I’ll keep this one short and sweet, since I prefer my blog to be about travels and toilet humor, mostly.
Spring of 2016 I was placed into the long process of becoming a volunteer fire fighter for Central Mat-su. From minor application errors, to a physical ability test, an interview, tracking down medical records, a wild land test, 3 weeks of training Tuesday-Sunday, a written test and a practical test, I finally made it on. It’s been a busy month. In order to do all this, I needed to take off a whole hitch which means I was off for six weeks. This required me to go on a leave of absence (LOA). On the Saturday of my written test, just after I found out I passed, I received a phone call from my general foreman that they needed to let me go due to “lack of work” around the field. For a moment I worried but then shortly after I realized this was one door closing and another opening. I’ve been wanting off slope for awhile now so after the short worry, I was relieved. I’m thankful for my wife for taking on the brunt of the bills while I search for a side job that allows me to continue the fire service. Lord knows I hate asking her for money, and it wont be the last time but hopefully I get more income rolling in soon.
On a side note, I do believe I was actually the only one laid off from my job, even though I was told that “I wasn’t the first and I wont be the last”. At least no one I know was laid off so I’ve determined that it was on a personal level with management as to why I was let go. Since it already seemed like a pain in their ass that I was trying to better myself rather than spend 30 years on an oil field. I mean God forbid someone trying to leave the oil field right? As far as I’m concerned, they can keep their oil field and their politics. As for all my friends up there, I’ll see you at our annual BBQ’s!
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.
It’s Been A Long Battle……But it’s all about to come to and end.
As I sat with my crew, burying my face in chicken strips, mahi mahi and flank steak, we discussed the recent events that have gone on these past two days. The Dalton highway from Fairbanks to Prudoe Bay was shut down due to flooding and foul weather. Over 700 loads were backed up as well as dozens of semi trucks carrying fuel, supplies, ect. This in return caused our whole camp to shut down and only allow critical work in order to ration what fuel we had left. It was rumored to be about 3-5 days of waiting but it looks like we will be heading out tonight.
>><< Now back to the point of this blog. >><< AT&T. You bastards. We love you and we hate you. But right now we love you. In my 4 years of employment in Kuparuk, I’ve had AT&T. The sad thing is AT&T doesn’t have 4g and barely even has service. Countless hours of “can you hear me now?”, texts never sending, receiving random messages from strangers, skimming by for weeks on end with a half bar. And lets not forget my favorite “Off Network” message displayed about 98% of the time, kindly reminding you that AT&T is absolute shit up here. “Off Network”……..oh Off Network….I’ll give you “Off Network”. OH! and lets certainly not forget….”E”………..fucking “E”! >><< E stands for Edge (It’s where the 4G icon usually is but it’s absolute doodoo) >><<
Edge……….A perfect name for it, except it might as well mean the EDGE of the solar system, because that’s where “Edge” should be found. Not here. Not an hour and ten minute plane ride from civilization. Among other icons and letters, I’ve seen it all. Everything from O to its little buddy o and even “G”. What the hell is all of that anyway? Do they use the whole damn alphabet? Clearly you can sense my anger towards this problem because not more than 45 minutes away is Prudoe Bay and they have been bathing in AT&T 4g for awhile now. It cuts right off as if we were behind some microwave iron curtain, keeping Kuparuk in some late 90s primitive communication block. I am a child of the late 80s and I do know how to live without cellphones and crap but come on! This is the age of social media and being up here is already extremely secluded and cut off from your average civilization.
Cry no more.
Because as I am typing this, a little man by the name of 4G man, good guy, is standing on a ladder, patching in beautiful blue cables that will connect us to home. The brand new, smooth, sturdy cables that serve as an internet highway for messages, videos, email, everything, is finally being installed. The man installing them…well to him it’s just an average day doing what he does. He has NO IDEA that he is a Kuparuk hero. You sir, will never be forgotten. Rumor has it by end of spring, the whole field should have 4g. It’s still a ways to go……but its happening. It’s really happening.
