Friday, 21 September 2007


One of the big features of my life – sometimes the only feature of my life, it seems – is waiting. Constantly I am waiting.

Right now I am waiting for a helicopter off this rig. Of the many types of waiting, this is among the best – and worst. The best is obvious, for when the wait is over, I’ll be on the helicopter which will take me back to dry land, and freedom. I’ve only been offshore about ten days, a mere baby of a stint, but after even a few days of restricted liberties the outside world seems like a distant dream, a fabled place you hope one day to return. But the actual wait itself is without fun. Prepared for the journey, all my stuff is packed away, so I pace the corridors, the galley, the helideck waiting for the time to come, with little to occupy my time. I’ve finished my current books and am unwilling to start a new one right at the end of a job. This helicopter was supposed to be at 9am, but that time came and went, and then it was lunch. Due to bad weather, which was certainly not apparent from my vantage point (though perhaps an accumulation clouds can be seen as much in Brazil), the helicopter had been cancelled, so it appears, but another one is supposed to be due soon. When? Just soon. So I’m waiting for something I very much desire, but may never come. Not doing anything of consequence, just willing the time to pass. Already I feel it likely that there will be no chopper today, and it will be tomorrow morning I have to again rise on this rig and begin this interminable process. Waiting, and hoping.

So one day more of my life in this claustrophobia, one day less of my life to properly live. But even when onshore the waiting won’t end. For I’m not due yet to go home – home! what a concept! – but up to the little oil town of Macae. I’ll have to wait around Rio for a few hours until the 4pm Halliburton bus of course, but waiting round Rio isn’t so bad. Waiting in Macae is far worse, as that is where I expect to spent a number of days, but hopefully not weeks, waiting to go on my next job. Waiting in Macae is at a great distant from any notions of joy, as it involves having to go on base every day and prepare for jobs that change in their details daily, and thus daily undo the work of the previous day. At any given moment, you can be told you are going on a job the next day, and after a few days working and waiting in Macae, this is something that very much wants to be heard.

I don’t mind being on a job, although even within a job is a whole world of delays and waiting, as at least something is being done, and something usually is happening, even slightly, and with luck progress might even be made. But waiting for a job, especially in Macae, isn’t fun. After this next job, I hope to get to go home, but the longer it takes for this next job to begin, the longer it will take until I’m home. Every day I’m waiting, spinning out time, and willing time to go fast. I don’t really want time to go fast, because that means my life (which I believe ends with an extremely definitive eternal unconscious darkness) is spinning out quicker, which surely isn’t desirable. But enduring time crawling by in unpleasant conditions is not desirable either.

All this may paint a negative picture, and so it should be clear that this is merely one aspect of the job, in focus. My week in Rio, waiting to go offshore, was mostly terrific. Macae isn’t all bad, mostly just a bit boring and pointless. I’m not entirely impatient, but when it comes to hanging around, waiting for the decisions or actions of others, my patience has limits. Those who know me well know not to arrive for than five minutes late for a designated meeting with me, as I can be extremely impatient with latecomers who keep me waiting. And that, perhaps, beings me to the crux of the matter. Waiting for someone to arrive is a process in which my time is wasted, doing nothing that brings an kind of pleasure to me. Waiting in a town I don’t like, going to a base I don’t like, and doing a job I don’t like (i.e. base work, I quite like the rig work) feels like a pointless waste of my time. I don’t mind my life disappearing in a haze of productiveness or pleasure, but to disappear like the fleas of a dead dog being flushed down the drain is not my prime choice of how to live my life.

Of course, delays and waiting can work to my advantaged, as the aforementioned week in Rio demonstrates. Last year I had a month in Dubai due to delays. Likewise, I’ve had a week in Cairo, a great week in Malaysia, a surprisingly enjoyable five days in Nouakchott, and an interesting (at least) few days in Malabo. Even the weeks in Port Harcourt weren’t so bad – hang on, they were that bad actually. Delays, when working abroad, usually give the opportunity to see the country; it’s just unfortunate that this opportunity in Brazil often translates into slogging on a grim, sticky-hot base.

Waiting for transport doesn’t tend to be fun either. The hours and many days I’ve spent waiting in airports I hardly dare think about. Mostly, I am equipped to deal with these hours of hanging around, however. An iPod, a pen, a piece of paper, and a book, and times can fly by. After an hour flying from Aberdeen to Heathrow, I’m still fairly alert, and Heathrow isn’t too bad for killing time (it has, at least some pubs and good beer). But, oh sweet Lord, arriving to Charles de Gaulle Airport (that man should sue the French for slander) after a ten hour flight, and having to wait seven hours in a space is virtually sensory deprivation kills me. Not to mention the epic security waits: one wait there in particular still ranks as the longest queue I have ever witnessed, that made me gasp several times as I realised the line was still going on.

Ultimately I am resigned to spending a good proportion of my life currently waiting. There is no choice, and for all the long spells in transit or waiting to be in transit, there are some worthwhile rewards too (i.e MONEY). And now I have just heard the announcement for my helicopter in twenty, yes just twenty, minutes, so it is time for me to go.

Edit: Turns out the delays were worth it in this case, as we arrived onshore too late for the Macae bus, so I get one extra night in Rio.


Jenny said...

How much time, do you estimate, you are away from home doing work?

Nev 360 said...

I happened to work this out a few days ago, and since mid-October last year I've been away about 290 days, though about 15 of these were on holiday.