March 14th, 2011.
A New Hope
I stepped off the plane not knowing where the hell I was. This is it, the North Slope. I’m finally one of them! As a kid you hear of your friends parents being slope workers. Most of them had rotational schedules of two weeks on two weeks off. You become familiar with the stories of extreme subzero temperatures and no sun light for weeks on end. I was never one with pieces of paper in academics which proved I was useful to society other than being a laborer. I spent my early adult life in retail and I’ll never go back, so help me God. But I remember saying to myself “I’m a fuckin sloper now!”. Now most people don’t know what the hell we do up here and most of us wonder ‘what the hell are we doing here?’ There ain’t shit to look at and all we do is eat, sleep, work, repeat. It’s twelve hour shifts, seven days a week, two to three weeks at a time. Keep in mind, we do get 2 weeks off (depending on your rotation, some people are two on two off, some are three on three off). Essentially we only work six months out of the year and we get six months home yet we make a years salary in those six months. Money is good. Very good. Hell half the people I know getting out of college with four year degrees don’t even make what we can make. I wanted in for the long haul.
March 14th, 2012
Fear Through The Eyes of Madness
I am seasoned. I am part of the brotherhood. I made it through the hurdles of being the FNG (fuckin new guy). I made it through my first brutal slope winter. By this time in my slope career, I’ve traveled to Germany, Switzerland, France, & Austria and was in the slow process of finding a house. I was still loving the job. Digging six to eight foot holes on a daily basis. Building scaffold for insulators and lifting pipe lines for corrosion inspection via x-ray. Shit was cool. I felt good about myself. I was going places and saving money as if an i.v. needle was hooked up to my savings account. Also around this point I was on a three week on three week off rotation. Figured it was a good idea for more traveling. I could go somewhere for three weeks then take a week off and just relax at home. Home becomes a little more sweet with a rotational schedule. You realize you take the simple things for granted. I love my couch. I love my lawn, my stuff, the dust under my furniture, the small problems that are bound to happen. All of it (despite how much I bitch about it too). We had a new batch of guys come in, little did I know a few of them would become best friends of mine. I now had opportunity to mentor. I never thought of myself as leader and I’m probably a really shitty one, but I enjoy doing it. I enjoy imagining myself heading into battle with a small elite squad of soldiers, taking out bad guys and getting out all in one piece. I am the first to set on the battlefield, and the last to step off. Sometimes lol.
Cuts Marked In The March of Men
It’s routine now. Well they insist nothing is routine here but holy shit it is. At this time I’ve seen many brothers come and go. Some quit, some fired, some onto better things on the North Slope. Good for them. We form a certain bond, doing what we do. I’ve watched brothers get married, divorced, and have kids. I’ve also watched those kids grow over the years. You don’t find much brotherhood sitting behind a desk. It isn’t quite exciting coming up to work by now. It’s become a part of us now. In our DNA and bones. Each day being a countdown with hours to minutes, minutes to seconds. Not many understand the feeling of coming up to work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like its twelve months in Iraq, kudos to all those men and women though. But rotation work does have it’s toll. Each time we go up to work, there is two wars going on. Two fronts if you will. The war of being here and the war at home. It’ s always hard on our loved ones when we are gone. Shit always seems to break and there is nothing you can do to fix it from here. When shit happens at home, its amplified for us by a thousand. From battling primitive reception, crappy internet, and failed texts, it can get frustrating. The common tools we take for granted are never one hundred percent optimal.
Away We Go
Imagine going to a job with the thought of it possibly not being there for you the next day. Now imagine that each and every day. While most of you celebrate low gas prices, we cringe over them. This last February, I watched seventy or so slope workers get laid off. Seventeen of which were brothers from our own craft. They were gathered in a meeting room and let go within four minutes. They packed their bags and stepped onto a plane to Anchorage. It can happen just like that. The i.v. to the savings account violently ripped out without warning. I couldn’t even imagine the feeling. To be honest I don’t think I could find work that paid just as well in Anchorage. Life would be at a halt for me. The sheer fact that in a blink of an eye ones job can be stripped from them pisses me off. We were always told that this could happen and has before. Up to this day, we could all be gone at the same blink of an eye. It never made sense to me to cut the actual workers who work while desk dudes sit comfortable in a six hundred dollar ergonomically correct office chair but hey what do I know. Careful, opinions equal a bad attitude. Most of them have found other jobs on the slope which I am very happy to say. But my point is, its more slope work. Its like a drug. That time off is pretty sick and it’s hard to give up. Some day I’ll have to take that road but as of now I am nowhere near ready to. At this point there is no way I could afford to live comfortably without this job and that’s just the reality of it.
The End Complete
I’m not even sure the point of this whole thing. We do this job for our families, our soon to be families, our hobbies, homes, loved ones, our own amusement (lulz), all the crap we like to buy, etc. Most of us don’t know any thing better and will be lifers. Some of us take other paths and learn other crafts. I myself joined the fire dept. here and plan on learning as much as I can before going for a full time position at any fire dept. back home. It’s no vacation here. We are all here for the money. Good money. It’s never easy and it’s never fun. I hope some day I can put the slope behind me and do something else. Shit, I get way to antsy sitting in one spot anyway! This job will continue to supply my dreams of traveling with my lady. It’s bed time now, for I work night shift. Enjoy your desk.
Works sucks, I know! This morning marks the first day completed of my 21 day hitch. All went well as I was eased into usually routines (gotta be careful because at my work there “is no such thing as routine”) it’s a safety thing… Anyhoo, it was almost like I never left. I caught myself thinking “am I suppose to be going anywhere this time home? Like Florida? Europe? Maybe Hawaii?? Oh no.. sadly I’m not. The temperature was about -20 ambient with a slight wind. It only takes a few minutes to get frostbite on any exposed skin! We built 5 scaffolds today on a 10 inch line. The northern lights came out a few times and I wondered if they were “end of the world” northern lights. Nothing….not a damn thing….not even aliens man. It was slightly tough to adjust back to the cold after being in Miami for nearly three weeks. I wish I could describe to you the pain of extremely cold fingers and toes. It’s kind of like holding a lighter to your skin…yea that sounds about right. My toes get so cold, usually the middle toe is the one to go first. It feels like your sock is rolled up or wedged in between your other two toes. Nope, that’s another toe, so stop picking at it with the big toe because you might rip it off.
We have a good crew this hitch but I’m sure it will change up next week or so. I was already moved to a Sunday change out (instead of my normal Thursday change out). It’s kind of an upset since it throws off some plans for 2013 but I’ll do what I do best, which is adapt and overcome. I’m not sure what else to write. I’ve been up for 24 hours and I have a long 20 days ahead of me. Anyone want to trade jobs for a few days? Maybe you would like to work in an oil field for a bit! It can be fun. Haha jaykay. 🙂