This is the oilfield

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It took everything I had to get to Fairview, Montana, 1,900 miles from home, and once I arrived it was not as promised. Some of it was good. Some of it was not so good.

The contracts needing fulfilling have not started. I was told they were not going start until the 8th, a full week later than I was told before coming up here. Two days later I’m told that they were pushed back to the 15th and when I spoke with the brokers myself on Monday I discovered they would not start until the 21st.

In the meantime my prospective employer does me a “favor” by lining up work with his relatives hauling beets for $18 an hour. I talk to one of them who says he’ll “keep it off the books.” That he and his three brothers would each cut me checks to keep the payments under $600, the legal limit for a 1099, and if I needed gas or tires or whatever I could charge it to his account downtown.

This may sound like a fair deal but it is outlaw trucking and it is one of the worst possible positions a legitimate driver can find themselves in. It is a trap. Money is often withheld on promise of payment. Gas and meals are charged back to your account at double the rate. There is no legal recourse in these situations because you are invisible and they most often end with the driver walking away.

It is modern slavery and it is more common than you’d think.

I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s not the first time I’ve had to deal with bait and switch and outlaw trucking and because of that I’m careful and always ready to bail within minutes because it can be dangerous. It is always stressful and rarely profitable.

Monday I talked with my employer. I was polite but firm and persuasive. I made it 100% clear that I would not be driving outlaw for his cousin or anyone else. I let him know I had already made some calls to the broker in charge of the contract he is on and was given the dates and rates. Then I told him I would continue to make calls to people and companies I know here to line up real work for his truck and suggested some sources for him to call as well.

An hour later he calls back with a fresh contract from one of my sources, a company that I’ve worked with before that knows and respects me. The contract pays $110 an hour. I’ll get 25% of that. Not the best money but not bad given the circumstances.

More than that it’s a good contract that will probably last until just before Christmas with people I trust. People that will see to it that I get paid.

Like I said, I’ve been doing this a long time. I know the rules. And I make a horrible victim.

This is not unusual. It’s business as usual and I’m used to it, as much as a person can get used to things like this.

It’s the world I am working so hard to leave behind. I think you can begin to see why.

Here’s the good parts:

Most importantly, I’ll leave here debt free and with enough banked to upgrade the Caravan and buy some time to focus on writing.

I have a home to return to. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that.

The camper I paid $560 dollars for is now in livable condition. It’s not complete yet but the majority of the work is done. Windows have been taped and sealed with plastic and boarded where needed. It’s air tight. Roof is sealed. Cushions are replaced. Wood oiled. New carpet. It’s small but solid and actually quite comfortable and easy to heat and I will make a decent profit from the sale when I’m done with it.

The truck I’ll be driving for work is in good condition and the trailer is excellent quality.

The new boss owns an RV Park outside of Fairview where I am parked for free. I won’t be signing any rental agreement. There is a very nice community building on site with laundry, showers, big screen, and more all in new condition.

The new boss is not a bad man. He does not have bad intentions. Its just the way things are done out here. There are too few of us who refuse those ways and that’s why they persist.

He drives the school bus for his young children. Is involved in the community. He spent the extra money to make a comfortable place for his employees to live. That’s a rare thing.

He was afraid of losing a driver because of the delays and thought he could help his relatives by putting me in a bind while he waited for his contracts to begin. I am certain his relatives can use the help but I’m a hard man to bind up.

There is no way he could know I am as resourceful and determined as I am until he did what he did and no way for me to know this would happen without coming here. It’s always a bit of a gamble because I can’t always fix a bad situation. I’m grateful that I did this time.

No, he is not a bad man.

This is the oilfield.

Victories

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I’m feeling a little defeated right now. I’m bruised and bloody. But I’m not beaten.

I had a three day pity party with all the usual guests; disappointment, failure, rage, grief, depression. We all commiserated and growled and grumbled and shed tears in our rum and then I sent them packing. Each with a hug and a “Thank you for coming.”

