Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The New Guy

"If there are no stupid questions, then what kind of questions do stupid people ask? Do they get smart just in time to ask questions?”

Scott Adams

I took my moral compass for a spin the other day.It started when received a new trainee. Trainees can be all kinds of fun - they are just so naive -you can tell them anything. This one is no exception. We are getting him from our IT department. Something of a promise from a departing manager. Why anyone would want to leave the safety of IT for an operations job is beyond me(Oh yeah its the money). Anyway new guy belongs to me(and the other engineers in our group) for the next year or so. Basically his job is to follow me around and do what I do. Its sort of like having a puppy except that this puppy is not cute and cuddley - he is naive and for a cynic like me, a moral dilemma.

The oil patch for all its negative points has a lot going for it workwise. There is a lot of camaraderie on the office as well as a fair bit of practical jokes played on people who are either too serious or just plain green. to some extent a thick skin is required. Practical jokes usually involve some sort of make work program or a request for some non-existent item. Which brings me to the point of my quandary.

Newguy just asked me where he can find a key to the V-Door. (A V-door is just a ramp on a drilling rig to connect the drill floor to the catwalk - there ain't no key.)
I know that someone is putting him on.
Our conversation went thus: (I'll put my thoughts in parentheses )

NG: PJ do you know where the key to the V-door is?

me: not sure. how long have you been looking for it? (this is pure fishing on my part - usually these little quests last about a few hours or so)

NG: I have been looking for one for about a month now.

Me: (holy shit is he serious...who else is in on this?). You don't say...well who have you talked to.

NG: well lets see ...the district manager, the operations manager, some of the other engineers....I emailed a few other guys as well but so far no one has replied.

At this point I can visualise the lil' angel on one shoulder and the lil' devil on the other. I could have explained to him that this was just evil prank but really after one month he could have at least googled V-door no?

I suppose you can can guess how this conversation ended...

Me: (suppressing large grin - difficult but I managed somehow) have you checked with the shop foreman? Let me talk to him for you.

NG: Gee thanks PJ.

Me: (masking the irony) Hey I'm here to help.

As I write this newguy, on advice from our shop foreman, has expanded his search to the other divisions as well as some other companies here in port. The quest could even be expanded overseas as a portion of newguys training will occur in India. I'm not sure if India is full of skyhooks, left-handed monkey wrenches, buckets of stream and of course V-door keys but I can always ask my colleague there who happens to be the man in charge over there.

I'm sure there is a special hell for oilfield workers. See you there!



Some other oilfield favorites. These pranks will only make sense if you have worked on a well site. Otherwise you can just smile politely after each paragraph.

Calibrating The Sheave - this involves placing a grease mark on a cable sheave wheel and having the new guy "calibrate cable depth by raising his left arm with every rotation and his right arm with every 5 rotation. The man on the hoist can, by carefully selecting the speed can have the new guy flapping his arms like a chicken.

Activating The Source. This involves rolling a radio-active storage container (which looks like a large beer keg - but heavier) around the wellsite to activate the neutrons inside. Not done anymore as far as I know(hse issues here). Especially fun on muddy locations.

The Hydraulic Leak - a favorite for mechanics and tool techs(especially around april 1st). Simply arrive for work 1 hour early and liberally pour hydraulic oil beneath whatever project that the mechanic was working on the day before. Sit back and enjoy a medium roast columbian whilst awaiting the screams and the sound of spanners flying across the floor.


H. Nizam said...

Hi PJ,
Interesting story.
It is always good to be back here reading your interesting writings.
I have that I would read more updates next time.

pj said...

Thats very kind of you Harry. Drop in anytime.

oigal said...

Mmmm ... I got taken as an apprentice for bloody hours on the old..

Go and see X and ask the long weight (wait) for the xxx (name of your equipment here)..

Bugger me did he make me wait!!!

pj said...


Long weight eh!? Who says work is boring? One of my old staff back home hade a special skill for attaching styrofoam cups to the tops of hard hats(used a dollop of grease) without their owners being aware. If he was successful with one then he would go for two, three or even four. Nothing makes you feel a fool more than the realisation that for the last hour or so you have been wandering the rigsite with a cup(s) stuck to your head.