As a rig worker and proud owner of a vagina, I am always asked what it’s like for a female working in a predominantly male environment. Has spending so much time in this testosterone-fuelled domain ever resulted in the compromise of my femininity? Have I experienced any damaging discrimination as a result of my gender? And what does the increasing presence of women on rigs mean for the future of the industry? This article will not answer any of these questions because, really, who gives a fuck. However, as a result of all the interest shown in my job, I decided to keep a note of a few of the shenanigans I have experienced over the past few years so that you have some idea of what we have to put up with on a daily basis.
There are three main types of reactions when a girl arrives on a rig:
- There are those who will just come right out and ask if you are single and willing to get your gash smashed by any old member of the drill crew. When you say no, they will probably never talk to you again.
- There are those who will ask you what your name is and if you are single and willing to get your gash smashed by any old member of the drill crew. When you say no, they will still drink tea with you and have a laugh.
- Finally, there are those who will do literally anything to avoid having to talk to you/walk past you/make eye-contact with you. They are TERRIFIED of anything with a uterus. I like to talk to them about my excruciatingly heavy periods and the invasive processes involved when getting the coil fitted.
Luckily, around 80% of the guys fall into the second category and I have made some genuine friends during my time in this job. Saying that, it is still quite awkward when you first arrive on a new rig, to the point where the only thing I want to do is hide away in the safety of my unit and drink tea. I have learned, however, that all this does is prolong the awkwardness so instead I go against every fibre of my being and force myself to talk to everyone at the first opportunity. I remember doing just that on my very first day on a land job and recall a conversation I had with the derrickman that went exactly like this:
ME: “Hi, I’m new here. How’s it going?”
DERRICKMAN: “Oh hey, I’m the derrickman. Just to warn you, we’re all a bit crazy on here. Last week one of the roughnecks was doing my head in so I did a big shit on the floor of the pit-room and threw it at him. Do you want to go to the cinema some time?”
Things were not much different three years ago. On my first ever day offshore, I stepped off the helicopter and into the heli-lounge where I immediately noticed a few posters stuck to the walls. Upon closer inspection I realised that the posters included a photograph of a turd curled up in the corner of a shower with the following message:
“Whoever is shitting in the communal shower needs to stop. This is the third time it has happened this year and this behaviour will not be tolerated. We are currently in the process of eliminating crew members who were on leave at the time of all three shits being discovered. We will find you and you will face disciplinary action.”
On that same rig there was a decidedly creepy electrician. I was a week into my first hitch and still pretty terrified of everything, including him, but unfortunately for me the plug socket in my room broke and I couldn’t use my hairdryer (omg). This was a genuine emergency, so I had to go and find him and ask him to fix it for me while I was out on shift. Later that evening, I entered the galley to have some dinner. As I sat down at the table, the electrician walked past, winked at me then patted his ass whilst saying “ASDA price”. At first I had no idea what he was talking about but it suddenly dawned on me that I had bought all my offshore underwear from ASDA in one of those cheap packs of 5 things. The motherfucker had raked through all my pants!!! And to make matters worse, one pair was distinctly looser fitting when I next put them on. I refused to put in a complaint against him because I felt this was my first test and crying to the Company Man would equate to failure. Instead I found the gobbiest, loudest, most annoying member of the crew (the crane operator obviously) and told him everything. He promised to make the electrician’s life hell and he did. It was wonderful to watch.
Returning to my current land-based job and the ever popular topic of turds, a little while ago I was talking to a Company Man who has been in the industry since the 70’s and so has seen and heard pretty much everything. He has some seriously impressive stories, but my personal favourite is this peach:
In 1984, when he was a driller, himself and the drill crew went out one night for a curry and, as men do, decided to out-do each other with competitive consumption of flaming butt-hole inducing Vindaloos and Fals. The next day on the rig, the derrickman was up the mast hard at work when he suddenly felt a cramp. You know the cramp, the one that says “I need a shit, and I need it yesterday”. There was no way he would be able to get down the mast with all his harness gear on and make it to the toilet in time so he decided to lay some sheets of newspaper over the pipe racks and curl one out up there instead. Bear in mind that the pipe racks are made up of metal bars with big gaps in between which look straight down onto the drill floor (see Fig. 1).
