Odd Interlude

Fate isn’t one straight road…there are forks in it, many different routes to different ends. We have the free will to choose the path. ~ Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

Fate has presented some interesting forks lately. I read Odd Interlude by Dean Koontz during my own odd interlude last week. I don’t have enough internet umph tonight to write about Pleasant (which includes, I hope, a short video clip) so this will be an odd interlude of its own.

Life, or the joy in life, is largely a matter of perspective, don’t you think?

We’ve had an interesting couple of weeks.

  • The rig we’d been following for a year, stacked… that was sad
  • Our Company Man called and said he wanted us at his new rig … that was great
  • There was a week lag time and we spent it at Choke Canyon State Park … that was lovely

It’s was lovely and so very quiet. Although I always say I live a quiet life, I think I may mean something more like a life of very little stress, not very little noise. With the tons of trucks coming and going all day and all night and the gas station hose bell ringing and ringing, and the portable generator continually humming, it isn’t as quiet as I thought. The park was really, really quiet.

I took this picture through the window from my chair with my propped up leg but Heidi lived outside all week

  • Heidi spent almost all of her time outside bird watching
  • I spent almost all of my time inside reading with ice packs on my knee (I had fallen down the steps at the last job. I landed on my well padded seat but really wrenched my knee)
  • I did hobble down to the lake twice to go fishing
  • The glow in the dark night-crawlers the convenience store lady sold me were all mushy
  • I traded the $4 night-crawlers in on a $4.29 bag of chips which I left on the counter
  • The lady was out of minnows so she sold me frozen shrimp
  • I’ve never fished with frozen shrimp and I kept ripping their heads off with the hook
  • I didn’t catch any fish but a very big stick put up quite a fight
  • I also hooked the camp chair once

It was fun to camp for a week. I loved the cooking and you can’t beat the clean up.

Well, the clean up was easy for me. I just stuck the fork in the fire. Heidi, on the other hand, worrying about the wind that had picked up, put the fire out with hands full of sand. Sand that had hitherto been the happy home of hundreds of fire ants.

It took a lot of Epsom salts and Lanacane spray before the swelling went down. We’d been working 24 hours a day for 6 months (which isn’t s big deal – we worked 264 days straight last year) but Heidi’s hands were stinging and it seemed like a great time to visit our favorite local hot spot in Tilden,Texas which was only about 15 miles from the park.

We began our career as TSAs in Tilden so we knew that it’s hard to beat the ambiance or the Nacho’s Supreme at Max’s Cafe and Motel.

After a week of not really fishing, really reading and intense bird watching, we headed for our next gig on a rig at a new TSL.

  • We started to set up
  • The Safety Man said to wait, they were dozing a pad for us by the rig
  • We worked the not busy gate for 4 hours from the dually
  • While waiting, we discovered 2 bad tires on the truck

  • A carpet of cacti and mesquite and tangled weeds were dozed away
  • Sunday evening we moved to our new spot and settled in

  • Monday we had an entire day of Texas dust devils and 55+ mph winds

  • During the peak of the whirling-dervishes, our new pea gravel pad was spread around us
  • The winds also covered the RV and truck with little drops of oil based mud

  • Tuesday SA H made it to town to get 2 new tires for the dually
  • Wednesday was pretty regular
  • Thursday a mobile repair man came out to look at the toilet that runs on its own and the VCR that doesn’t run at all and the convection oven that cooks in 3 time zones all at once and the valves that are becoming resistant to releasing our grey and black water (all under an extended warranty)
  • Friday we moved back to the spot where we had been on Sunday
  • Saturday rig washers dropped by to power wash the oil based mud off the RV

  • The rig washers had never washed an RV and they inadvertently flooded the vent to the frig, frying the mother board.
  • When power washing the truck, that high pressured water hit the windshield and the small poc from a rock picked up on the way to our new TSL cracked a 15 inch line

Nothing is worse than being alone on the evening of the day when one’s cow has exploded. ~ Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

See, that’s what I mean about perspective. Two new tires, 3 moves, a cracked windshield and a dead refrigerator are nothing compared to an exploding cow. We did, however, take the fork that led to remedying our new dilemmas. Special ordering the tires was simple, the windshield is temporarily on hold but the frig was the real puzzle.

