Volume 11, Monday, September 20, 2009
I've been in El Dorado, Arkansas, working a “Turnaround” at the Lion Oil Refinery. This is day 56 working safety and the rain we've been drenched in for the last two weeks has finally relented enough to let the sunrise through. This morning, I even saw a few stars before daybreak.
[Note: for those “out of the loop” I've been working seven days a week, 12 hours a day since July and haven't had time for “Da Bleat” or any other “hobbies.”]
It's been cool this morning and the sunbeam shining on my shirt feels good at present. But the forecast for this afternoon is near 90F with about 100% humidity, so I'll be avoiding the sun's direct rays this afternoon.
Watching my coworkers gather in groups to begin the day, with smiles that the rain has let up for a while, reminds me that life on earth is often a balance between extremes ... Cold vs Hot, Hate vs Love, Life vs Death. “Civilized” man has worked to smooth out the bumps, but our climate controlled lives can leave us ill adapted to face adversity.
But here in the construction world, men and women do their jobs, in rain and sun, hot and cold. Michael Yon gauges troops morale by the amount of griping soldiers do. Lots of griping means morale is good. By that gauge, moral here is “outstanding.”
Here, “picking” on one another has been refined to an Olympic sport. To an outsider, our break and lunch times might seem like a mental “blood feast” of friendly bickering and complaining. Folks with sensitive personalities need not apply for these jobs.
However, we're all tired. Long hours, day after day take their toll. We're all suffering with minor colds and/or coughs, muscle aches and other ailments that are primarily the result of too little rest. Of course being hemmed up with the same crowd of folks day after day helps spread “kindergarten” type illnesses back and forth.
Working like this, you develop a “family” mentality with your coworkers. But the nature of large construction projects is to disolve the group every few months as the workers move on to other jobs. So you can't really develop long lasting friendships, just long lasting memories.
“On the road” construction work has a rhythm to it that most “outside” folks never experience. I've had to reprogram myself to enjoy these short term friendships that will probably not be renewed in the future.
Oops. It's time to hit the hay for another day. Hope to get back in “Da Bleat” rhythm next month.
James F. “Bug” McClellan