I’m Exhaust-ed

Sleep is a symptom of caffeine deprivation. ~Author Unknown

I’m not tired, I’m exhausted. On the other hand, the gate guard my friend met at the laundry mat yesterday is tired. She’s tired because she and her husband work 15 minute shifts, around the clock. No kidding!
He has some sleep issues (similar to mine) which are treatable with meds, which he forgot to fill when they decided on the spur of the moment to drive 1800 miles to Corpus to be gate guards. She says he can only sleep 15 minutes at a time so they literally work 15 minute shifts.

People! Truly, gate guarding is not a spur of the moment type of job. Once you strip away all the glitz and glamor (our free utilities and our pre-tax salary of $5.21 an hour), you’re left with the reality of the Texas heat (it was 91 here yesterday and 101 in Laredo), giant bugs in your hair, tiny gnats in your ears, beetles in your t-shirt, moths in your coffee, bees, mice, rattlesnakes, tarantulas, un-reclusive brown recluses, scorpions, caliche etc… Some days it’s a lot to contend with, but that’s not why I’m exhausted.

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We’re at the crossroads of a oil company mini-mart here On The Edge of Glory Absolutely Nowhere. The 6 padlocks on our gate are a mystery. No one knows why there are 6 and no one here has the key to any of them. They’ve become kind of symbolic though.

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We’re guarding a drilling rig. I didn’t say I would never write about gate guarding again, just not all the time. Larry’s still simmering on the back burner. 😀

We get paid for guarding 1 rig but we have the traffic of 6 operations.

If you come in our gate and turn left, you (1) go the site where they’re busy building a new production plant. If you pass through our gate and turn right, you could be going to (2) our rig; or (3) to the site they’re preparing for fracing; or (4) to the mud farm; or (5) to the pad that’s being built for another drilling rig scheduled for week after next; or (6) to the water pond where the pipes burst last night.

We only keep a record of the folks going to our rig, but we have to talk to all who enter here. But that’s not why I’m exhausted.

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This is the first time we’ve worked for this oil company. Everyone seems nice enough. The procedure is a little different. They require each person sign in. Then, on the way out, they have to stop again, find the line with their in-coming signature (which can be many, many lines or pages ago) and initial across from it, checking the box saying that they weren’t injured.

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It’ll get easier once we get it down. Possibly we wouldn’t have stuck a purple pen on the board if we’d known the guys were going to be signing themselves in and out. 😀

This signing out process requires some extra work.

First, I clamber up the side of the semi, hanging on with one hand and passing the board with the other.

Next, we begin shouting at each other over the roar of the diesel. I shout in Yankee English and the drivers shout back at me in Southern English or Spanish or Italian or Cajun or possibly a combination.

Then, there’s the inevitable ensuing pantomime that’s required to convey the idea I just want their initials and a check mark in the yellow I didn’t get hurt while I was here box.

But that isn’t why I’m exhausted.

I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.  ~ Thomas Carlyle

I’m exhausted because I have a Fan-Tastic Vent (fan). You may remember that it scared me to death last fall, the first time it opened up all by itself and turned on in the dark, in the middle of the night, while the coyotes were howling and Darth Vader was sighing.

This peculiar ceiling device is thermostatically controlled and can push air out or suck air in. Because I’m gadget reluctant and have zero control issues, I’ve been letting it choose what it wanted to do, at will.

Fan-Tastic Vent will exchange the air in your vehicle in minutes. Cooking smoke and unpleasant aromas are whisked away in seconds.

Fan-Tastic Vent can reduce the use of air conditioning allowing you to breath natural, fresh ambient outside air.

Heidi and I have both been sick ever since we got to this site. We have a busy gate with tons (purposeful pun) of big trucks. I finally figured out what’s wrong with us. We’re exhaust – ed. The Fan-Tastic Vent, while cheerfully opening up to suck in the fresh ambient air, has been fumigating us. The same thing happened to a friend at a gate down the road.

To know that which before us lies in daily life, is the prime Wisdom; what is more, is fume, or emptiness, or fond impertinence. ~ John Milton

If you’re at a gate (or a truck stop) and begin feeling a little queasy, take heed. Milton was a wise man, but he didn’t know a lot about diesels.


Big Yellow Taxi

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Do you remember Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi? I was in 7th grade when it hit the charts back in 1970. In 1970, I could find my earrings. That’s proving to be a challenge in 2012.

