30 December 2012

Night shift can turn you philosophical. The world is still and you and a small minority of people are awake, left with nothing else but your work and your thoughts.

Every once and awhile I question paths my life has taken. While I have no regrets concerning marriage or becoming a father, my occupation is an entirely different bag of hats. Between operating pipelines out of two facilities this morning, I also had the displeasure of writing up three procedures and "best practices," to be read by my peers. They concerned new startup steps with new equipment coming online, how to interpret unfamiliar data, and tracking surge relief flow to prevent overfilling tankage and causing a release. Light reading...

They won't read them, but they'll sign their name and say they did. Then everything I outlined in said documents,  I'll have to explain repeatedly over the next few weeks and then maybe my point will finally sink in... It's not like we could kill someone or destroy an ecosystem by fucking up at this job right? Oh yeah, we can...

I left field operations for a supervisory role, so I guess it comes with the territory. I guess business owners deal with incompetence and apathy on a more regular basis than I do, but then again their employees likely can't blow something up or destroy a town's water supply with a fuck up.

I miss swinging valves, climbing tanks, I even miss what I thought was annoying PPE, and standing by for cuts while getting drenched during a thunderstorm. I'm imprisoned at a desk now, doing a thankless job.

I find myself taking walks around this facility when I can, going outside and looking up at what stars the light polluted NJ skies will afford me to. Orion is most reliable nighttime friend.

Someday I want to ride my motorcycle out to the desert, if nothing else just to see an unobstructed view of the heavens. I don't think I've ever seen that in my lifetime and as a human that bothers me. Though even in NJ, working out in the field on night shift for 7 years, I've seen more shooting stars than most people will see in a lifetime. I've seen glorious sunsets and sunrises from the tops of petroleum tanks, someday I'd like to enjoy that without the fumes and chemicals around me.

When I'm in my garage rebuilding carburetors, welding up something, putting a motorcycle together and all that jazz I feel useful and at peace. If I didn't have so many dependents and responsibilities in my life I think I'd get out of the pipeline world and open up a shop somewhere. Apparently making sure the Northeast's infrastructure stays afloat doesn't rock my world, but it does pay my bills and affords my wife to be a stay at home mom.

I always tell people that even though my job is really important, it's not the least bit rewarding. When I worked summers doing masonry, I could finish a day covered in sweat and dirt and look at the job and tell myself, "there, I MADE that today." My work could potentially stand for generations to enjoy. The same reward comes with working on my bikes. Moving hundreds of thousands of barrels of petroleum product daily doesn't come close to matching that feeling.

When a guy in this industry tells me an opportunity arises in their life and are questioning it, I tell them to jump at it as this industry has a way of trapping you. My shift-mate is doing just that and becoming a police officer, taking a serious pay cut, but good on him. I'm envious, and I tell him that.

I'm certain that when G-Wagen gets older, I'm not going to push her into college or what I consider to be a high paying field. That was the story of my generation. A generation that can't think or do anything for themselves. A lot of times I feel like I'm 20 years older than my peers because of just this. That's why G-Wagen's gonna have that Macchi, and wrench on it, and learn what it feels like to think and work with her hands. By the time she's ready for a career, the trades are going to be damn near extinct.

I don't want her to wind up behind a desk, on night shift writing philosophy to keep from going insane. I don't want her wondering what it'd be like to ride somewhere remote to see the stars the way we're supposed to see them. I don't want her to have to see the sun rise in a petroleum plant with Nomex on. Fortunately I don't think I'll have to worry.

She's already smart and defiant. She's gonna be the tattooed girl with a hot rod daily driver like her mother, kickstarting her Macchi with a blunt, independent attitude like her father... I hope so anyway...

See where your mind wanders when the rest of the world is asleep.

Now back to the batches, making sure the rest of the world stays cruising


  1. I feel your pain. But look at it this way, you were given an important job because of your brain, and alot of people cant say that.

  2. maybe you should become a sub contractor in your field. start your own biz. It may be more rewarding....

  3. Nah, there's nothing rewarding about the petroleum biz. Unless I was mining for wells, that'd be pretty cool