Unfortunately, when he turned around to do a squat, a light breeze caught the paper and, without him noticing, blew it away. He shit hard and it flew through the gaps, straight down onto the assistant driller’s head. The assistant driller instantly bent over to protect himself, resulting in his hard-hat falling off revealing a massive curly afro which was now exposed to the still-continuing onslaught of bum-gravy. The man had shit in his hair, his ears and his eyes, unsurprisingly causing him to throw up – an action immediately repeated by the nearest hungover roughneck (see fig. 2). The rest of them were hiding behind the pipes crying with laughter. The driller walked into the doghouse to utter carnage, there was shit and spew all over the floor and all the levers and equipment. He said it had the texture of vegetable soup and the smell was out of this world.
Although things have calmed down considerably since the good old days of literally shitting on each other from a great height, there are still some pretty amusing goings on. As you can imagine, pranks are pretty common on rigs and I got completely nailed by one not that long ago. The driller phoned down and asked me to come outside so, thinking it was work related, I hurried over to find him and a few other guys huddled together, whispering to each other at the smoking shack. When they saw me coming they asked if I could hold a giant roll of industrial cling-film for a second. Being the helpful person I am, I took the cling-film from him and suddenly everyone started inexplicably taking pictures of me. I asked what the hell they were doing and in response they pointed to the mechanic’s motorbike which was completely wrapped in cling-film in the car-park. They texted him the photo of me holding the cling-film about half an hour after he discovered his bike. Cunts.
Despite being at my expense, I did find this highly amusing and so got a proper picture taken with the bike:
Now, obviously, with all these men being away from home, penetration of some of the local ladies is inevitable, especially when the majority of these women have seen more helmets than Hitler. I absolutely love when this happens because it almost always results in some form of horrific/embarrassing/hilarious situation. Take this, for example:
Rig worker A receives a phone call from rig worker B.
RIG WORKER B: “Alright mate? Just thought I would phone to let you know that I am currently in a bath with two birds. Here, I think one of them is called Tracy. Speak to Tracy.”
TRACY: “Hello! You alright? I’m in the bath with your mate and I just took a massive shit so I am ready for some anal.”
10 minutes later, rig worker A receives another phone call from rig worker B:
RIG WORKER B: “Mate, listen to this…..” followed by the muffled noises of the phone keypad being randomly pressed. “I just shoved my iPhone up her, she loves it!”
TRACY: “Is that all you got love? Not have a fax machine? This thing is barely touching the sides.”
An iPhone?? Jesus Christ, that girl must have a clunge like a clown car!
So, to sum it up, how well you deal with being a girl on a rig, or a guy for that matter, correlates directly with your tolerance for stories about shitting and disturbing sexual encounters. Believe it or not, some argue that as a female you are at an advantage on a rig because you will get help whenever you need it (take Carl here, for example, a lovely yet verbally challenged roughneck who kindly sewed a rag into my jeans when they got a hole in them), but to them I say: “Fucking right! I have to put up with people getting their arses out and crapping everywhere so the least they can do is lend me a fucking screwdriver”.
When I’m at work, sometimes it’s cold, sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s hard and sometimes you have to ward off advances from creepy old mud engineers, but it beats working in an office any day. As much as these boys drive me crazy, I will grudgingly admit that in a strange way I sometimes miss the little cocksuckers when we all go home. To top it off, I spend a decent portion of my time here either laughing hysterically or drawing penises on things, but more importantly I get to go to work in a giant, quilted baby-grow – and all without judgement. What’s not to love?