oil rigs

Crazy Rig Conversations: Part 9!


One of the most interesting parts about working out on the rigs is the crazy/hilarious/random/unexpected things people say.

Here are a few of the gems...

NB: In the interests of privacy and what-not, I have referred to individuals as Old Mate, or OM for short.

Also, by way of announcement: I've joined the instagram bandwagon!

There are loads of rig photos that will be going up, so join me on the adventure...



OM1 (speaking to a group of the rig fellas): Ohhhh we saw Yassmin pissed off last night! You should have seen the scowl on her face! She was talkin' all serious maaaan!

Me: Aw nah man, yeah I haven't gotten annoyed at anyone before, but I just had to say a few things.

OM1: Oh now you gotta be careful pissing you off ay! I wouldn't be messing with someone of your background, you're from all sorts of volatile places! (Turns to the crew).  Oh I tell ya, you know you piss her off, then get in the car and it's like BOOM you're gooone!


OM1: Or it's like a bunch of IED's on the road back to camp or something to take care of ya hay...Nah, I wouldn't be wanting to be messing with Yassmin. Got that Egyptian and all that sorta crazy stuff in ya.

Everyone turns to look at me.

Me (at a little bit of a loss for a smart witty comment...): Ah, indeed. We be crazy...?



One of my colleagues is a very Eastern European man who has lots of bits of wisdom to impart on everyone around him.  This was  a particularly funny piece of wisdom he imparted to a younger colleague on life, love and women...

OM:  Look let me tell you something about marriage aye?

First three years is the fight for the boss, the second three years is the fight for equality (in the household, between the wife and the husband), and after that you just fight for survival!  If any man tells you he wears the pants he is delusional. Women know us too well! They just somehow know.  You know, if my wife comes in the room and says "we have to talk", well!   It's not we who have to talk its she who has to talk!  When women say they are the weaker sex, rubbish! They are winning!  They are winning I tell you!



OM: You know what I don't like? When people say things about life that sound great and hippy but don't actually mean anything. It's like that saying from Forest Gump.  "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get..." or whatever it is.

Me: Yeah, it's a nice enough saying...?

OM: No! You never know what you're gona get maybe if you're illiterate!  All you have to do is turn the box over and look at the map on the back and figure out which one you want! How does that saying make ANY sense?


OM: I think I was a good dad. I said to my daughter: you do drugs, I kill you.  Simple!

Hmm, I think a few 'CALD' (culturally and linguistically diverse) daughters could probably relate...


'Tripping pipe' is the process of building up the drill string, or sending pipe down a hole that has been drilled (in or out, depending on what is going on).  It's the essence of being a roughneck (one of the rig crew members).  This particular old mate was trying to reinforce the fact that he thought I was a little too young.

OM: I used to trip pipe in Baghdad before you were in your dad's bag!

Very clever, I see what you did there...


Have you heard any interesting bits of conversation lately?

Daily Life: What it's like to work on an all-male oil rig

This piece originally appeared on Fairfax's Daily Life.


My first posting on the oil and gas rigs happened shortly after graduating from mechanical engineering.  My mother was quite proud; my father on the other hand took a while to come around.  He couldn't understand why his Muslim daughter wouldn't accept a solid, stable job offer in the city.

“What are you doing out here?” my friends would ask, “Is it just for the money?”, “What is it like working with blokes all the time?” or, more often than not: “Are you insane?”

I remember walking into a meeting in the early days as one of the guys was taking a sip of his instant coffee.  "Tastes like date rape", he said.

I froze, looking at my fellow rig worker.  I wasn’t quite sure what to say.  If I overreacted he would badge me as being ‘over sensitive’ and avoid me for the rest of the job, but my inner feminist nonetheless cringed at the idea of letting such language slide. Sensing my unease, he finally said, "I guess we can’t say that sort of thing anymore now that you are here."

Working on oil and gas rigs isn't the first career path that typically comes to mind for many women. By and large, it's seen as a rough, tough, blokey world that is does not welcome female employees.   Notwithstanding this, I was attracted to the adventure, the practical aspect of the operation and the challenge of working in such an unusual environment.  It seemed like the ideal first job for an engineering experience junkie like me.

Given the fact that I have met around six women working in the field in the entire time I have been employed, one can say there is truth in the 'boys club' perception. But working in this masculine, testosterone-drenched environment has also been an interesting exercise in backyard sociology.

