This blog is not dead but on a brief hiatus…

Please forgive my silence these past few weeks- I’ve been busy. At the moment, I’m a full-time student at Halliburton University in Hobbs and it has turned out to be a full-time commitment. As soon as I graduate and begin my duties in the field, I will start posting again.

Until then, thanks for checking in.

How to get fired from an oil field job- crazy stories from a boomtown happy hour

I don’t want to limit this blog to a mere information bank for prospective oil workers. I want to share with the world the wild, unsettling, and bizarre nature of boomtown culture. Weird is a common occurrence among the oil field crowd in Hobbs. The oil patch attracts all sorts of characters and they all seem to go to the Applebee’s happy hour. I’ve started to lurk around this establishment at least once a week to investigate this weirdness first-hand by conversing with these nonconformists.

What follows is a conversation between me, a fellow I used to work with at my former place of employment during my first stint in Hobbs (henceforth referred to as former, extremely unpleasant place of employment), and his friend, who had the symptoms of full-bore cannabis intoxication. We recognized each other while I was working on applications at the table adjacent to his. At a pivotal point in our conversation, I asked if I could record the rest of it using the voice memo function on my iPhone 5; my former colleague kindly obliged.

I have reconstructed the first portion of our exchange from memory, drawing from the word frequency and syntactical arrangement of the portion that I recorded. When “[…]” appears, it indicates that a portion of the conversation has been omitted. When “—“ follows a letter, it indicates the use of either a proper noun or offensive diction, the latter being a staple of oil field vernacular. 

Me: “Hey, didn’t you used to work at [former, extremely unpleasant place of employment]?”

Former Colleague: “F— yeah. Dude! I knew I’d seen you before. Billy, right?”

Me: “It’s Benny. And you’re…”

Former Colleague: “J—.”

Me: “That’s right, J—.”

Former Colleague: “This is M—; we grew up together.”

High Friend: “Hey. Yeah. Nice to meet you man.”

Former Colleague: “He’s totally baked right now.”

Me: “Hahaha.”

High Friend: “Yeah, kicking’ it man like Kmart style.” [I’m not sure as to the meaning of this clearly profound expression and it didn’t seem appropriate to ask, but I’m including it anyway because it baffled me and will continue to do so long after I am married with children. A google search turned up nothing so I assume that it was M—’s creation.]

Former Colleague: “Yeah, little Benny Bear College Boy. [to High Friend] This guy went and paid a lot of money to go to college and then couldn’t find a job to pay it back so he’s here, busting his a—. [to Me] You were a teacher, right? [to High Friend] Everybody gave him s— around the shop for going to college and then winding up here. You don’t need no college degree to make money here yo. I didn’t even finish high school. Hahaha.”

High Friend: “Hahaha. College, man, that was stupid.”

Me: “Hahaha, yeah.”

Former Colleague: “Dude, I thought you ditched Hobbs?” 

Me: “I did, but I’m back and searching for any high paying gig so long as it has nothing to do with [former, extremely unpleasant place of employment]. I’m working on my applications now.”

Former Colleague: “I’ve done that in this same place too, man.”

High Friend: “And you gonna be doing that s— again, man, or you’s gonna be working with yo boy at Kmart.”

Me: “What? Did you quit [former, extremely unpleasant place of employment]?”

Former Colleague: “Yeah, I got fired from that s— hole like a week ago.” 

High Friend: “F— yeah he got fired ‘cause he’s a psycho mother f—er.”

Me: “How the hell did you get fired from [former, extremely unpleasant place of employment]?”

High Friend: “For being a crazy mother f—er, man. Tell him ‘bout that wild a— gansta s— you pulled, kinfolk! 

Former Colleague: “I didn’t take s— from a some new hire mother f—er…”

High Friend: “No he wouldn’t! No f—ing way bro. He pulled a knife on that b—!”

Me: “Sweet Jesus, man! Seriously?!”

Former Colleague: “Yeah, maybe that was a little much, but I was angry.”

Me: “What the hell happened?!”

[…]

[At this point, some innate instinct compels me into a frenzied search for the iPhone 5 in the front pocket of my bag. It is at this point that I get permission from my colleague to record the rest of the conversation for the blog, only after an excruciating five minute attempt at an explanation of what a blog is and why anyone would want to spend their free time writing. This attempted explanation was futile, however, and eventually disregarded as "weird s— that college people do.”]

[I have taken liberties in eliminating digressions and editing the final product to enhance its readability.]

