A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about starting a new job in Dickinson, North Dakota. I thought that it was going to be one of the best jobs that I ever had, because the company was enthusiastic about my previous work experience in several different areas that they happened to be looking for.
Because I am in my late forties, have had many jobs, and have worked for about seven companies in Dickinson, I knew that there could be complications and obstacles at work. I was mentally and emotionally prepared for things to not go well at work. I was especially expecting to experience hostility and lack of cooperation from the local North Dakotan co-workers, like always.
I had offered to drive my own personal truck to get to the work location two hours away. I was doing this so that the company would not have to find a truck for me, but also so that I would not be entirely at the mercy of others, at a work location two hours from Dickinson. When I arrived at work at 3:45 a.m. on a Monday morning, after waiting 45 minutes for my work manager to arrive, and he did not arrive, I was informed that he would not be in all this week.
The crane truck that was supposed to be at the work location, was here in Dickinson, and I would have to drive it. I was told the keys were in it, I was already late, to get in it and go. I got my personal work equipment bag and my hotel bag for the week out of my own truck and carried them to the crane truck.
The crane truck had spoiled food in a take-out box on the dashboard, all kinds of other garbage on the dashboard, all kinds of garbage on the seat, and on the floor boards. It was dark outside, but looking out the back window of the truck cab, I could see a metal gas can unsecured on top of the right side tool box. I got out of the crane truck and walked to the rear of the truck, on the back bumper, below the level of the rear deck, were two 35 lb buckets of grease, that would have fallen off on the highway. I was very angry about all of this.
I felt like I was being set up to get fired, by my piece of shit North Dakota co-workers, but I realized that it was more likely stupidity that caused the crane truck to be an accident waiting to happen for the next person who drove this truck. I was angry that any company would start a new employee out like this, I sure wouldn’t.
I went back in to the office to inform them that the keys were not in the crane truck. After about twenty minutes, they were able to find an employee who had the keys. As this employee was removing all of the keys that were needed from his key ring, he was saying that a major piece of equipment on the crane truck was not working, that would be needed. Some things were said by a manager along the lines of, it’s not my problem.
I had had about as much as I could take. Everything in my mind was telling me to say to this company, “Hey, that’s O.K., I don’t want to work here.” I now believed that I had made a mistake, and the best thing for me to do now, was to not spend another minute at this company. If I would have gotten in that crane truck and gone, I could have caused an accident on the highway and gotten someone hurt with all the things that were ready to fall off the truck. I didn’t know what else was wrong with this truck, was the boom locked down, was the other rigging locked down, what was my clearance height?
I had not been given any drive maps, work site location, work orders, work contacts, hotel information, fuel credit card for the crane truck, hydrogen sulfide H2S monitor, or been asked if I had all of my mandatory personal safety equipment. They just wanted me to go. I was getting a very bad impression of the company, and I believed that this is what the company was like, no thought, planning, preparation, care, concern, or accountability.
If anything went wrong, they would just blame me, and I thought that they were setting me up to fail. I wanted so bad to quit right then, to spare myself from the blame of everything going wrong, which everything would likely go wrong. If I would have known that I would have had to drive this crane truck, there was plenty of time on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday for me to inspect and check this crane truck, and the equipment on this truck, when there was day light.
If the crane truck would have been low on fuel, this might have been the last straw. I considered whether I was willing to spend my own money to fuel this truck, rather than deal with the people in the office, who weren’t prepared to provide me with anything.
I left the company yard being more angry, than nervous about driving a very large truck, which I hadn’t driven anything this large for six years. At about 6:00 a.m., I telephoned my co-worker that I was supposed to meet at the work location. I could tell from his voice that he was from the South like me. I was relieved that I would not be working with a North Dakotan.
When I got to the work location at about 7:30a.m., I talked to the man who I would be working with. He was my age. He had worked in the oil field for most of his life, so had his father, and his grandfather. He was very knowledgeable about most areas of oil field work and operations. He looked at the piece of equipment on the crane truck that was broken, and he said that there was very little we could do without this piece of equipment working. He said we would take his truck back to Dickinson.
During the two hour drive back to Dickinson, I had the chance to talk to my co-worker from the South. He explained to me why the company was, the way that it was. He explained that he tries to handle everything, and take care of everything on his own. To not rely on the office in Dickinson, to handle everything himself, as much as possible. As long as work gets done, and the work makes money, he is allowed to operate on his own, without much interference. This is the only way he wants to work.
After getting parts in Dickinson, I was able to drive my own personal truck back to the work location. In the next two days, I worked in the oil field with my co-worker, who was in charge of the work because of his four or five year work relationship with the customer, and because of his many more years work experience in the oil field. On about the third day, my co-worker began leaving me on my own, to go do other things. By the end of the first week, I was working on my own for most of the day.
I was a little angry, that I was having to do all of the work by myself, I didn’t think that I was supposed to be doing everything by myself all the time. On the other hand, I was being left alone, left in charge of the work, and I was not being bothered. After a few days of working with my co-worker, I had told him that I had been a foreman, a superintendent, a project manager, an inspector, and had operated my own construction business. Because of my age, my work experience, and working with me, my co-worker believed that I did not need any supervision or help, and that he could be elsewhere, doing other things.
What my co-worker wanted, and I suppose what I want too, is to be left alone to do your work. To not get phone calls where people are quizzing you about work progress and work details. To not have people pushing you to get more work done. To not have other people trying to tell you how to do the work, what you are doing wrong, and trying to direct everything you do, like you are not capable of directing yourself.
In order to get work done, I have chosen to work on many bad weather days, rainy days, and high wind days. There is a prohibition against performing certain operations when the wind is over thirty miles per hour, but I have done it anyway, because about 30% of the time there have been high winds. This is possibly another reason why my co-worker has decided to be elsewhere doing other things. If I get caught performing certain operations when the wind is over thirty miles per hour, it is better for my co-worker and my company to deny any knowledge of this, that no one knew that I was doing this, to let me take the blame, and for me to get fired. I understand that if the work does not get completed, my company can not get paid, and my co-worker and I can not get paid unless we work every day completing the work.
There are a lot of dangerous things that I have to do many times each day, that are just part of this work. Every location that I go to has multiple surveillance cameras which are monitored at an operations center. If the customer wanted to, they could watch every step that I performed, all day long. Every location has SCADA systems, supervisory control and data acquisition systems, which monitor and send oil and gas flow rates, oil and gas pressures, oil and gas temperatures, valve positions, electric motor speeds, electric motor loading, and probably perimeter breach. Every location that I go to and begin work, causes the operations center to receive alarms for drop in flow rates, drop in pressure, stop in motor load, and stop in motor speed. The multiple alarms result in the operations center looking at the surveillance cameras for that location to determine what is going on at that location. Because each location cost many millions of dollars, I get watched at each location by the people at the operations center. Many people do not know this or think about this, but they should.
I have about two or three more weeks of out of town work, then, as far as I know, I will be working out of the Dickinson office. I don’t know how this will go, or if I can handle this or not. I don’t know if I can take the lack of cooperation, unfriendliness, and unhelpfulness that I always get from North Dakota co-workers. The past three weeks my co-worker from the South has been cordial and has let me work on my own. The customer oil company personnel have been very civil and decent so far. I don’t know if I can take what is going to happen when I go back to Dickinson.