It’s relatively quiet here on the ranch.  We’re about half way through the drilling process. It’s mostly me and the mud trucks and the tankers and the coyotes and a skunk and a few delivery and service calls from 12 – 5 a.m.

It’s the calm before the storm. Next week, work swings into high gear on a production facility in one direction and another pad is being readied for a second drilling rig in another.

I’ve had Big Yellow Taxi in my head for days. I’m a long way from a taxi, but now I think I know what set my subconscious singing:

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone

I did know what I had, but it’s gone. For some reason (this is a relatively recent quirk), I’ve taken to putting one earring in as I get ready for my day/night and carrying the other one around (often between my lips) while I start doing something else.

I have no idea why. It’s not like I’m running late for work or my hands are busy pulling up nylons. Tonight I found the renegade earring by the baby carrots.

And then there was the night, not long ago, that my knitting needles got hung up on a pearl stitch. Yep.

And, wouldn’t you think that if you live in a small space, it would be nearly impossible to lose things? This should be particularly true since Heidi and I are both borderline OC when it comes to neatness.

However, I have to confess, there’s rarely a day (well, night in my case) that I don’t temporarily misplace something. I blame it on the gate, but that’s weak. I might lose a thought when the bell starts ringing, but my camera (twice tonight already)?

And then there’s the issue of the pen. We have dozens, but they disappear like socks, so Heidi devised a Velcro strip to stick in on the board. When one pen wears out, we just stick on another one.

And I’m forever losing my phone – inside. I turn the volume off when I go to bed since I use it as a clock. I almost never remember to turn it on when I get up, so it’s no good having Heidi call it so I can find it.

After losing my Kindle for an entire month (it was in the magazine rack, opposite the phone in the chair cushion in the above photo), I’ve been relegated to bright colors.

I now have Heidi’s Kindle cover which is bright orange (mine was a nice book brown). I have a bright blue phone, a bright red mouse and a coffee cup with a red hand print, a yellow footprint (very impressive Dan and Elissa) and green letters that say We Love You Grandma. They must have seen this coming before I did! 😀

I fully expect to wake up some afternoon to find my bright orange gate guard vest covered in Velcro with all of my gadgets hanging on it.

In my defense, I never lose my keys. We have a hook for the keys. I would like to think if I would just come up with a designated hook for everything, I’d quit losing things.

But then there is a designated hook (hole) for my earrings, so maybe not…

I’m including Big Yellow Taxi, not as a political statement, but because it’s stuck in my head and I love to share. 😉

(I have no idea what the foreign language words say. Hopefully nothing about New York taxis.)

Be Prepared

It was coming. We knew it for days and I thought we were prepared.

No one but Night, with tears on her dark face,
Watches beside me in this windy place.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay

I’m a little more impacted by the weather these days, living in an RV and working 24/7 at a gate. I never paid a whole lot of attention to the weather forecast before. It doesn’t affect me like it does, say, a mail carrier, but I do spend a lot of time out in it, whatever it is.

We knew there was a fairly significant storm headed our way. We put away the lawn chairs and bungeed down the lights.

Around 10 p.m., I watched the morning GMA segment on severe weather preparations.

1. HAVE A PLAN

OK, this is a little problematic for gate guards. Where would we go since everyone on site lives in a trailer. And it’s moot anyway since we can’t leave the gate. I had more traffic during the storm than I’d had on any other night to date.

2. NOAA WEATHER RADIO

Don’t have one of those but Channel 4 was interrupting every program I wanted to watch with constant dire warnings of hail the size of golf balls and tennis balls and tornadic activity so I thought (hoped) that would do.

It didn’t. I lost satellite reception an hour before the tornado warning was issued.

But, I could still get on-line and follow the storm with the Weather Wunderground under my Weather Links. I lost the internet a just after the tornado warning was issued.

But, I could still get The Weather Channel on my phone, which is smarter than the rest of my electronics. And honestly, what difference did it make? We couldn’t leave the gate anyway unless there was a mass exodus from the rig. Highly unlikely.

I put everything away, which included the 3 clean dishes in the dish drainer and decided to read and wait and watch the lightning.

But I couldn’t relax. I had this niggling feeling that I was forgetting something. But what?

I hadn’t erased GMA from the day before, which I record every morning and watch at night. Since you don’t need a satellite connection to watch pre-recorded programs, I hit the back arrow to review the piece on severe weather preparedness.

1. HAVE A PLAN – well, not exactly but that couldn’t be helped. We did discuss taking shelter in the bathroom.

2. NOAA WEATHER RADIO – too late for that one.

Then I saw it and remembered. How could I forget the most basic of all severe weather preparedness items?

