Friday, August 23, 2013

I Didn't Choose the Rig Life, the Rig Life Chose Me.

I just really wanted to use that phrase. I want it on a t-shirt. The other day I realized my life has gone in some really unexpected directions. The moment happened as I was parked (in the largest pickup I've ever driven) in the middle of the road waiting for ducks to finish crossing (because they have the right of way up here on the slope) with the arctic ocean off to my right while on my way out to the oil rig I'm currently working at. I'm not complaining, but a few years back, I never would have guessed this would be my life. Also, a realization I had a day or two good fancy calculator is at least ten years old. When did that happen?

Anyway, I am now on a definitive training path for this mud engineer thing. I'll be rotating two weeks on and two off, working from 1pm to 1 am, shadowing other engineers until January. I have already seen a ton a different (and I'm told usually busy and stressful) situations. Normal drilling is just about the only thing I have yet to witness. But I get to experience all the weird and abnormal things when its more of a learning experience not one that I am totally responsible and in charge of. Which is all great for me. The first thing I had to do when I got here was go get my BP badge for access to the oilfield. I don't know what it is about ID photos but I managed to look like a violent mildly deranged serial killer with anger management issues. And the sad part is, I really did try and smile. The camera must just have missed it or something.

I get to drive the aforementioned truck from the camp to the rig every day. The first night the truck was pointed out to me and I was told the keys were in the ignition, always back into spots, and the turn off to the rig was back off the main road to my left. Seriously? It is still weird to be treated like a responsible adult. Luckily, I drove alone the first time so no one witnessed me missing the turn off, or saw my awful parking job that took much longer than it should have, or had to listen to my swearing throughout the ordeal. Now I'm a pro at backwards parking giant trucks and I can put them where I want them on the first try with only occasional swearing just for fun. Also, I've acquired the nickname Hank from wearing borrowed coveralls. Personally, I prefer Sledge just a bit more but Hank is a manly enough name to be acceptable. The engineers I have been shadowing are all pretty cool about me trailing behind them like a lost puppy. And I think I'm starting to acclimate enough to be transitioning to useful trainee mode. Plus, I had a great laugh when I mentioned the guys I went to mud school with to one of the engineers training me. Specifically, one of the Alaska guys. He replied with, "Wow, I used to babysit that kid. We'd play with trains until I'd tell him to go bed. I can't believe he's that old now." Too funny.

Even though its August, we have seen some freezing weather and little bits of snow flurry. Supposedly some giant Russian storm was going to hit earlier in the week. It never did. My theory on this is that it drank too much vodka in Russia and was too hungover to stop here. Though the Russian storm false alarm led to one of my favorite snippets of text conversation with my friend, Josh. It went something like this.

Me: I've just been informed that Russia is sending us an early snowstorm in a couple days while I'm up here on the slope.
Josh: Who is this??
Me: Miriam!
Josh: I had to reset my phone and lost my numbers. I thought you were some Russian guy talking in code about moving a cocaine shipment.

I do wish they had slightly healthier snacks. We have access to "spike rooms" anytime we want. I eat way to many oreos with peanut butter. But I occasionally have hummus or bananas, the two healthy snack options. Now I have a theory about how these food rooms were named. When we want to make a mud heavier, we mix up a small portion of fluid with a higher than the desired weight. Then we toss it in with the light mud to bring up the weight to the correct number. These are called spike fluids. Hence, spike rooms are named as they are because they weight up people.

Speaking of random terms and names, I am learning a whole new language in the oilfield. I understood maybe a third of what was said to me when I first got here. With total immersion in the oil rig society this week, I think I'm at about two thirds. For example, roll the tanks means start mixing the tanks. And picking up is the general term used when talking about putting pipe together to send down hole and laying down pipe means the opposite. In addition, I have been trying to find my way around this giant maze of a rig. I can manage to find my way in and out of the mud lab. From there I can navigate to the office area and the bathrooms; the rig floor where the actual pipe and bit go into the hole; the pit room where all the mud is stored in pits; and the shaker room where the solids control equipment is.

My flight to Fairbanks leaves midmorning on Monday. I will have the afternoon to go home, switch to my other suitcase and probably eat, shower and switch to girly wedding mode before I catch a red eye to Michigan and meet up with Travis and the Howards. Side note, if Travis ever starts a band, that should be the band name. I get to meet a bunch of future family and see Travis's hometown for the first time. Exciting! I also get to check out my wedding venue and taste test wedding cake. I can't lie, the cake testing is the part of wedding planning that I am most looking forward to. Wedding cake choice might just be harder than dress choice.

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