Meanwhile Outside Peace River…

April 21, 2013

The Bush

That was the view from our job site for two weeks, with varying levels of snow cover from light to heavy to even more god-damn snow.  Not much there, and an hour to a chocolate bar.  The first Friday we made a run for the airport (after getting dismissed by the customer at the very, very last minute) through a blizzard at speeds much too high for good sense.  We barely made it on the flight, but somehow we did.  The next Friday was much more leisurely, but still with a good snowstorm the day before.  As soon as we arrived I started wondering about the wildlife.  These sites are in the middle of muskeg forest, low stands of spruce, which look small but are probably very old and slow growing due to the poor and most likely acid soil conditions they grow in.  The first week I was fairly confident the bears were still hibernating, it was cold.  The operators reported seeing a pack of wolves and a cougar, along with lynx every so often.  The second week I had heard report of bears being seen in Banff area, and could see a hungry bear poking their nose out.  Again the operators report seeing black bears all the time.  As I said to my co-worker, I am not crazy, I have a real fear about a real danger – namely bears wolves and cougars.

I’m going to have a really hard time telling you about the work atmosphere among all the operators up on site, without giving away the guilty parties.  I felt all last week like I should be treated for PTSD, that I had just escaped a war zone, and that barely.  The operators tend to be forceful personalities, with foul mouths.  We counted 8 obscenities in one sentence from one operator.  Thankfully we did okay, we never had the full force of anger turned on us, but seeing it and feeling it displayed towards others was hard.  It has been over 5 years since I’ve done any commissioning, and I’ve gotten used to a gentler sort of people.  Plus my little group of 4 that worked and dined together, I could tell you stories, but again protecting the innocent.  Suffice to say “OH MY GOODNESS – YOU JUST SAID WHAT?”.  I actually had to warn them to stop hugging the warm tanks, you heard me, and if I catch you back there rubbing up against them I will do something, I don’t know what but something.  (They were joking of course, but the one guy did nickname the Polisher unit “Polly”.  It was 50% absolutely hilarious, 50% unbelievable.  And as my co-worker said “we know waaaaayyy too much about those guys now!”.

It was like working in western Texas – everyone seemed more like a character than a real person, stereotypes come to life and talking to me.  Even I have become a character.  The programmer turned to me at one point, after I had just schooled him on his own program, and said “you are a Water Goddess”.  He was very, very serious.  Obviously this has been picked up by my co-workers, and I now have a sign of a mermaid and a title “Water Goddess” on my cubicle.  Honestly, it is a bit cool to be called this, and there are many other bad things they could be calling me, and my co-worker as a penchant for giving nicknames (the only other one I’ve heard is Mamma Bear, after I tried to convince him to stop calling the programmer an unpleasant name).  Some of the other names – King, Boo-boo, Junior, Fluffy, etc.

Man, it still feels so unreal, like it really never happened as it was so unbelievable.  I’ve taken my name off the “available to travel” list for the near future.  I need time to recover, plus time to clean up my language again.

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