I am a sucker for a man in uniform.
In fact many women in Northeastern British Columbia fall for men in uniform…..just not the traditional uniform. No, we fall for those clad in bright blue and yellow, high visibility, flame-retardant Nomex coveralls with the gentle scent of condensate clinging to the material.
We are “Oil-Field wives”, although, in order to be truly accurate, we should be called, “Energy-Sector wives”.
There are no epaulettes or highly polished footwear on these individuals in uniform….instead you will find PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) consisting of coveralls, hardhats, steel toed boots (oftentimes caked in mud), clear safety glasses and gloves. Hearing protection dangles from plastic strings and when not in use, rests against the white embroidered name badge that has been picked with a seam ripper to shorten the name. Richard becomes Rich, Robert becomes Rob, Matthew becomes Matt.
Although not in the military, our hubbies and partners respond to emergencies and callouts in military fashion. A phone conversation from the alarm service is barely completed when the feet hit the bedside floor and they are making their way to work at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.
It doesn’t matter if it has snowed all night and the ice fog is so thick from cold that you can barely see the highway. It doesn’t matter that the thermometer is reading -40° and the truck tires have temporarily become square, these men and women get up and go to work. Thunk, thunk, thunk as they drive away.
Sometimes we wake up as they leave and say groggily, “See Ya” and then roll over in our warm beds and go back to sleep: A bit of guilt knowing that we will get a full 8 hours of sleep whereas our partner will make do with 5 or 6 hours or even less.
Some mornings we wake up and the other side of the bed is empty and cold and we know that it has been hours since someone has been there: slipping out quietly in the night to head to work taking care not to wake us.
We wonder if they grabbed their lunch or had a chance to make a pot of coffee before they left. Chances are, they queued up at Tim Horton’s with a steady stream of other sleep-deprived workers, each grabbing a Double-Double and a breakfast sandwich. It will be a long day with no time to pack a lunch.
I always wonder why there are some folks who insist on identifying those clad in the blue and yellow covvies (coveralls) as “rig pigs” or “oilfield trash”.
My husband and my son are not trash. My friend and neighbor is not a “rig pig”. My father wasn’t trash or a “rig pig”.
Many of these men and women (yes, there are more and more women all the time entering the energy sector) are hard working, intelligent individuals who can project manage and trouble shoot like a NASA scientist. Don’t laugh……have you seen what they do? Let’s just say that my inability to read a tape measure would be the least of my problems.
For most contractors, a sick day is something unheard of. While employees in other job sectors are taking the day off because of a nagging sore throat, an Oilfield contractor is working through the pain.
As the leaves begin to turn, I think of the long winter ahead and how difficult it can be at times. I remember the early years when our family was separated by camp life: 8 days on and 6 days off, two weeks in and two weeks out.
Although the separation could be difficult at times, especially raising a young family, I believe I became a better person because I was left alone and had to make decisions on my own. I learned not to panic and to trust my instincts. I made a few bad decisions, but I also made a lot of great decisions and my husband was the first one to congratulate me when he returned from work.
So cheers to our energy sector men and women in uniform! Thank you for all that you do! We appreciate your hard work. It puts gas in our vehicles and heat in our homes and food on the table. Stay Safe.