My first job as a roustabout for an oil production company was a great experience. Even though it ended abruptly, I never pursued justice but instead turned my focus to finding another job. Being single again, there was no second income to fall back on, and a J-O-B was what I needed F-A-S-T. Despite the fact that my degree was in office administration, the thought of working in an office again did not appeal to me. I drove an hour to Canal Street in New Orleans to the big parent oil company to apply for a job offshore. Offshore? Yep. That’s right. I applied for a job out on a drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
I had convinced myself that it would be an adventure to be out there surrounded by nothing but water for miles and miles. I convinced myself that I was not afraid of fire breaking out and having to jump into the shark-laden Gulf of Mexico and hope to be rescued before I became fish fodder. The helicopter rides or boat rides in rough seas required to get to and from work every week had not even crossed my mind. I assured myself that I would have my own room and bathroom and certainly would not be required to share with a bunch of dirty, greasy men.
Ignorance is bliss, unless you’re talking about the oilfield. Lucky for me, before I could sign on this dotted line, I was called in to talk to a “company man” about my desire to go offshore. Very sternly he asked, “Why do you want to work offshore?” And the truth was, I didn’t have a good answer. I never considered myself a women’s libber, but I guess to some people that is exactly what I was. My internal attitude was never one of proving I was as good as, equal to, or better than a man. I just didn’t have that chip on my shoulder. Looking back, I’m sure he must have wondered what I was trying to prove.
My answer to his question was simply because I needed a job. I explained how I had been unfairly fired from my job as a roustabout at their production dock. I explained that he could ask my boss what a good job I had been doing. Simple as that. (“Sexual discrimination” had not yet become buzzwords; but in hindsight, I have to wonder if he saw the potential for a lawsuit?)
His next words come to me now as though he spoke them yesterday. “You do NOT want to go offshore. Believe me.” It didn’t occur to me back then that this guy figured out who I was by my last name on the application, which was the same as my ex-father-in-law’s, who probably had an office down the hall. Even though I was divorced, maybe he felt he would be held responsible for anything that might happen to me out there. Maybe he just didn’t want my working offshore to become coffee-pot conversation between himself and my ex-father-in-law. Whatever his motivation, it was to my benefit.
He picked up the phone, dialed a number, and spoke with authority to the guy on the other end.
“Hey, this is Gary Haynes at Offshore Drilling. How many hands you got working down there? Uh huh. You got a weak hand? Good. Let him go. This is his last hitch. I got you a new night dispatcher starting next week. Thanks. Bye.” Click.
And just like that, I had miraculously landed a better job than the one Timmy fired me from just days before. Of all the places Mr. Haynes could have put me in coastal Louisiana, he sent me back to the same bayou. Only this time, I would be working at the drilling dock rather than the production dock, and there would be no physical labor. I felt vindicated and victorious that my arch nemesis had not won this war after all. The drilling dock was across the bayou and a little further down, and it would be a very, very long time before I saw the likes of Timmy again.
That victorious smirk was soon wiped right off my face by a bad turn of events. While on the way to pick up my final paycheck at Coastal Welding, my new Buick Regal and I were involved in a two-car collision. My car suffered a driver’s side crash, and I suffered a bad case of whiplash.
There was no way I was not going to show up for my new job. With my car in the shop and a very stiff neck, I somehow hitched a ride to my new job. The morning of my arrival, there were two young men standing on the office steps, watching me. As I pulled my duffel out of the trunk, I heard one of them ask, “Who’s the blond chick?” I never heard the answer, because Mr. Freddie opened the door at that instant, barking orders, the guys scattered like rats.
Oh boy, I thought, this must be my new boss and this is going to be interesting, never once thinking that these guys might not want me as their co-worker, either.