Me: “Okay, start from the beginning.”

Former Colleague: “Mother f—er was a new hire. Been there two weeks and one day thinks he knows how to run the whole shop and tell me what to do. I’ve been there three years, man. Like, we were unloading a truck and he starts telling me how to operate the hydraulic lift, like I’m his b— or something. I’m like, ‘naw man, that’s bull s—, you only been here two weeks; I’ve been here three f—ing years, so shut the f— up.’ But he keeps doing s— like that, ordering me around and s—, because he thinks he knows all about this job from working at his last job.”

Me: “Did you have any authority over him?”

Former Colleague: “Naw, but seniority man. He didn’t respect my seniority. So he keeps pulling this s— until last week, R— was night manager and the f—er started being a b— again. A valve was leaking hydraulic fluid because it wasn’t all the way on the tit and he kept f—ing it up, trying to fix it with a f—ing pipe wrench. I’m like, ‘yo, you gotta pull back on the ring to hook it on the tit.’ But he told me to f— off and kept using the f—ing pipe wrench on the ring, thinking that it would screw on. The dumb a— couldn’t tell that it wasn’t a f—ing screw. Now you know, I’m totally chill like all the time. I don’t get mad.” 

Me: “Yes, you were one of the few people I had never seen angry while working at [former, extremely unpleasant place of employment].”

Former Colleague: “Yeah, I don’t f— with nobody; I’m cool with everybody. But this f—er was really p—ing on me. But I held in the steam and breathed, like, slow. Then I went and told R— to learn some sense into this guy. Now I’m not a snitch…”

High Friend: “Naw man, this boy’s no f—ing snitch. I know him like a father knows his brother. He ain’t no snitch yo.”

Former Colleague: “Yeah, but I didn’t want to get s— from M— about a broken valve. You know how that f—er is. Like, remember that time you didn’t put the catwalk down on the side of the truck? [to High Friend] Get this, man. College Boy leaves the catwalk down on the side of the truck with the ladder sticking out and then drove out of the shop. That s— is bolted on and isn’t going anywhere. He f—ed up everything in front of the catwalk and ladder. The shop door and the ice machine were f—ed for a week. And the baller just kept going like nothing was happening while everybody was screaming at him and s—.” 

Me: I didn’t realize what I’d done. I just thought the truck was stalling so I gave it more gas.  

Former Colleague: “Yeah, but he f—ed up some major s— and everybody in the shop and the office came running out screaming at him. Everybody thought M— was gonna to kill you. 

Me: “It was one of the most frightening moments of my life.”

Former Colleague: “You should have seen him cower down like a little b— in from of M—” 

[…]

Me: “So, what happened with R— and the new hire?”

Former Colleague: “Yeah, so anyways, R—’s got my back and tells him that he’s gonna f— the valve up. But then the b— just starts getting all up in my face, calling me snitch. So I’m like, ‘f— you man, you were gonna break that s— and p— off M—.’ But he just keeps getting all up in my space calling me a f—ing snitch and s— like that.” 

Me: “Was R— still there?”

Former Colleague: “Yeah, he was standing right there watching. That’s why I got fired.”

Me: “Wow. What did you do?”

Former Colleague: “I told the mother f—er to back up but he kept getting all up in my face telling me what he was going to do so I was like, ‘stop talking and do something b—‘ and he just kept talking s— so I busted out my knife, put the blade to my chest and said ‘b— take you shot before I beat your a—.’ He backed up and started b—ing at me about having a knife and s—, so I threw it down, waited for him to swing, and then beat the s— out of him.”

High Friend: “Hellz yeah!” 

Former Colleague: “Like, I never get mad, man, but when I do…”

Me: “Wow.”

Former Colleague: “Yeah man, it was kind of crazy but he was disrespecting me.”

Me: “What was R— doing this whole time?”

Former Colleague: “He was just watching. I don’t think he liked the guy either because he stood there and watched for a long time before pulling me off of him.”

Me: “So you didn’t actually pull the knife on him then?”

Former Colleague: “No, I’d never do that.”

Me: “No, of course not. What happened to the other guy?”

Former Colleague: “I f—ed him up good. I took these pictures of his face with my phone after R— pulled me off.”

Me: “Oh my goodness.”

Former Colleague: “Yeah, I got that b— good, huh?”

Me: “Yes, you did. Is he pressing charges?”

Former Colleague: “Naw man, it was self-defense. He threw the first punch which is why they fired his a—.”

Me: “Yeah, but the knife.”

