Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Little Clarity

Folks unfamiliar with life in the oilfield seem confused about how the whole contract thing works. My family seems especially confused about who we actually work for and still seem anxious every time we are released from a job. It is all pretty simple and almost like the hierarchy you encounter in any construction project. The difference is that we are not building anything and rarely have sub contractors. Our job security is dependent on land owners or companies needing property and equipment protected. We have an underlying responsibility, which is tracking traffic in and out of the project we are working on. This record is primarily intended to serve as an accounting of who is and isn't on the premises should an emergency occur.
Here's a quick synopsis on how it all works (and I am no expert). Exploration companies determine where they feel the best chance is to find oil or gas. There are "land men" who serve as the liaison between the exploration companies and the land owners. Once permission is obtained to drill on the property a formal contract is signed between the land owner and the exploration company. Where it gets interesting (and testy) is when the mineral rights and property belong to two different people. That's a whole different issue with all kinds of legal ramifications which are not germane to this story. South Texas is unique in that it has far more gate guards than any other area of the country. There are many reasons for this from illegal immigration to exotic animal hunting and collecting. The truth is, I'm not actually sure of the exact reason. Back to the story. Once all parties agree that a gate guard is needed the call goes out to a gate guard company. As you can imagine, this is another area of contention, as the contracts are sought after and coveted. This is yet another area I am not familiar with. Some guard companies work for a particular company or two and others take what comes along. Gate guards can work the same way, contracting out to who ever offers them employment; but most seem to find a place they feel comfortable working and remain there.
What seems to confuse folks is that when gate guard(s) complete a contract and are released it doesn't mean they are let go (or fired) in the traditional sense. Technically we are kind of "in limbo" between contract opportunities; not unlike a painter, plumber or any other contractor. Most gate guards are also self employed, responsible for their taxes and health insurance. Also confusing is that, while we may work for the same company on a regular basis, gate guards do move around frequently. Thus you may find gate guards sending their loved one(s) many different mail addresses. Just like full timing, this confounds folks to no end. There is a tremendous value placed on having and maintaining a permanent address. Full timers (which gate guards essentially are) get around this by establishing a permanent address/mail drop in one state. This allows them to establish a domicile to use for residency and licensing purposes. There still remains a necessity to "go around" the drop box (for important papers and boxes; for instance), thus the use of local P.O. boxes. Just like fulltimers, there are vocations that require one to move move all around the country. Apparently the anomaly of not living in a "stick and brick" home is difficult for some folks to comprehend.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Taking Stock

This could be a prelim for my annual Markies awards. So much has and is happening in the world that I think it's time to look back and take stock. A lot of our attitude(s) are molded by perspective and, boy, does our perspective seem a little skewed these days.

This marks the sixth month since the disappearance of Malaysia Air Flight 370 and still nothing has been found. While I'm inclined to believe it's on the ocean bottom somewhere, the fact that no debris attributed to the jetliner has been found makes me wonder. While we are on the subject, it is apparent to me that I was correct in that no one will ever be brought to task for the shoot down of the other Malaysia Air jetliner. How tragic both incidents were.

If there ever was any doubt that race relations in this country were (and are) in the toilet, the incident in Ferguson should have erased it. On top of everything else poor leadership was shown by all involved. Even worse is that small business owners suffered mightily at the hands of their own customers. Have you heard of anyone being arrested for looting or destruction of property??

How ironic that depression would stifle the voice of one of the funniest men ever to inhabit this planet. At the very least it should serve as an example of how much work still remains to be done in regards to treating mental illness. The fact that we lost one of the funniest women ever to inhabit this planet soon after is also sobering. Perhaps caution on all of our parts before committing to out patient procedures is warranted.

Where oh where do I go in regards to the appalling lack of leadership in this country. It's like kids in the school yard threatening each other, knowing that neither would follow through. Shame on Congress for threatening the President with a lawsuit (and wasting tax payer dollars) when the Constitution clearly provides  for it in the form of impeachment. Shame on the President for getting on the bully pulpit and then backing down when Congress called his bluff. Where are we when both parties back down and agree to disagree and get nothing done? The double edged sword of term limits gives voters the opportunity to invoke change while at the same time quashing any continuity in policy(ies). You better believe that other countries are watching this all unfold.

Meanwhile terrorists/religious zealots seem to roam the world at will, undeterred in their ultimate goal to establish an Islamic caliphate, or state.  For some reason many still fail to understand that they have no respect for man made borders and that you cannot deal with them in that respect. They see the world as being run by infidels and they won't be satisfied till they are wiped out. I still maintain that we have to slow or stop the trade and sale of weapons before any progress can be made. Surely a government of a fairly large country must be involved; because the last time I checked the local convenience store didn't sell plastique or automatic weapons. 
Hopefully all of you will take at least a moment out of your busy lives and remember those we lost in the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Please also keep in mind our brave men and women who have given so much since that day.