Here are some of the things I’ve learnt in the time I spent at the oil rigs:

Firstly, there is a significant generational difference in the male workers' attitudes towards women.

An older colleague once said, "Girly, when I started drinking, women weren't even allowed in bars." Men of his age share an antiquated view of women, but they are products of their time.

Then there are those who feel the need to be protective. “My mother, my father, my grandparents, my aunties...they'd not just roll in their graves, they'd right come out of their graves to give me a de-nozo slap if they heard me using any sort of language in front of a lady!”

Young guys, on the other hand, are often more 'gender blind'. Women being denied access or opportunities simply due to their gender is seen as old-fashioned.  They are also keenly aware of the legislation that protects that equality and will err on the side of caution so as not to put their foot in it.

They tend to test the waters and gauge what they can and can’t say around their female colleagues before they are rebuked.  It does give us a modicum of power, as they follow our cue.

However, 'formal' equality does not necessarily reflect a true change in their social attitudes and underlying expectations.  And the biggest giveaway is in the way the workers speak.

The language used by men on the rig is indescribable - and that is what they choose to say in front of me.  It’s relatively easy to complain about offensive or derogatory language in a modern mix-gender workplace.  However, when operating as the sole female in a male dominated environment, there are some awkward challenges.

Yes, we can go in, guns blazing, demanding things happen on our terms. The legislative framework exists, and is there for anyone to use if they feel discriminated against in any manner.

The protection we have as women in these environments is unprecedented when compared to attitudes two short years ago.  Legal change is the first, extremely important step.  However, forcing change in that manner inevitably fosters dissent and confusion in some cases.

In other words, the rules are changing for these men, but they don't quite know how to deal with it yet.  It is this behavioural change that we must now strive and push for, and it will be an uphill struggle.

In the end these are people I work with, live with, laugh with and rely on to keep me alive around pretty heavy machinery.  Most of them have fallen over themselves to help me and make sure that I am protected and looked after.  Although they can be painted as uneducated chauvinists, many of them are also a product of their society and what is expected of them to be ‘men’.

As my rig manager said, “This is a completely different world to [the one] out there... There is no way I would speak the same way I do on the rig in the street, that wouldn't be right.  It's just a way of keeping yourself a little sane'.”


I enjoy what I do and the company of the people I work with.  I don't envy the difficulty they have though, in dealing with the changes in societal expectations.  We live in unprecedented and interesting times...

What do you think?  

Crazy Rig Conversations: Part 7

BeautifulCaricaturemachoarts5_01One of my favourite parts about working out on the rigs is the crazy/hilarious/random/unexpected things people say.

Here are a few of the gems of conversations I have been a part of recently!
NB: In the interests of privacy and what-not, I have referred to individuals as Old Mate, or OM for short.


Me: Oh mate, I got woken up this morning by a cow! It was right next to my window like MOOOO!

OM: Oh you shoulda just opened the door and been like 'Oh mate, I don't do cattle'.

OM2: Yeh but then he woulda been like 'Oh but I'm built like a horse!'

OM: ...and hung like a donkey!

Laughter ensued...


I learnt a new phrase the other day...(apologies for possible offense!)

OM: Oh yeah we're doing a job up there for so-and-so

Me: oh yeah what kind of operation is it?

OM: Oh it's a bit of a n***a show.

I shook my head and made sure I heard correctly.


OM: You've never heard of the phrase n***a-rigging? It's when it’s real rough-like and you make do with what you've got. N***a rigging man! It's a worldwide thing!

I looked around. All the other guys seems unperturbed.

OM2: It’s true aye.

Me: *shock*


I was chatting to a colleague about things we did as kids...

OM: Oh I once branded my mum with a hot poker on her bottom!

I burst out laughing

OM: Yeah! We were on the farm and they'd been branding the cattle all day so I though that's what I should do too! I put the poker in the fire and then just poked her on the bottom.

She swears she's got the scar till this day...

She won't show us though!


I was chatting to a colleague from the United States' deep south.

OM: I guess I was lucky because I grew up not seeing colour... I mean, we've done that - everyone drinking from their own fountain and you can sit on the back of the bus...

Me: So when did segregation stop?

The Old Mate smiled.

OM: When did it stop?  We're still waiting for that to happen...