Now it’s time for a victory.

That starts with me.

First, a long walking meditation to silence the remnants of that black balloon affair where I logged their complaints and handled them lovingly.

They are not me, just my thoughts, and they deserve my attention and compassion, but not my life.

Then I sent out feelers to a few companies up north. Yes, back in the oilfield. It’s not where I want to be but it’s the one place I know, without a doubt, that I can get a job pretty much on demand with pay that is considerably more than I can make here. Maybe I mentioned this before, Mobile has some of the lowest driver rates in the nation. Barely enough to live on. Not nearly enough to pursue my goals. Right now I’m looking for companies that just need someone to finish up the season because I don’t want to make a commitment and I really don’t want to starve through another season of frozen roads, frozen trucks, frozen flesh.

Get in. Get out. Get back to what I’m trying to accomplish.

I am working on two backups:

The first, converting all my adjuster training to work with FEMA, will take more time than I have right now but it’s a viable option down the road. I have started taking the training they provide but to get myself on top of the list of potential hires I want to have a long list of their certifications under my belt. So, for now, it’s something that I will take my time with.

The second is a lead I received less than an hour ago. A company that is looking for adjusters to work from home and pays extremely well.

This second option is a strong contender to replace driving, and I’ll talk with them before making the decision, but heading north for a couple months has a distinct benefit: I still have things in storage in ND that I can simply bring with when I return to Mobile.

Yes, I plan on coming back to Mobile. Fate brought me here for a reason and though I really don’t know what that reason is I have no intention of working against such a powerful force. So I’ve made arrangements to leave most of what I brought with me in storage while I’m gone.

I’ll know more within a couple days.

Here’s the thing:

Shit happens and there isn’t a damn thing anyone can do about it but I am not defined by those things, I am defined by how I respond to them.

Yes, it sucks that I spent a year of my life working intensely to create change only to have it all implode but it’s only a failure if I allow it to be, and it’s not an end, it’s a beginning.

In a way, it’s a gift. I am being forced to start again.

I’ll get it right soon enough.

 


Image by Richard Felix on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storm


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There was I time I thought of myself as “Stormchaser”. It was a label I assigned to offset the difficult times that seemed to follow me as a way of reversing the odds.

I saw myself as not only actively engaging those hard times but as pursuing them in a “if life is suffering and suffering brings enlightenment then, for fucks sack, bring it on” mentality.

I was wrong.

Man, was I wrong.

The hard times pursued like a predator on blood scent and I, tough as the wind, really was bleeding, profusely.

I’ve said before how I’m only now rubbing the sleep from my eyes, but I look back with these blurry eyes and see that young man and rather than think “whaddadouche”, my favorite quote when it comes to ignorance, I can say “good start.”

It really was.

Since then I’ve learned that Life is more often concerned with giving lessons than with leading me to them and that the path of life is much more flexible than I thought.

She is the train
I am the rail
Or more like the spike
Or the ground it’s driven into
Or maybe just a house it passes by
Sleeping

That’s my attempt at Zen poetry, which I’m okay with, in a Zen sort of way.

My point is this:

I have felt the storm.
I feel it now inside me.
I’m not sure it ever goes away.
I’m okay with that.

That, by the way, has nothing at all to do with either Zen philosophy or poetry, it’s who I am.

So right about now you’re probably asking yourself what the hell this post is about so I’ll sum it up in six words …

 

We find what we are looking for.

 

… okay, seven words.

 


 

Audio: “Stormchaser” by J M Greff

 

Unexpected Wisdom

I often hear the voice of the Divine and find wisdom in unexpected sources. An overheard conversation between a couple in passing. A single line of something I’m reading or a song I’m listening to. The way someone might shoo a mosquito off the shoulder of a complete stranger without their knowing.

Or the old black man with the foul mouth and the fixed smile who writes my load tickets on the dock where I load my truck. He is a lifetime docker, worn and broken. His hard life shows on his face.