3. HAVE A HELMET NEARBY

I looked all over the place. Nope. No helmet. What was I thinking?

And then I got to thinking, I’ve never owned a helmet in my entire life. Not one. How have I lived so long, in a world of flying debris, without a helmet?

Part of my problem is that I cannot dispel the myths that have somehow accumulated over the years. Somebody writes something, it`s completely off the wall, but it gets filed and repeated until everyone believes it. For instance, I’ve read that I wear a football helmet in the car. ~ Stanley Kubrick

Mr Kubrick, you might want to reconsider. I have.

Next time you’re traveling down the windy back roads in southern Texas and pass a lady wearing a helmet, driving a giant dually, you’ll know to just smile and wave and I’ll wave back!

Phobias

All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears — of falling, of the dark, of lobsters, of falling on lobsters in the dark, or speaking before a Rotary Club, and of the words “Some Assembly Required.” ~ Dave Barry

We’re at our new gate – more on that tomorrow.

We had a few misadventures while we were getting ready to leave yesterday. It started with the German Shepard, sort of. We had some folks park next to us in the waiting lot who seemed nice enough. They had a chihuahua, (which is really hard to spell, by the way) who barked quite a lot and a German Shepard who didn’t. She (the Shepard, not the lady) had the ability to suddenly and silently materialize, usually just as Heidi was peering in the bin of the RV.

In addition to Bovinaphobia, Heidi has:

Cynophobia – the abnormal fear of dogs. According to Dr. Timothy O. Rentz of the Laboratory for the Study of Anxiety Disorders at the University of Texas, animal phobias are among the most common of the specific phobias and 36% of patients who seek treatment report being afraid of dogs or cats.

(isn’t that amazing?)

Although snakes and spiders are more common animal phobias, cynophobia is especially debilitating because of the high prevalence of dogs (in the United States estimated at over 62 million in 2003).  ~ Wikipedia

Henry in the tub, looking scary pathetic after a romp on the beach in Galveston

The problem, in all honesty, preceded the neighborly dogs. It really began with my Automysophobia. I decided I’d better do all the wash before we started a new gate. Since I have a washer and dryer in the 5th wheel, I’m not sure why I thought this was an urgent need, but I did.

In the middle of a game of Cribbage, we heard an odd, non-dog sound, coming from the front of the RV.

Washer and dryer – and the TV –  still covered in its original plastic.

Heidi rushed out to find water streaming out around the hitch. A quick check of the closet confirmed our fears that something had gone terribly wrong with the wash. The clothes inside the washer were damp but the carpet around it and the carpet in the closet was soaked.

After a quick call to the RV dealership and another to the mobile RV repairman, the solution was clear. Open the outside valve. I thought Heidi had; she thought I would have. Nope.

As you know, we’ve battled HUAD (Hooking Up Anxiety Disorder/ Dystychiphobia – fear of accidents) ever since smashing the tailgate – twice. We’ve taken to hooking up the night before we move. This means doing all the negotiating that’s necessary inside to pull in the 4 slides and disconnecting everything but the electricity outside. Somewhere during this process yesterday evening, the German Shepard put her nose right up next to Heidi’s as she was doing some disconnecting, which to understate it wildly, was disconcerting for her.

While this was happening, I was getting things ready inside, including a shower for Henry and then, yes, one more load of clothes. I transitioned back to nights two weeks ago, in anticipation of getting a gate any day. I was in the living room reading when Heidi woke up sometime after midnight and announced that she might have forgotten to shut the black water valve.

I put my glow in the dark shoes halfway on without untying them, thoroughly crushing the heels. I reached in the weaponry closet and located the amazing halogen flashlight that works like a searchlight at a car dealership. I quietly slipped (more or less) outside in hopes of letting sleeping dogs lie, the Shepard in particular.

Even though it hadn’t rained for several days, the ground was as wet as the carpet in the closet! Fortunately, the black tank was closed off, but both of the grey ones were open and so was the septic cap. From the ground our phobias came back to haunt us.

“What are fears but voices airy?
Whispering harm where harm is not.
And deluding the unwary
Till the fatal bolt is shot!”
—- Wordsworth


Monday Music

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when you find yourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
‘Til by turning, turning we come ’round right.

~Simple Gifts by Elder Joseph Brackett

Those of you who read both of my blogs, know that on Two Minutes of Grace, I generally post a song on Sunday. I’ve decided to do the same at Fork on Mondays – from time to time with different songs and different messages.