Former Colleague: “R— said that he didn’t see that part. But because the guy said I did it, S— told me I had to go. I could either get fired or resign and leave in good standing.”

Me: “Huh. Well that’s rough, I guess.”

Former Colleague: “Hell no! I hated that place. And I’ve got enough money now to travel for a while and then get my CDL so I can get a real job like at Halliburton or Schlumberger.”

Me: “Good for you, J—, good for you.”

The conversation continued for a little more than an hour. Before they left, J— invited me to go “get f—ed up” with them at some stranger’s house. I almost went, not to “get f— up,” but because I genuinely like those two guys and, of course, to continue my search for the greatest boomtown stories. But it was late, and I had job applications to finish.

-THE END-

I hope this was worth your time. If so, please communicate this to me; if not, please communicate this to me. The next post will be another informative piece about either how I got my Class A CDL or how to find a job in a boomtown; feel free to recommend which one you would like to see next. Thank you for reading.

Finding a place to live

Please forgive my silence these past few days. I’ve been busy turning 30, searching for work, filling out applications, and doing my best to intermingle with the natives. The last time I was here, I was still in an anti-social state of self-loathing for having previously undertaken a very publicized, yearlong, synthetic cannabinoid induced, religious quest to unite all the world religions, abolish racism, and end homelessness (another story for another time). Having been thoroughly humbled and humiliated, social interaction really wasn’t my thing during my first stint in Hobbs last June. When I wasn’t working I was hiding in my trailer or escaping in a Netflix binge. The only people I knew were the men I worked with and most of them were very frightening. But now that I’ve rediscovered my old, charming, social butterfly-esque character I’ve discovered a side to Hobbs I didn’t know existed.

In the past few days, I’ve probably met a hundred people and every single one of them has been extraordinarily kind. I’ve been invited to have dinner at the home of a university president, I’ve been invited to a junior college basketball game by an elderly oil tycoon, I’ve discovered a tight-knit underground network of college graduates who are here paying off their debt, and I’ve been invited to at least 4 different churches. Even the speed freaks and meth heads I run into at Big Lots are polite. It amazes me how a person’s attitude can completely alter his or her view of the world, how one’s happiness is contingent on one’s attitude. 

Also, as of Monday morning I have begun the month-long process of becoming a Halliburton employee. More on that later.

This post is about finding a place to live, one of the most difficult decisions a person faces when relocating to an oil patch. The most important thing you can do when settling on a place to live is to make sure that you know exactly what you are getting into. Don’t rush! Just like big cities, there are plenty of freaks in boom towns who will rip you off or slightly mislead you to make an easy buck. But unlike those who hustle fake Oakley’s, bad drugs, or those gold watches that turn your skin green, these degenerates are willing to risk really messing people’s lives up by screwing with their livelihood and quality of life. I heard a story about a fellow who went broke before he even started working as a result of such treachery. 

One of the most insidious and common cons in boom towns like Hobbs are fake rental scams. Freaks take advantage of trusting people who want to relocate quickly and for a bargain. The treacherous bastard finds a property that for whatever reason is empty, usually because it is under contract. Then he posts on craigslist or in the classifieds that he has a property for rent at a very competitive price. Someone bites the hook, he draws up fake leasing papers and sometimes doesn’t even have to show the place in person because the poor sob with the hook in his mouth is so desperate to begin work. The godless fiend gets a couple of months rent and a deposit then flees, leaving the dupe a great surprise when the realtor or new owner arrives with the police. These scams usually involve duplexes or houses.

I rent an RV with my uncle. When we first arrived in Hobbs, we were victims of a different pitfall- insufficient research. We settled on the first place we found that seemed to be a good deal. A classified ad brought us to this place:    

IMG 0297

Seems okay, right? There are three things wrong with this location; one you can see in the picture. Guess what it is.

The old man who rented this plot to us used to fight roosters until it became illegal just a few years ago. You know, I could probably write an entire post on this crazy old man. Anyway, as one would expect from any caring cockfighting competitor, he decided to give all of his prize winning roosters wives and a coup for them to live in on his land- right next to the trailers. This only affected me. My uncle worked a standard day schedule so he was gone long before daybreak. I, on the other hand, was on call 24/7. Somehow it seemed to work out that every time I was trying to get to sleep after a long job, those fowl bastards started that godawful mating scream. The hens must have been deaf because the roosters had to repeat themselves for at least two or three hours every morning. That was two or three hours of no sleep for me. Sleep is a valuable commodity in the oil patch. Earplugs, you say? The first and only time I used earplugs, I missed a call from work. 

