I remember wanting to quit from the oil field for a long time. I think it would be fun to write the story and kind of the setting of things, at least how I remembered them. Memory is an imperfect creature of course, and we’re always biased to show ourselves in the best of light while highlighting the wrongs done to us at an exaggerated level.
Still, I think it be fun to write about. Maybe make this into a two-part little series of how I defeated the Crude God (get it? Crude oil? Har.)
When I was 18 and graduated high school, I really had nowhere to go but into the field. I didn’t have any money, no college fund, and I thought college was pretty much an overpriced information product anyhow. The oil field was never suppose to be more than a 12 month thing for me and it stretched over 10 years with me off and on back in it. I had all these naive dreams of being an entrepreneur, of making a ton of money, showing my friends what I could do.
I realize looking back on it, that a portion of my desire to be an entrepreneur was to prove to my friends the concept of the “Self Made Man”. I loved this concept, probably because my father was one. He grew up on a rural farm in Missouri, worked hard and became an incredibly successful entrepreneur. While I’ve always wanted to be the “next level” to my father and grow my strength in business, there was another desire pushing me forward.
That desire is something I imagine every hormone infused teenager boy wants: validation.
Not from my parents, but from my friends. I grew up in a circle of friends obsessed with music, liberty spike mohawks, dungeons and dragons mixed with beer and whiskey, underground concerts in some shithole pizzeria downtown, and a very stereotypical negative view on business. They had all the common tropes:
I actually have one friend, still friends with him today, that views buying ANYTHING new from a store as being scammed. He thinks this because that business is making money off him for selling him a product, so they’re manipulating him. I always thought he must be so depressed thinking that he himself is incredibly manipulative. After all, if Best Buy is manipulating him to buy a video game, what must he feel like getting paid to work for a company where is “making money” off that company?
I imagine he practices a lot of cognitive dissonance like most people who hold the views above.
The logic of the above I’ve always found some disrespectful to logic and intelligence. My friends weren’t dumb, they were all for the most part incredibly smart. Yet, they bought into basically propaganda.
Propaganda exists on the other side of the spectrum too for sure. I’ve seen it first hand when I was briefly an Ayn Randian drone (I still like a lot of her philosophy, but most of it I find too extreme nowadays, her fiction is top notch outside of Atlas Shrugged though. She tried too hard in that one. Here’s my favorite book written by Ayn Rand.)
It’s funny, for how “counter-culture” my friends tried to act, they weren’t breaking any kind of mold at all.
They were glued themselves to stereotypes of their own genre of people and even mainstream culture. After all, most did end up going to college which at least in the USA I view as a super oversold idea. I’ll probably do a post ranting about the college advertising machine at some later point, but I think it’s super wasteful and even harmful for some people to go to college (from a financial perspective) in the USA.
Many people would had much better lives if they just never had went and never have all that debt to pay back.
So most of my friends viewed me as super weird, capitalist pig, and an idiot for my views on college. I would tell them about making money online, even when I was 18, and they would say noway. You can’t do it. No one makes $10k per month. It was such an insane logic. How could you say no one makes $10k per month? You KNOW there are engineers, bankers, and doctors doing way more than that.
What is funny, $10k seemed like a lot to me back then. It seemed IMPOSSIBLE to my friend group at the time, all of us working our $7-10 an hour jobs. A little later I would get heavy into personal development and books about wealth creation. Soon, I didn’t view $10k as that much and looked at $30k per month to be a reasonable amount to earn per month.
Nowadays I view $30k as a kind of common amount among successful digital entrepreneurs and I just recently met a guy doing well over a million per month with a dropshipping “side hustle” of his. To me, $30k is still plenty enough per month, I just recognize it is really small in the grand scheme of things of looking at successful entrepreneurs. Of course, I make nowhere near that, but I don’t derive my happiness from how much goes into my bank account as long as it’s always “enough” to have fun, I’m fine.
While my friends went to college, I joined the oil field.
