The Laundryman

Anon was Indian and a laundryman. A good one. It always amazed me that he ironed my clothes everyday. Work duds to boot. I mentioned more than once that his efforts were over the top. Washed, dried, and rolled up in the laundry bag was adequate. He insisted. Not vocally, but by continuing the practice. One night, through a comedy of errors, we thought the laundry was ablaze. It looked like it. Turned out that Anon was ironing and tossed the bucket of water he used into an air-conditioner vent and fried an electric motor. When he screamed, “Fire!” The driller, Mach-mood, a Syrian, discharged a 40-pound extinguisher into the space without first looking into the room the see where Anon was. All of it. Right in Anon’s face. Anyway, during the investigation, I got to a wondering, like you are now, what the one-gallon bucket of water was for? Anon didn’t have a spritzer, so he filled his mouth from the bucket and spit it all over my shirt and pants.

One day a pusher I know toted a pressure washer and a gallon of gasoline to camp. He instructed Samir, the laundryman, to dab a bit of gas on spots of diesel-based mud on the crew’s coveralls and hose them down with the pressure washer. Samir was a thinker. He decided to just add the gasoline to a load in the washing machine. If a dab worked, a lot would work better.

dog 3He said nothing happened until he pushed the “Es-start” button. Samir looked like the first runner up in a Chihuahua look-alike contest. Hairless and dazed.

I think the laundryman is the most important person on a rig. Don’t believe me? Take two pair of underwear to work. When you don’t get a pair back in your bag, …

Do the math.

Had that happen to me once, in Saudi Arabia. I started with more than two pair, but my supply dwindled with each washing. Did you know there is a box for spare drawers? A big box, too. When I asked the cpick em 2amp boss about my missing unmentionables, he brought it to me. I used a pencil to pick though an assortment of silk speedos, (I’m Saudi mind you,) tighty-whities, and boxers.

“I don’t see ‘em,” I said and handed him the box.

He shrugged, pushed the box toward me again, and said, “This no problem, you pick.”

Educated and Ignorant

S-76 landing

Sometime after the Deepwater Horizon disaster a helicopter full of oil industry regulators, all presidential appointees, traveled from D.C. to visit the rig. The most senior person, as in position not age, rated Secret Service protection. I’ll refer to this individual as VIP, to protect the guilty.

When the chopper landed, we escorted VIP and company from the heliport into a conference room for a short safety orientation–rig ops, location of lifeboats and the types of alarms and their meanings, that sort of thing. VIP took a seat, politely coughed, then placed clasped hands on the table and looked around the room. We held our collective breaths—me as the companyman, the toolpusher, the captain, the drilling manager, and various corporate uppity-ups who had arrived the day before to hobnob with the elite—and waited for some profound adage that would carry the day. After all, this person worked for the president. Has to be the smartest of the smart. Then, VIP sighed and said, “Where is the minority and women representation?”

Now, I ask you, who looks at people that way? Who looks at a group of human beings, picks out every man who is not white, all females no matter their color, and assumes those individuals have been dealt a bad hand and both deserve and would accept a leg up?

We have women on the rig. Some are black. Some are white. One is, like, brown. She’s a Filipina. We have black men, too—drillers, assistant drillers, toolpushers, 1st mates, crane operators, roustabouts and chefs. You name them. They are crew members, part of the team. When someone asks me about my crew, I don’t say, “I’ve got 42 white guys, 6 Mexicans, 18 blacks, 4 women, and 1 Thai, but he was born in Texas.”

The men of color I work with are men. The women are women. To assume they need or deserve anything other than what they earn by toting their fair share of the load for 12 hours everyday is an insult to them. Just like it would be to me.

Imagine this scenario.

Ralph walked up to Bob and held out a C-note.

Bob glanced at the bill, then looked at Ralph. “What’s that for?”

Ralph shrugged. “Well, you’re black, so I just assumed ….”

Comments like VIP’s are just as insulting and ignorant.

Glamor and Flying


During a recent visit with a cousin she mentioned how glamorous it must be to fly to so many different countries. I’ve never thought of flying that way. If you watch travel commercials or listen to celebs, you might get that impression.

This old roughneck has traveled all over the world stuffed into the economy section in the back of the plane with the rest of the peasants. Stand in line, wait to get on, wait to get off, numb behind, sore neck, internal clock messed up like a run over lizard, and wondering what planet I just landed on. After 12 hours, all 467 people cooped up in a 747 need a shower. The cabin smells like an outhouse doused in British Sterling cologne.

You might ask, “Why economy?” The simple answer: there’s nothing cheaper.

I walked to the back of a line in Frankfurt one time, and the man in front of me turned and said, “Thank God!”

I said, “For what?”

He said, “I’m not the last one in line anymore.”

Real funny.

Roughneck types change planes in tourist destinations like London, Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, Vienna, Amsterdam, Hong Kong and Singapore, then fly on to airportPakistan, Yemen, India, Tunisia, Nigeria, Angola, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Oman and Iraq.

I’ve never sat next to newlyweds who shared honeymoon pictures of their stay in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

“Oh, yeah, this is Darla and me next to the rainbow roundabout in Dammam. The picture really doesn’t do it justice. And again here, near the Shula Mall where they behead folks on Friday afternoon after church. We almost got to see one. Oh, look, Darla, remember this picture from the newspaper when you went swimming in a bikini and attracted 10,000 Arab men to the beach? That was a time, I’ll tell ya. We nearly swam to Bahrain before we could get out of the water.”

A kid says, “I get to go to Paris.”

A driller says, “I have to go to Muscat.”