The second problem was the mice. We didn’t think anything about it when we moved in, but the neighbors really liked to leave all of their trash outside on the ground. Apparently mice are drawn to trash. But then they get picky and demand food in store-bought wrappers. That’s when they begin pillaging trailers. Those cute little furry fellows can completely devastate anything that is not in a glass jar. I have an aversion to killing anything, so I would catch the mice in a live trap and let them out far, far away. I would set the trap every time I went to bed and there was always a mouse in it the next day. At least 40 mice must of have made their way through our trailer in a two month period. One time I let a mouse out next to a group of chickens. The poor thing lasted about 10 seconds. I didn’t realize chickens could turn into vicious carnivorous beasts. Even though that mouse was making my life miserable, it still made me very sad.   

The last problem was the worst of all. Our trailer was located a stone’s throw away from this: 

IMG 0311

In order to save money, many RV park proprietors will deliver water to their patrons from water wells dug in the ground. Oftentimes, in order to rejuvenate an oil well, a company will come out and shoot tons of dangerous chemicals into the ground in order to break apart the rock that contains the oil. It’s called fracking. My uncle and I discovered that when this is done anywhere near a water well, the water that comes out of the well will smell like gasoline. Every time I took a shower in our trailer, I got high off of the smell of the water coming out of the spout. After the shower, I would reek of gasoline until I began reeking of crude oil from the rig I was working at. Then, I would take a shower to get the crude oil smell from the rig off of me only to have it replaced by that good ol’ gasoline smell. Petroleum grew very intimate with my olfactory organs while I was living at that site.   

One other thing about the photo above. See that yellow caution sign? Here’s a closeup: 

IMG 0310

Fences are not known to insulate gas that well and there is a whole neighborhood located across the street. H2S gas is one of the scariest things you will encounter in the oil patch- well that and the people you work with. At first this deadly gas smells like sulfur but then your body stops sensing it and it becomes odorless. The problem is that everything in and around Hobbs smells like sulfur. I’ll have to write a post about this sometime. Anyway, back to the living situation.   

Soon, my uncle and I moved out of that rooster, mouse, and chemical infested death trap and found the place where we reside today:

IMG 0313

$325 split two ways covers a month of rent and all of the utilities. This is $50 less than the gasoline water place. That means I pay $162.50 per month to live in inner-city Hobbs. If you plan on working in a boom town for more than a few months, a trailer is the way to go. Find an RV for a few thousand dollars and set up camp at decent park. You’ll make the price of the trailer back in less than a month when you begin your job, so take out a loan if you have to. 

Also, watch out for trash epidemics. Before you move into a park, make sure that the proprietor has a system for disposing waste, and make sure that your neighbors are willing to abide by that system. Every time I pass this park, the situation seems to get more and more out of control:

IMG 0283

I recommend finding the cheapest housing possible because when you are working, you will not be spending much time at home. If you feel like you should spend a little more money on a place so that you can have a bachelor pad decent enough to show off to a girl, just remember that the girl to guy ratio is far from being in your favor; and most of the women in boom towns over the age of 16 already have multiple children.

It is not uncommon for an apartment in a boomtown to cost $1500-$2000 per month. If you decide to go this route, then it is definitely worth finding a roommate. However, BEWARE OF ROOMMATES YOU DON’T KNOW! I have heard horror stories about people who have found roommates in the oil fields: excrement on the bathroom floor, sudden screaming fits every night due to PTSD dreams, refusing to pay rent for no reason, filling up the entire refrigerator with uncovered fast food refuse, freaking out and breaking things, and suddenly becoming really weird and creepy. Working in the patch is hell enough; you don’t need a crazy roommate. Your best bet is to find a similarly motivated friend back home and relocate with him.

One last thing- if you wind up in a used trailer or some ancient duplex, make sure that the roof over your bed, your clothes, and any electronic devices does not leak; this can lead to some very, very bad situations; I speak from experience. 

This post was much longer than I plan to write in the future, but it’s a very important matter. Finding the right place to live can be the difference between hell and purgatory; there’s no heaven in the oil patch.

Welcome to Hobbs, NM

Yesterday evening, I left my beloved Texas and moved for the second time into a trailer in Hobbs, New Mexico to work in the oil field. At the moment, I am seated in a quaint local restaurant with $28,060.13 of college debt and some medical debt in my pocket.

