I'm not infrequently asked what it's like to be on a rig. So for those of you wishing to share in the experience I have devised a litte simulator, so that you too can have your very own offshore experience from the comfort of your own home.
First of all, you need to simulate the unit, i.e. the room you'll be spending 12 hours a day. So take a room in your house and divide it in two (a blanket or some bits of board should do the trick): half a typical room is about the size of a typical unit. Remove anything remotely decorative or comfortable, and turn everything remaining grey. Find yourself a metal desk, perhaps a filing cabinet too, and then a chair. Break the chair and try and fix it: make sure you can't sit back and relax. Set up a laptop and other random bits of electronics, and give yourself an intermittent internet connection. If you're feeling particularly determined, have no internet at all.
We have now our basic workspace, but the ambience is all wrong. Crank up the heat to an unbearable level, and install a gigantic air conditioner/fan in the room. Ensure it doesn't work. Allow it to switch and blast air around very noisily, but make sure it isn't remotely cooling. Just outside of the room/unit, you need to create a source of noise. Perhaps 10-15 hoovers might do the trick. This is mere background noise, to accurately simulate the agonising screech of the crane I'm currently enduring, you may need to borrow a friend's cat and have it tortured at ten minute intervals. Really, really hurt this cat, over and over again. In fact, put it in front of a megaphone as you do so.
You may close the door to soften the noises (a little), but if you do so, you must increase the heat greatly.
To simulate the PA system, simply turn on your radio, find a grainy piece of static, and put the volume to full blast at random intervals. Ensure there is no intelligible content within.
If you choose to simulate dayshift, your hours are 6am to 6pm, with meals at 5.30am, 11am and 6pm: nightshift is the inverse. Meals should consist of very well-done steak (not to be eaten) and chips - or gristle. Do not enjoy. For the foreign rig experience, pour sludge into a vat and add some mystery meats: you are now sampling "culture".
You are perfectly entitled to go outside at any time, but must wear luminous coveralls, a hardhat, gloves and safety glasses, and listen to ugly men swear. All communication must be grumpy. Humour is only allowed in small and very bitter doses. Do not smile. Do not be nice. Do not talk about your emotions. Remind those around you how miserable conditions are. If you have a full blown conversation, ensure it is about mechanics or engineering or bits of pipe, and do not try and understand it.
To accurately simulate sleeping conditions, find a single bed too short to stretch out in. You may turn off some of the hoovers. Every couple of nights, simulate the roomboy by having a friend open and close your door, and sometimes turn the light on. Don't say much to him, or he will talk about about "jiggy jiggy".
Here comes the key part of this simulation: it must last for weeks... no, months. In fact, when you begin, try not to even know how long it will last. Have a friend roll a dice in secret, and then have them tell you an entirely different, lower, number. It is vital you begin your simulation believing it to last three weeks when in fact it will last six.
The good news: when you finish your rig simulation you are allowed - nay, obliged - to drink very heavily for weeks and weeks. DO NOT STOP. And then, just when you've spent your final penny on your final bottle of gin, crank up the hoovers, borrow the cat, and plunge yourself into another month or two of sensory shutdown. You are now fully primed to embrace the offshore existence.