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.
Happy phase three day! Another day in the life of an oil field worker. Whats “phase three” you may ask? Let me explain. We have certain weather phase conditions at work. Phase one means slight hindered visibility with some wind. Still workable conditions but it’s usually limited to pad work only and speed limits reduced to 35mph (down from the max of 45mph). Phase two usually more intense with poor visibility, high winds, and speed limit reduced to 25 and all vehicle must travel via convoy. If a phase two is called during a job, we drop what we do and head back to the main office (KCS pad). A phase three is when the shit starts to hit the fan. 30mph winds, hardly any visibility. All jobs are seized and we bunker down indoors. Today we got lucky and it was a phase two almost three before we even left camp. So here we are, entertaining ourselves for the next twelve hours. I’m watching a pool tournament begin right before my eyes. Roland is giving George some competition. Some of the other guys are playing basket ball and hopefully safely. It wouldn’t be good if someone got hurt during a phase day heh. Joe, our foreman is hanging out with us. It’s nice to have a chill day like this. 90% of the crew is working over Christmas. We all miss our families but we are all here for the same reason. I figured I could use this opportunity and give you a look at a world most of you don’t ever think about and some didn’t even know existed. It’s a tough job mainly because we spend so much time away from home. The majority of us work 6 months out of the year with an average work schedule of two weeks on two weeks off. I for one work a three week on three week off schedule, aka “hitch”. We each have different ways of starting a count down. Some check off calender days and some calculate down to the exact hour until we leave (I’m one of those people). Most don’t think about it because thinking about it only prolongs a hitch. There is no alcohol here at work so we resort to coffee, poweraide, juice, assorted snack foods, most of which can be found in the photos below know as the “spike room”.
They serve two meals a day, breakfast and dinner. Both meals consist of pretty much anything you can think of. They have a daily menu that changes up every week. Steak, fish, Italian, Asian, Mexican, and everything in between. My personal favorite is Mexican night as well as the chicken strips. Day is made when it’s chicken strip night. (photo below is our dining hall)
For others, the gym is where they spend their down time. We have various machines for all kinds of things that I know nothing about. If you’re a runner or a weight lifter, we got it. Some guys really let themselves go with all the free food we get, so for them, the gym is their home! (haha)
If you’re into movies, we have that covered as well. The movie theater plays a movie at 7:30am and 7:30pm. They have two movies which they play for about a month at a time before changing it up. The movie tonight was “Ghost Protocol”.
We have several big screen t.vs through out camp. Pool tables and ping pong tables. We can check out Xbox’s and various games, movies, books, whatever. (photo below is Wayne kicking some ass at a game of pool)
I wish I could show you what it looks like outside right now but it’s a complete wall of snow, wind and ice blowing nonstop. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We will be up here, taking care of Americas lifeline.