  • We called our dealership back in Iowa and got instructions
  • SA H set out with a hairdryer to try to dry out the soggy mother board
  • Being very tenacious, she did this for a long, long time

  • We gave it the night to repair itself  – it didn’t
  • Sunday I asked our CM if he would give away our food as we were having some frig issues (I didn’t mention the rig washers)
  • He had an extra refrigerator in his trailer so we hauled our bags and bags of food down there (the double frig and double freezer were pretty well all stocked up)
  • Saturday and Sunday we ate a lot of cereal to use up the remaining warm but not spoiled milk
  • Monday SA H called the manufacturer and got the name of a certified roving repair man
  • This great guy talked SA H through a magic magnet fix
  • Today we will retrieve our food and wait to see what new adventures await

All in all, it was an interesting week. We SA’s are grateful for a multitude of kindnesses and blessing and even for the bell that rings all day and all night. As always, Henry remains cheerful and optimistic.

Loyal companions are an unequaled grace. ~Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

After struggling with the internet for months, it looks like SA H may have found a solution. If so, I’ll get back to Gig on a Rig Tip #4 – Pleasant next time. As Odd would say:

Being polite is not only the right way to respond to people but also the easiest. Life is so filled with unavoidable conflict that I see no reason to promote more confrontations. ~ Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas

Gig on a Rig Tip #1: Be Flexible

Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.                       ~ W. Somerset Maugham

Do you remember the 1995 movie starring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman called While You Were Sleeping? In the movie, a guy wakes up from a coma to find he has a fiance (Bullock) and a life that he doesn’t remember. He wakes up in a whole new world.

That’s a lot like working nights as a gate guard on an oil rig, except for the coma and the fiance part. I usually go to bed around 6:30 in the morning and when I wake up, 6-8 hours later, it’s very possible my world will have rotated sideways.

You get used to it like you get used to the way the Big Dipper hangs at the wrong angle in the sky down here.

For years, Heidi and I taught a seminar on change called: As Long As You’re Green You’re Growing… But As Soon As You’re Ripe You Rot.

If you’re going to be happy as a gate guard, you need to stay green.

That brings me to my first tip on a Gig on a Rig: You Have To Be Flexible

You may get a 3 week assignment that lasts for 3 months. You may go to sleep believing that you’re about to be moved to Smiley and wake up to find you’re headed 300 miles north to Paradise instead. Smiley’s a long way from Paradise!

Even though I taught seminars about it, I haven’t been a huge fan of change. There’s something comforting to me in the knowable and the predictable. Gotta tell you, this job isn’t that.

Take this past week as an example.

  • I went to sleep last Thursday morning thinking I had the next 4 years all planned out, following this great rig, with these great guys, working for a great oil company
  • I woke Thursday afternoon to the news that our rig was stacking, the yards and parks and campgrounds were all full and we would be out of work in a week with no place to stay
  • I went to sleep Friday morning, wondering how to find a spot for the RV
  • I woke up Friday afternoon to news that fellow gate guards had offered to let us stay in their spot in a lovely RV park for as long as needed (we’ve only met once) – now that’s kindness
  • I went to bed Saturday morning feeling encouraged that we had a place to park

I don’t think a whole lot changed on Superbowl Sunday. I guess it did for fans of the Ravens and the 49ers, but not so much for me.

  • I went to bed Monday morning  counting down the 3 days until our job ended and we left for the RV park
  • I woke up Monday afternoon to the news that we had a new job, 35 miles away with our same oil company but new Company Men and drilling rig
  • I went to bed Tuesday morning with plans to meet the gate guards we’d be replacing to get the lay of the land on Saturday
  • I woke up Tuesday afternoon to find out we wouldn’t be done here until Sunday so we couldn’t meet anyone on Saturday
  • I went to bed Wednesday morning, grateful for a new job and a few more days with this rig
  • I woke up Wednesday afternoon to the news we wouldn’t be done until here until Tuesday
  • I went to bed Thursday morning (yesterday) thinking the two moves were in sync since the other gate guards would be finishing up on Tuesday
  • I woke up Thursday afternoon to find out that we now had two job offers – our Company Man had been given a new rig and put the call in for us to join him
  • I’ll go to bed this morning knowing that we’re moving 90 miles instead of 40, that we’re moving south instead of west, that we’re rejoining the Company Man we’ve loved working with for a year now, instead of starting over with a new rig… at least I’ll go to sleep thinking that I know all that

I have no idea what I’ll wake up to this afternoon. I’ll get up, start the coffee and hold my breath until Heidi’s done filling me in on how my world has changed – While I Was Sleeping.