It’s been exactly two weeks since I rode through Houston in the rain, in a one ton dually pulling a 40 foot RV with 6-8 teeming lanes of traffic. I’m not sure when I quit breathing, but at some point I realized that I was pressing so hard on the floorboard that my right foot had gone to sleep, my jaw was locked, my eyes were glazed, my fingers were numb and my head was throbbing – and I wasn’t even driving! 😀

I took stock, took two Ibuprofen, took some deep breaths and thought about the trap of getting so tense over things completely out of my control.

It can be easy to wait for sometime, somewhere over the rainbow for things to become simpler. Many of you who read Fork are RVers. That doesn’t guarantee simplicity, but full-timers or part timers, you’ve learned how to pare down and live with much ‘less’.

I wrote a post a while back for TMG called Simple Gifts. In contains the Simple Gifts section of Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, with photos by Ansel Adams. Copeland’s music to the Adams’ black and whites is quite lovely. You can skip to the bottom of the page to play the video.

This video from The Piano Guys is my newest favorite. It intertwines ‘Tis a Gift to be Simple with Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I hope you enjoy it!

Jambalaya

Having had some close encounters with alligators on the Louisiana bayou in November, I was hoping to see some more in Texas.

I did, I think. It was rainy and cold and Stewart, one of the owners of On the Bayou RV Park said that the gators were mudding-in and we probably wouldn’t see any unless it got in the 70’s, which it didn’t the entire week. After 14 months of record heat, it never got over 58.

I took this picture from the window. I’m 83% sure it’s an alligator and not a log. It was kind of a Loch Ness moment so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

This wasn’t a Linda Ronstadt bayou. There was nothing blue about it!  It was more of Hank Williams bayou (although technically, he was writing about Louisiana, not Texas).

Good-bye Joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh
Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou
My Yvonne, the sweetest one, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou

I didn’t have a pirogue, although the neighbors did,  but I did have a pole. I asked what was biting. Stewart said, Well, mostly just catfish because the wind’s out of the north. When the wind is out of the south you can catch saltwater fish. How do you suppose that works? Does the wind just blow them in from the ocean? Fascinating!

Thibodeaux, Fontainenot, the place is buzzin’
Kinfolk come to see Yvonne by the dozen
Dress in style and go hog wild, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou

It was buzzin’ all right. The mosquitoes were so thick, they turned my black jeans brown. I bought night-crawlers to fish for the non-saltwater catfish. Dead shrimp work better I’m told, but they were all sold out of dead shrimp at the gas/bait/movies/glittering t-shirt store.

I briefly considered buying frozen shrimp and microwaving them (making them doubly dead) but I figured I might eat those and there was little temptation with living worms. Apparently they presented little temptation to the catfish, too. I think I had a couple of bites (on the pole that I wasn’t holding) and a couple of dozen on me before the mosquitoes drove me inside and the thunderstorms kept me there.

Settle down, far from town, get me a pirogue
And I’ll catch all the fish in the bayou
Swap my mon to buy Yvonne what she need-o
Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou

We had big enough fun, anyway!

The herons and egrets were beautiful. The ducks were odd as ducks tend to be.

Just before we left yesterday, the flapping of great pink wings announced the presence of a pink flamingo, which wasn’t really a pink flamingo.

It was, from what I’ve read, a roseate spoonbill having great fun on the bayou!

We’ve left the Texas bayou and headed for Houston without having any Jambalaya, but I’m leaving you with some. There’s a great shot of a true pirogue and a pole with alligators in the bottom on this video!

When Things Went South

Since we last talked, things including but not limited to us, have gone south. The actual origin of the phrase, going south is a little uncertain, although it’s universally understood as going bad. Here’s a summary of what I found @ wise Geek.com.

One idea is that when sales or the market numbers are good, they rise toward the top of a chart (North geographically), and when they’re bad when they flow toward the bottom (South). Another explanation, which is much more popular in the North than in the South, is that after the Civil War, the South seemed to be associated with losing. Now that I’m living in Texas, I don’t think I’ll use that one. 😀

The phrase is thought to have originated in England, sort of.  People didn’t say that things were going south, instead they referred to a worsening situation as going west. Possible explanations:

1. The sun sets in the west.

2. Stories of prisoners from London traditionally heading west to the gallows.

This didn’t work as well for Americans who were fond of saying Go west, young man! where the West was associated with a place to seek one’s fortune. Over time, going west became going south which is now used by all around the world, except not so much here in Texas. 😀

To pacify you true Southerners, no one says things are going north to indicate a great improvement in circumstances! Anyway, just before things went south, we spent 2 weeks in Whitsett, waiting for our plumb assignment. We continued to meet nice folks there. More newbies:

Linda and Bobbie (Jim and Jim missed the photo op)

We got a kick out of Mary and Darrel from Arizona. Such fun folks!

