Twelve days ago I drove off into the setting sun to start my new job. 4 days of training turned into 8, and thanks to my hyper-paranoid packing style, I had one clean pair of underwear for the last day.
I arrived after the office was closed and was informed by text message “they have a room for you at the Ritz”… yes, it’s really called The Ritz… no, it isn’t very funny.
Upon arriving at the front desk, I discover it’s not my room, but that I am sharing. With a stranger. YAY. *deep breath* *I can do this*
Another message from an unnamed dispatch number tells me I’m leaving at 5:30 am with another medic for the day. I drag my stuff up the rickety stairs to my room to meet my roommate. *I can do this*
I discover my roomie to be pleasant and funny, she’s only there for the night and back out to her post on a rig. I also discover it’s a smoking room, which, as a smoker shouldn’t have bothered me, except I don’t even smoke inside my own house, so the stench of however many years of other peoples nicotine and tar was like a kick in the teeth.
I looked at the floor and decided to leave my shoes on until I got into bed. I looked at the bed and decided I was very glad I brought my own pillow and blanket. I looked at the time and realized I would be lucky to get 5 hrs of sleep before I had to meet my partner for the day. So I curled up on top of the bedding and tossed and turned for 4 and a half hours and at the end found myself holding my phone and waiting for the alarm, which did not go off at all.
I tried to get ready as quietly as possible and was outside wrestling into my coveralls when my partner pulled up.
Fortunately, it was a short day. The well testing (or whatever they were doing) finished up early and we were cut loose. It was still 5 pm before we got back to the shop. I had something to eat, called home and fell into bed.
At some point I must have dozed off because I found myself clinging to the ceiling as yet another stranger crashed into my room. “OH DIDIWAKEYOU! DIDN’T ANYBODY TELL YOU I WAS COMING” and I had to try really really hard to not attack her with the lamp. *I can do this*
Turns out she only SAYS she’s sorry for waking me- if she really was, she might have shut the hell up and let me go back to sleep. Also turns out that’s who I’m working with in the morning. I pretend to be easygoing and do what I can to establish a base for cooperation and spend another night tossing and turning while she snored the nicotine off the walls.
Day two was also fairly short. We bumped and rattled down about 40 minutes of bush roads, discovered at one point that the “very specific directions that you must always follow to the letter” we had from dispatch were WRONG by one turn and about 3 kilometers. Arrived on site for another well test procedure, and passed the day examining animal tracks in the mud at the side of the road and trailblazing into the bush to taunt the bears with our bare asses as there was no toilet onsite. And we sat in the truck and talked. And I tried my level best not to fall asleep sitting up.
My partner- while loud and evidently a little… dense?… was nice enough, and I realized I had an advantage in the fact that she was mature and experienced- whereas some of the other medics are very young, very…um… complacent, and have poor professional attitudes (read: will do things for men on site that is “outside our scope of practice”). So at least I had a chance to learn the paperwork and how to deal with the oil company consultants onsite and all with my clothes on.
Another day down and I find that Dispatch didn’t seem to have anything to put me on the next day. What the hell was I supposed to do sitting around in that hole for a day? I suppose I could have gone home and come back but “only” 4 hours roundtrip was more than I had it in me to do. But at least I finally slept. Knowing that I didn’t have to worry about sleeping through my alarm and that it didn’t matter when I fell asleep was finally enough to calm my subconscious and I don’t even think I moved for 10 hours.
My partner was kind enough to take me out for a few hours; we drove around and she pointed out where things were- but even as a “working” town, there wasn’t much, and even less for a Sunday- they seemed to roll up the sidewalks. Dinner out and back to the Ritz- we finally had a call for work the next day. A 3-4 day frac job which would require 2 medics and was I interested in staying for the whole job?
Once I made sure that I would be getting my day rate (instead of the hourly training wage) I agreed and let the boys at home know I would be gone for a few more days. *I can do this* I had to keep telling myself over and over. I wanted to go home and use up all the hot water and sleep for a night and a day in clean sheets and eat something that didn’t come out of a wrapper. *I can do this*
It was the end of Day One on that job that I realized all of a sudden that I already knew more about my little buddy than I needed to in 60 hours, and it struck me that we had at least 96 more hours to spend within stabbing distance of each other. And worse, it was clear that she had not come to the same realization.
Frac jobs are long days. Often running into overtime on location and still the to-and-from travel to do. Fortunately our consultant didn’t want us there for OT and made sure we were out of there at the 12 hr mark. But we were still almost two hours from town. So by the end of the day, we were tired and I was cranky and I discovered that the ONLY time buddy would stop talking to me was if she thought I was sleeping. Then she would sigh and exclaim and talk to herself. She was having issues with the breakdown of communication in the office- management changes and assumptions of understanding that were not transferring well to the new regime- and I told her more than once “I understand that this is frustrating for you, but your problems with management aren’t my problems with management” and I re-worded it 6 ways from Sunday. I tried to play devils advocate. I tried agreeing with her entirely. By the last day I finally decided “let her vent and keep my mouth shut” which she took to mean I knew something she didn’t and set her off even worse.
In the midst of all this, there was a job to do. We had to sign everyone in (and out) throughout the day, check their safety certifications and do site specific orientations for new people, participate in the morning safety meeting. 60+ people onsite is a fairly large crew to keep an eye on, and the daily paperwork shuffle was enough to occupy us for at least a few hours.
As it happened, we were fortunate to have a really great consultant to work with and a terrific crew. The guys were all friendly and gentlemanly (as much so as can be expected in that environment), and we had only one injury to treat- on the very last day, at the very end of the job one guy crushed his finger. We wrapped him up and did the paperwork and sent him to the hospital.
By the time we made it back to town, cleaned out the truck and turned in all of the paperwork for the week, it was 9:30 pm. I knew I could have stayed the night and gone home in the morning- I had been up since 4am, and only pretended to snooze in the truck to shut my partner up on the way back. But my need to be home overrode my better judgement and I was packed up and on the road in less than 20 minutes.
Home sweet home to the best longest bath and a late supper and the biggest softest bed. I survived my first foray into the Oilfield as a Medic. And the closest anybody came to grievous bodily harm was at my own hand.
(one of the highlight reels)
Rigger one “[blah blah] fuckin pressure [blah blah]”
Rigger two ” AY! Mind your mouth in front of our Lady Medic”
Self “Did you just fucking call me a LADY?!”
Riggers *laugh and laugh*
Self *takes a bow*