Pre-hitch blues. That’s what I like to call my attitude for the last 48 hours of R&R. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for still having a job considering what has happened in the last few weeks. Due to price of oil, or so they say, in order for the company to stay competitive in the market, they had to do a massive lay off and out of 75 or so people, 16 of which were friends, brothers, co workers, from my crew. I’m not sure what I would do If I was one of those who ended up getting cut. There’s so much needed to be done and paid for in my life at the moment. I put myself in their shoes and I imagine it would be a lost at sea feeling. Stuck in a little boat in the middle of the night with only a small flare to signal help but no one can see and a big ass storm is approaching. It’s always tough leaving home and always thinking about the things that still need to be done. That feeling usually lasts about two or three days and then I’m in the game.
>><< Some reason my itunes duplicated some of my music, wtf >><<
One thing I look forward to is fire training. I’ll be heading down to Kenai for blue hat training. Pretty excited because I’d like to take advantage as much as possibly and hopefully volunteer locally when I’m home. Long term I’d like to be full time fire fighter here in Wasilla. Always good to have a back up plan and right now I don’t. I probably should have a back up plan for the back up plan but ef you because some of us can’t think that far ahead.
>><< I’m thinking about switching back to iphone instead of Samsung but I’m not really sure yet >><<
Praying this hitch goes by quick. They usually do but the first week always seems slow. The constant thought of “are we going to be here next week?” “are we next for a cut?” “I cant spend any freaking money because I dont know if Ill have a job in 4 months. BUY SMALL THINGS. ONLY SMALL THINGS” I wonder if the company considers the psychological effects on each individual employee and the possible chemical imbalance it might have over time. Hmm something to look into. Can I hire an undercover psychologist?
>><< Taking Back Sunday just came on, yay for singing old high school memory music while ranting. >><<
There is a routine every slope worker goes through. We like to push getting ready for work until the last minute. I still have clothes to wash from last hitch *screw you it doesnt smell because I dont sweat all gross like and no it’s not because I dont work as hard as someone else I’m just gifted ok?*
>><< P.S. Im done trying to make all my grammar correct. >><<
My routine is quite simple. I pack all my clothes and pick a good book to read. Four pairs of socks, four shirts, plenty of underwear, vitamins, bathroom junk, emergenC, a pillow case that smells like home because home is better than work, a half a billion chargers, cords, and all the crap that keeps us connected to the outside world because if it wasn’t for that I’m sure we’d all go insane *don’t give me that bullshit lecture on how shit was ran back in the day because we aren’t back in the day and yes society has fallen to technology so get over it bro*
>><< What really irritates me is the fact that my kinect on my xbox at shit the other day, now I have to turn it off the old fashion way by holding down a button. Third world country stuff >><<
Laptop is up to date, I cleaned the house as much as possible and I’m ready to get to work so I can get home. It will be nice seeing the boys (whats left of them). Always a good time when things are going smooth and we can crack a few hundred laughs. Until, pray for a phase day. I enjoy blogging to no one on a phase day.
>><< Go listen to Voxtrot – Raised By Wolves and what the hell is Tracy Chapman doing on my itunes >><<
Assembled by four scaffolders for Mother’s Day! Each letter weights about 40-50 lbs and the distance from the road was about 100 yards over uneven bumpy tundra. The sign was assembled safely for all to see!
Rough start already for the night. Heater in our truck broke and its -18 or lower. We also have a shortage in scaffold material which makes things difficult. A few personal matters are itching and being up at work doesnt make it any easier. My soul mission is to survive through the night and start a new day tomorrow. When it rains, it pours.
While I was at work, my awesome parents got a huge head start on my kitchen and got a lot of work done. It turned out rad and it’s coming along great. I still need new trim, ceiling lights, appliances and a new fire place. Can’t wait for all of it to be complete. My Dad also laid flooring in the guest bedroom.