I remember the first day of being up on the North Slope in Alaska. We called the oil field up there “the slope” for slang because the Brooks Mountain Range “sloped” down to the ocean creating large swathes of flat tundra. My interview of how I got the job was pretty hilarious. I had went to ten different interviews in a tux jacket (I didn’t own a suit, and assumed you had to wear a suit to an interview when I was 18) and finally I got an interview purely on my dad having a real estate client who worked for Halliburton. The guy helped me out to get an interview to become a sample catcher (basically a glorified gold panning dude, only instead of gold you collect rocks and clean them for a geologist).
Here’s a picture of a sample catcher:
That’s actually probably a mud logger, someone the sample catcher works for. That pile of rock and mud you see behind him is what I would collect, clean with a water hose and bring the sparkling rocks back to the geologist. Then he would examine it to make sure the drill bit was going through the right geologic formations as part of the drill plan.
Anyhow, I was super nervous about this interview. I didn’t wear a tux this time, thankfully I had learned that was stupid. Instead, I thought that a good applicant should know A LOT about the company. So I read all about the history of Halliburton, how Earl started the whole thing and all the different product lines the company had (including a very random product line of selling tupperware that Earl’s wife had started). Of course when I got to the interview, I never got grilled on the corporate history of the company.
Why I thought I would, I’ll never be sure. I’m a smart guy, but I’m pretty dumb in some settings haha.
The interview lasted about 5 minutes.
He looked like a used car salesman with a gold chain dangling around his wrist and a tropical button short sleeve shirt on. He asked me, “So your name is Greg?”
I said yes.
He asked, “Do you have a valid driver’s license?”
I said yes and handed him it.
“Ah, you just got this like two weeks ago? Well, you haven’t had enough time to ruin your record yet. You’ll be traveling to Kenai for cold water safety survival training on Wednesday.”
I said okay. I waited for a second and then said is there anything else?
“Nope. Welcome aboard.”
So much for my preparation.
I spent the next week going through 8 hours of safety training class. It was a mixture of boredom and complete horror. I had to watch tapes of offshore oil rigs blowing up, catching on fire, twisted molten metal suffocating entire crews like in Piper Alpha’s explosion. Or I had to watch a short clip explaining the tragedy of Ocean’s Ranger, a Canandian offshore oil rig that at one time was hailed as the “titanic” of oil rigs for how nice it was. Everyone on that oil rig died when a freak ocean storm came and turned the oil rig upside down into the ocean like some angry hand of Poseidon swiping up from its cold blue depths. There was no real safety gear back then when that one happened, especially no cold water survival training, and so everyone froze to death or drowned or a combo of both.
My dad would later tell me he actually got hired to go on that rig. But he turned it down for another oil rig that was in Alaska even though it paid less all because he didn’t want to fly out to Canada every two weeks. Glad he did. No idea if his tour of duty would’ve included the part where the oil field flipped, but if it had, I wouldn’t be here since it was before I was born when my dad got the offer.
On top of all this traumatic information of a 100+ ways to die on an oil rig, I also learned another sample catcher who had been my age had just lost the lower half of his body on an oil rig up on the Slope. It was a freak accident. The pit room was full of mist when he went to collect his sample, someone had left a grate open and he fell into an augur beneath the shaker machine since he couldn’t see. The augur did an emergency stop but not before it pinched off the lower half of his body. Luckily, the augur kept the kid’s upper half organs tucked inside of him, otherwise they would’ve slid out and he just would’ve died instantly.
I’ve met the geologist who was on duty when this happened. She told me she could hear the screams coming from the pit (about 50 feet up i an enclosed building) all the way down in her trailer.
They taught us this story as an example of accidents that could’ve been avoided following good safety guidelines:
Simple stuff often saves legs and lives in the oil field. Too bad a lot of the oil workers can get pretty impatient with these common sense nuggets of wisdom that slow their work down.
From what I understand, the kid sued the oil company and got a big settlement about a year before he committed suicide.
After the traumatic PTSD inducing informational lectures, my entire class grouped up by a swimming pool that had a fake helicopter in the middle of it. We swam out to it, and got in. This was to act as a helicopter crashing into the arctic ocean (by the way, the safety video of surviving a helicopter crash mentioned that the most important aspect of surviving a crash was luck!). We had to knock open the helicopter window, and then swim out from underneath the sinking helicopter before pulling the inflate cords on our life jackets. They said not to use your legs while swimming as you might get kick someone else in the face and knock them out in the panic.
