile, and put it in the sifter. Stick your hand in there and move it around so all the sand comes out. Then when there’s no more sand, you throw away what’s left over in the sifter.”
*Begrudgingly, Laila performs the aforementioned task*
“That’s it. Get all the sand out.”-Mom

“Oh, don’t think you’re quite finished.”….”Now, you have to get very low to the pile of sand and blow out all the seeds.”

*Laila proceeds to lower her face to the ground and blow out all of the seeds from the sand pile*
 
“Don’t think you’re quite finished!!!”, Mom is chuckling under her breath. She thinks I don’t notice. “Now you have to take the [shovel] and scoop up the sand. But you have to lean it against your arm so none of the sand falls out. Then walk over to the sand bag and dump in the sand!!”
*Laila then scoops up some sand, braces it with her arm and waddles over to the corner to dump the reclaimed sand in the bag*
 
And that, dear readers, is how you reclaim sand for your dad’s bird collection.