Finally, after 2 weeks, the gate we’d been waiting for opened up. Jamie said to be ready at 9 a.m. so of course we were ready at 7:30 (1st law of gate guarding, always be ready hours or days ahead of when you expect to move). Mark was there to move us at 8:00.

Heidi and Mark setting up our ‘permanent digs’

The oil company was Murphy (nice folks by the way). The gate was expected to be easy. It was our first non-24 hour gate. Open it at 6 a.m. and close it at 8 p.m. according to Wayne and Barbara (the folks we replaced). It seemed so right, but right away, went so wrong!

They’re building a plant so the job security was great. It looked like a place we could stay for a year or two. The scenery wasn’t much, but gate guards are used to that.

After 14 months in this business, we’re considered seasoned gate guards. Not experts, just seasoned.  But this time, we made some first-timer errors. The fact that the same couple had been at the gate for 4 months and that our FS had phone service gave us a false sense of security. We didn’t want to spend the money to drive 100 miles to check the gate. Big mistake.

Mark got us set up and drove off. We got out our computers. No internet. We have both Verizon and AT&T internet cards and a Wilson booster… nada.

Heidi made a call to AT&T on her phone. They said we were way too far from any towers (and that the internet and the phone towers are separate).  The call was apparently a fluke, because we couldn’t call out again from the RV – to anyone.

I closed the gate at 8 as instructed only to have guys coming and going until after 11. I stayed up until at least midnight every night and slept like you do when you have a newborn – half way awake, listening for the bell. The padlock was terminally jammed so it was kind of, sort of locked. Heidi got up at 5, which was good since we had people on site by 5:15.

The second day, neither phone worked. My phone found this to be so discouraging that it simply quit altogether and it’s bits faded from view until none could be found. It’s now in the AT&T recycle center.

After 5 trips to Fowlerton (pop. 62) to call the office, we finally got a hold of Jamie and asked for a replacement. 50 miles from a grocery store or Walmart was fine; but 50 miles from a cell tower, not so much. We couldn’t even call 911. That was on Monday.

Jamie said he’d have someone there Tuesday unless we could wait until Wednesday. No problem. Tuesday, Larry came by to say they could have someone there at noon on Thursday. No problem, although I was starting to feel like we were playing out a cheeseburger scene between Popeye and Wimpy.

The traffic from 97 was non-stop and so loud that we had to raise our voices to hear each other, which made Henry VIII think we were yelling, so he threw-up in his bed. Hmm…

Henry in his post-crisis mode

You know the old saying, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Yep. It was. Wednesday evening, we looked out the window at the ditch to see a river running through it. The liquid (something – never quite sure what since it was bubbling) was racing toward the RV.

Pre-flood photo

It was too dark to take a picture by the time we finished trying to build a little rock dam to stop the flood. Heidi drove into Fowlerton to call the only number we had for someone associated with the rig, since the CM wasn’t on site.

A really nice guy came out, crawled around in the dark and found a partially open valve of the something… and stopped the flow about 20 feet from the RV.

We were told to be ready to switch out the gate at noon on Thursday. We hitched up, just past dawn, in the drizzle in 3 minutes! Heidi says she’ll never time it again, since she doesn’t want the pressure to do it any faster. 😀

We had just turned around and pulled out of the spot at 7:30 when the new gate guards arrived. Larry was there by 8:30, and by the time we were have supposed to be ready to leave at noon,  we were already set up in a little RV park south of Seguin.

The 3 hour trip was uneventful, except that we apparently were the target of a random tire-stone- toss. We were already waiting to see if  the RV shop in Houston could move our repairs (from my palm tree tango) up a week or so. Of course, now they have to see how long it will take Coachman to ship out the window from Indiana. 🙂

Otherwise, all is well. We’ll use the time off to tackle taxes. Don’t ask. We don’t know anything yet. We’re talking to a CPA to help us out this year. I may continue to write here at Fork, but since we’re not on a gate, I’ll be writing about rather random topics. If you only read here for gate guard info, please check the side bar for other gate guard blogs. 😀