We are talking about the long haul I am about to make. The rate I make on this haul is minimal. I am enthusiastic about neither prospect.

Okay, I’m bitching about it.

He just laughs, stops what he is doing, looks me in the eyes and says “Take your time, enjoy the scenery, look at those azaleas, watch the birds and the trees, it pays the same either way, you might as well enjoy it.”

That’s my advice. Those are my words coming from his mouth. I am stopped cold. My frustration dissipates. The Universe has spoken directly to me through this man and I am grateful.

The message received, I take a deep breath and smile with this gift and continue on my way. Taking my time. Enjoying the scenery. The day passes peacefully.

The Universe is always talking to us. Telling us to be patient. To breathe. Telling us it cares. That we are loved.

Listen.

 


Image: “Finding” by Mario S Nevado

Monday/Tuesday/Etc

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Monday: I woke this morning filled with a sense of purpose. I danced while I made breakfast for no other reason than to feel the joy of dancing. My intentions, pure and simple; love and gratitude, lighting me from within.

I got in my truck still smiling as I thought about this new spring unfolding before me and how life ebbs and flows with the seasons but never really ends, it just rests for a while.

Then I put my truck in gear and drove out from under my trailer, leaving it on the ground behind me. I am certain I locked the fifth wheel pin on Friday. I even had a second pair of eyes on it. At least it happened in the truck lot and not on the highway.
So now I have the day off, which is good because I can use the time to catch up on some of those things that need catching up with.

Tuesday: I woke this morning filled with a sense of accomplishment. The long list of tasks mostly complete. I danced while I made breakfast for no other reason than to feel the joy of dancing. My intentions, pure and simple; love and gratitude, lighting me from within.

When I got to my truck I noticed I had no trailer. It’s pretty hard to miss that. 40 minutes of phone tag and texting later and I find out I was supposed to meet the shop manager here at 7 am. I was here at 5:15.

So I took the time to clean my truck, catch up on emails, and do a little writing. All on the clock since the boss said to write it up as downtime.

So here I am, writing. It’s going to be a great day.

I’m going to make a prediction for tomorrow…

Wednesday: I woke this morning filled with a sense of [insert feeling here]. I danced while I made breakfast for no other reason than to feel the joy of dancing. My intentions, pure and simple; love and gratitude, lighting me from within.
[Then some shit happens and I’m okay with it]

——-

Picture taken at Gulf Shores.

I am not alone

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I wonder; will I ever become the man I have tried so hard to be? Will my past ever let go of me? Can I ever truly break free from it? Move beyond it?

I don’t know. I really don’t.

Most of my successes have been built on the back of my failures. I didn’t learn to be the man I am by getting it right but by screwing up, epically, and then learning from my mistakes and becoming proactive instead of reactive. To always be mindful. To listen to what it is I am feeling, understand it, then express it productively.

I try.

There are times when unexpected reactions bubble up and I become toxic. Reaction takes over. Erupts.

Is this failure? While “failure” is not a word I often apply to anything, it can be considered a failure if those reactions affect those I love.

It happens. I wish it didn’t, I wish to God it didn’t, but it does and when it does I can not help but feel as if it is the last mistake I am allowed.

Then I remember something I told a friend of mine, “It’s not the last fight until it’s the last fight.”

In treating one of those volatile reactions as the final act that drives the nail into whatever it is I am doing I literally provide the nail, and the hammer, and the force that drives the nail home. I manifest my fears by believing in them.

What I am doing is worth the effort. Where I am is worth the time to adjust to. Who I am with is worth loving and believing in. We are worth believing in.

I will not believe in anything but those things which further my path, our path, and our place in the world.

Yes, I will make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes. There will be times that the events of my past, a past I have spent so much time learning will come back to haunt me. The reason for this is simple; I have dealt with those things alone.

I am not alone. Not any more. I have a whole new set of lessons to learn now.

I look forward to the learning with the knowledge that it never ends.