GOAL: eliminate all debt and save enough to do something. Not really sure what something means but I am sure that living in Hobbs will give me plenty of time to figure it out because there is absolutely nothing to do here.

On my way to this restaurant I saw a pack of high school-aged people in a huge concrete gutter, which separates the two lanes of a very busy street, attentively surrounding another kid who was striking with a small hammer the protruding end of one of those enormous concrete pipes that connect these types of gutters when they go under land. The car behind me began honking furiously because I had nearly stopped in this busy street so fascinated was I by this bizarre use of leisure. I’m not sure what causes such freakish behavior in the young, but I’m sure it has something to do with having nothing to do. Honestly, I was tempted to join them. They seemed to be having a good time.

But instead, I drove right past the Chili’s and the Applebee’s and found a decent sized local restaurant and bar, which seemed as if it would be more appreciative of my patronage, so I could start this blog! Judging from the stares I am getting throughout this quaint, checker-floor restaurant and bar it is clear that I am not dressed for the occasion of a night out on the town of Hobbs. This is what I wore for my job interviews today:

Striped button-down shirt from Express for Men (on sale, $20); grey, shiny Calvin Klein tie ($10); black Rocco-style jeans from Express for Men (on sale, $40); black dress shoes (?); belt from the Nordstrom’s discount store ($20).

Even though not close to GQ-worthy, this cheap metrosexual getup certainly doesn’t belong in this restaurant. Neither does talking to oneself while typing furiously on a Macintosh computer. Yes, the people around me are having a good time. They know each other, like each other, and are speaking to each other accordingly. I am sitting by myself typing on a computer at a table in the epicenter of attention; and I have a habit of talking to myself while I type. A moment ago, a group of indigenous middle-aged people at the table next to me asked me where I was from. I said Dallas. One of the ladies said, “Oh, that makes sense,” without providing me with any explanation as to why my response made sense. A few minutes later I received a beer that had been purchased by said table. I believe it was a pity beer, though I’m not sure.

When you think about it, she’s right, it does make sense. I’m in the negative for a lot of money and will feel much better when this situation becomes positive. I am from Dallas and there is no job that I am qualified for that would start me off for half of what these people in Hobbs are willing to pay me for these oil rig gigs. Which brings me to the three reasons why I wish to write this blog.

First, I have been asked by a few of my friends- and even some strangers- to tell them what it is like to shed the luxuries of civilization for the desolation of the oil fields. I wish that I had had someone to consult with before I came out here the first time; even now, I wish I knew more than I do. So, I want to offer anyone who is tired of debt and considering doing something drastic in the oil fields the opportunity to learn from my errors. Because I am sure that even on this second run I will make enough to fill a book. If you’re not interested in that sort of stuff, at least you might find the blog entertaining.  

Second, I wish to do something that does not involve being at the mercy of the moving picture. I am sorry to say that the last time I lived in Hobbs, I became a Netflix addict. I made the mistake of watching the first episode of Sons of Anarchy and suddenly found myself consumed with concern over the fate of a fake California motorcycle club whenever I was away from my job and not sleeping. To make matters worse, since I didn’t have an internet connection in my trailer, I was forced to engage in this humiliating binge-watching behavior in public, at the only coffee house in Hobbs… or, hiding out in the back seat of my truck behind the only coffee house in Hobbs. It’s the only place with decent wifi. Unable to blend in by changing wifi locations each day, everyone in that coffee house knew that I had a Netflix problem, especially the girls that worked there who would catch me hiding out in my back seat with my computer when they would take out the trash after closing. Who knows what they were thinking?! It was awful! Netflix addiction is a depressing and pitiful state of being; living in a trailer in Hobbs as a single male who will be turning 30 in one hour is depressing enough. I am hoping that writing a blog will be happy, contemplative, edifying. 

Lastly, life in Hobbs is boring and lonely. I hope that writing this blog will make it less boring and lonely.

I’m not sure how often I’ll post entries on this blog. This is more of an experiment than a definite commitment. Whatever may happen, I hope you enjoy it. I promise to include media of some sort when I post again. I am able to receive comments, so please make use of that function. I’ll be sure to answer any questions that you may have. I’ll explain the name of the blog and a bit of its history in a later post.

I have just fulfilled my goal to complete my first blog entry before I turn 30 with a little less than an hour to spare (according to New Mexico time). Now, I’m off to the back of the coffee house to upload this stuff to the Internet while I hide in the back seat of my truck. 

trying to look at life as an adventure,

-benny