Recently someone shared a tag on Facebook of a very old post of one of those drunk party nights (which I ‘honestly’ do not remember). Looking back to the day I started my first hostel, I was amazed it has already been 7 years now, converting a residential building to a double story commercial building, crafting hostel concepts, going on the streets of Georgetown shouting and banging drums to attract customers, all the way to being listed as the top 3 hostels in Penang. What a journey it has been.
Looking back now, I realised the big jump I made, defying the advice of my parents and my closest friends. You see, I graduated as a Chemical Engineer in a local university and my friends somehow managed to convince me that there were lines and lines of beautiful girls working in factories ( Very Innocent Back then), so I joined BOSCH as a Quality Engineer. (totally unrelated to my profession). But I managed to somehow convince the German General Manager then to hire me. I was earning RM 2XXX which was pretty good for a starting salary back in 2004. If I am not mistaken, the highest salary for engineers was RM 3XXX working in a SemiConductor company. After 6 months, of learning how to piss people off by finding fault in every single power tool, and realising that my friends taste in women were TOTALLY different from mine. (Apparently they must love older women, because I swear the women in the production line was double my age). I saw an advertisement for a position as a MUD ENGINEER. I didnt have a clue what the job was about, but I assumed it would be fun because I saw online of HOW MUCH FUN it was at Boryeong Mud Festival ! You know, I was already closing my eyes and imagining I was the lucky guy in the middle of this picture below.
But when I opened my eyes to reality, this was what I saw…..
Don’t get me wrong, I mean I still get to play and be covered with mud.
I rubbed my eyes and blinked for the longest time ever, then opened my eyes again …..
Imagine being stuck with 150 of these hunky men on a boat in the middle of the ocean thats about 4 football fields big, having to WORK, SHOWER, SLEEP, REPEAT for 1 month.
So ladies? Any of you would like to join the oil field now?
Looking back, I have no regrets joining the oil field. In fact, it has thought me so many things that has helped me become a better person I am today. One of my closest friends from the oil field once told me that the Oil Rig is designed to have the most efficient systems around due to the Drilling Rig’s high operating costs and that it runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year Non-Stop.
While working on the Drilling Rigs, I have learned to be
- Independent and highly adaptable. Depending on the position and nature of your job, there are times when you will be working as a group and there are times when you are working alone for many hours (we call them Lone Workers). Each of us will have a designated task that we have to complete on time. While working in a team, majority of times your teammates will be come from various countries. Working as a team and overcoming the cultural differences is always a challenge. To ensure good communication, meetings and job debriefs are regularly inserted into our tasks (multilingual). We are trained to use a question and answer when confirming if they understand instructions. Instead of saying “Do you understand?”, we use “Could you please explain to me, what did I just say”. This way of repeating answers will solidify the persons understanding of the question.
- Most of the time, I am travelling alone. In most cases, you will have to arrange your own travel itinerary and also trouble shoot any problems along the way. This includes things like, what if you are late to the airport and miss your flight? (worse if it is international and has a connecting flight). Do you buy another ticket? Do you tell your boss? I remember spending so much extra time with my girlfriend one time that I missed my flight. I ended up taking a cramped mini van for 6 hours, sleeping in a whorehouse full of mirrors because all hotels were full, just to get to work. But ill leave that for another story.
- You are responsible for getting your ‘Drunk Ass’ to the helibase on time and in good ‘functioning’ condition. Normally the company will require you to fly to the city/port where the crew change will happen a day before the exchange. This is to ensure that you are ‘FULLY RESTED” and are not rushing to the helibase. Crew changes are when you come off the rig for your off days and your relief will take your place. Usually your relief will head to the rig first before you get on the return chopper. This is to avoid cases when your relief doesn’t turn up for work. In most cases if this happens, you will then have to stay back till the office sends you another relief.
Drinking like its the last day on earth
Nine out of ten times, the helicopter flight times are extremely early in the mornings (you will have to wake up at 3am for a 6am flight) and most Oil Rig Workers tend to go all out at the bars because they see it as their last night of freedom before being locked up dry on the rig. Rule of thumb for a green pass on the breathalyzers would be to allow yourself to rest 7 hours before flight time. Most drilling rigs nowadays have breathalyzers and urine tests for alcohol and drug abuse. I have seen cases where people turn up to the helibase either drunk or slightly tipsy, only to be barred completely from the drilling rig for good. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
- Packing your own bags for 1 month. Easy as it may sound, but there is actually a INTENSE technique to it. As each site is isolated, you will have to make sure you have all the essentials like spare contact lens, contact lens liquids, facial care items, tooth brush and any medication that you need, all packed into a carry size suit case.
- Planning and lookahead. As operations are constantly running so fast, the one thing you need to learn fast here is to always have “Backups, of Backups for the Backup”. What this means is that, for every piece of equipment or any plans that you have, you need to make sure that there is a PLAN B and PLAN C if PLAN A fails. By systematically planning this far ahead, it serves as perfect training for your mind to be alert and constantly aware of activities and “What Ifs” that can happen. Examples of ‘What Ifs” that we constantly ask ourselves is “What if, the job doesn’t go as planned?” or “What happens if the supply boat is delayed due to weather, will we have sufficient food for the rig, and if so, how long can the food last?”.
- Not to be fussy about food. On offshore installations, the company provides 5 meals a day. So to all the mothers out there, do not worry about your son being skinny and underfed. Most likely if he doesn’t work out, he would end up obese!. There are usually a healthy selection of vegetables, cereal, meat and carbohydrates. Some rigs have such good food, that it is almost like a restaurant.
- Sleep on a helicopter. Firstly, after being forced to wake up at 3am. I am then being cramped into a van for 1 hour then have to wait at the waiting room for another 2 hours before taking a gruelling 1-2 hour flight. On top of that all, if I am on the day shift, chances are I have to put slap my face hard to keep awake as I drag through the 12 hour shift. So I have trained myself to fall asleep in even the most awkward situations.
After writing the list above, I do not regret about joining the oilfield at all.
In the next posting I was planning to give out the dirty secrets of Oil field workers. Things that we do not want our girlfriends or wives to know. Like this page and let me know if I should write the article.