I can’t open my eyes under the water.
Just can’t. I’ve tried but my eyes are wimps.
I memorized where the window was next to me and its shape. Helicopter lifted up and started turning upside down. Water filled up all around us with a bubbling intensity, the water line slicing ever upwards and devouring. The guy next to me started freaking out. Boom. We’re underwater. Eyes closed. I take off my seatbelt and can feel the guy next to me do the same.
Then I feel him kick me in the head as he spearheads his way through the window he pushed. That kick launched me to the otherside of the helicopter and knocked my air out. I remember cussing in the water. I found the still intact window on the other side, punched it out and got out of the pool. That guy that freaked out how had to redo the helicopter three times to get over his panic (instructor forced him, said it was important to learn to be in control). Fortunately, I was the only one kicked.
A few months later I would work in the oil fields in Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the first time I had been in anything resembling a helicopter since the training. I got in and saw that these helicopter windows were incredibly small. There is noway I could fit through it. Then I got stuck on a passenger seat in between two HUGE good ol’ boys, each probably weighing over 300lbs easy.
It was that moment that I knew, as we hovered across the ocean to the rig, if something went wrong… I was completely fucked.
I did what any reasonable man would do and I slept the entire way to the oil rig.
Spoiler alert: I passed the cold water safety survival training program.
It was week after the class finished that I wound up on my first oil rig in the far white north of Alaska. It was still mid summer and the snow had yet to come.
I remember the guy who picked me up in the truck looked like an insanely creepy man, and later I realized he was an insanely creepy man who had earned himself the nickname of “Spanky”.
The tundra was a long stretch of wasteland, dust moving through the fierce winds coming off the arctic ocean. The place reminded me of what small towns in Blade Runner might look like. Huge warehouses dotting the landscape, industrial towers and knots of pipework connecting across the spans of miles, with smaller knuckles of pipe offshooting into random buildings. There were camps the size of a small town, filled with their own 5-star chefs producing food at breakneck speed for the endless cornucopia-filled buffet that was served to the roughnecks and engineers.
I got to my room, placed my bag on the ground and laid down in my bed, already covered in dust and feeling some grit in my teeth from the tundra summer winds. I called my grandma on my cell phone and she picked it up. I was nervous, scared and didn’t like where I had ended up. This place was full of a kind of person I would eventually come to enjoy hanging out with, the rough and tough blue collar workers, hard as nails and as loyal as the best guard dog (if you’re on their good side that is). Of course, many were also just complete assholes that were like biological tanks with biceps the size of my head, those ones I tried to avoid conversation with completely.
I told my grandma that I hated it. She instantly sympathized. After all, she had worked in these very oil fields as a housekeeper for the camps for years and years. She absolutely despised the place. She told me to quit, that I could get another job. I don’t remember exactly what she said I could do if I quit, I believe it was some random low paying job or industry. I thought about what she said, I came close to quitting.
But then I though… no.
As I said goodbye to her and laid there, thinking about my dad and how he had done this, I steeled myself and decided to stay.
What would I be if I ran away from something I didn’t like without ever trying to overcome it?
So with a stoicism that would grow as I grew older, I slept in that bed until Spanky woke me up at midnight to start my first day on the rig collecting dirt fr an alcoholic geologist who had a penchant for buying $1,000+ expensive geological rock formations off eBay.
I’ll write part two soon. Or maybe not. I’m forgetful like that. Hope you enjoyed the story of my life and this fun freestyle rambling of mine. It’s good to just write something in a meandering fashion not caring for any kind of structure.
Besides, almost no one is reading this. If you are reading this, make sure to find an affiliate link on this blog and buy something.. if I ever actually update this blog with more than just a link to Ayn Rand’s book on Amazon that is haha.
A writer, traveler and a network marketer - Gregory Elfrink owns the GreginMotion.com brand as well as a few other websites. If you are currently in network marketing and are unhappy with your company, you can click here to work with him personally.
Speaking at the CMSEO2017 Conference