Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tiny The T-rex: Life As A Woman In The Oilfield

Being a female on a rig is not really that different from going to engineering school. Admittedly, the ratio is even more skewed but its not that far from what I am used to. If anything, I'm treated better than any other new guy. Really, roughnecks are just a bunch of teddy bears. Not crazy intimidating thus far. Yesterday during a break I had several guys showing me loads of baby pictures getting all sorts of extra excited. It was a "Look how adorable my kid is, his kid isn't as cute! I'll show you an even better picture..." type of moment.
Occasionally I'll be frustrated after someone swears and I hear, "Excuse my language, I don't mean any offense," for the fourteenth time that day. That comment is always clearly directed at me. Frankly, I expected a lot worse and I likely just used that word not five minutes ago in conversation with fellow mud engineer. Since I have been getting to know some of the guys better, I have had one or two come tell me a story about how someone else was shocked at something they said or did in front of me. It makes me happy when they go on with "I said you were cool though." Travis has mentioned before how he was at first shocked to find out how much less delicate I am than I appear. My brother still instinctively cringes away from me when I get it his face (that might involve some tippy toes or a jump or two) so I like to think I can hold my own.
While I am not really surprised or unused to the amount of testosterone in the general vacinity, I am continually irked by the fact that hardly any women appear to be in the field. It makes me wanna go recruit girls to balance out all the menfolk. Plus I get irrationally annoyed when I try and google about women in the oilfield and the most common thing I see is the term "oilfield wife." Travis sure won't be going around saying he is an oilfield husband. In fairness, he might actually jokingly use that term. But I sure won't be calling myself a "mining wife" or anything. That is one of the few kinds if things that gets me all huffy and disgruntled. I saw a recent statistic that half of oilfield jobs went to women this year. But I would love to see a breakdown of what exactly they do. And I am immensely curious what the figure is for women on rigs. Females regularly on my rig since I have been here....yours truly. I would guess roughly 30 people or so on the rig at any given time. I am awful at estimates but I do know I'm vastly outnumbered. 
I have a list of perks though!
1. Everyone is afraid to play any sort of trick on me. (So far.) I haven't had anything stuck on my hardhat or been tricked into thinking that there are scientific tests that involve cheetos (I have heard some great stories.)
2. Everyone knows its me when I call on the radio even if I don't say my name.
3. I have my own bathroom on the rig. The flipside is my coveralls are inconvenient to struggle in and out of gracefully every time I need to go. I imagine it will only worsen in wintertime. Bathroom trips will need to be planned far in advance.
Not so awesome things include always having to adjust my hair to fit under my hard hat. Though the company man and I had a discussion about how he knew what kind of braids I had in my hair. He proudly told me, "I can french braid hair too. My wife taught me." Then this morning I got irritated halfway through my methyl blue test. I saw blue and assumed I had spilled on my hands. False alarm, just my nail polish. And as far as spare gear goes, I better never forget anything. All the spare gloves or coveralls will definitely not fit me.
Always amusing is when my training mud engineer says something rude or mean or tells me to do anything that requires the slightest bit of physical exertion (I'm talking the equivalent of opening a stuck pickle jar) in the presence of someone we don't see often. This is often followed by a shocked look from whoever is standing by or three people rushing to help. Then I have to explain that he only said that because I told him I would happily kick him in the back of the knees and leave him for the polar bears or that my struggling to open the retort (basically a container that gets baked shut with mud) is a running joke. That being said, I've still had to give in and say, "My hardhat almost fell into the mud pit because my arms are too short to reach and grab a sample." After much mocking, ("It's because you are tiny. I'm going to call you Tiny. Have have you seen that cartoon with the T-Rex? 'I have a big head and tiny little arms!' ") I have no problem getting someone else to happily fetch me a sample. But sadly, nothing will ever change the fact that I will always have a big head and little arms.

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