Monday, September 21, 2015

Supervision; or the Lack Thereof

Noobs are left to wonder when they hear that most gate guards are paid as independent contractors, or 1099. Simply put 1099 means you're responsible for your tax payments and that you receive a 1099 instead of a W2. Being self employed, or working as a contractor is far more involved than that. By far, the biggest source of controversy has arisen from some folks feeling that they are under compensated and that they should be classified as employees. Suits have been filed in more than just the gate guard vocation; most of them centered on pay-especially overtime. I'll not comment on that, except to say that I took this job knowing I would be paid as a contractor and that I am satisfied with my situation. How all this controversy affects you as a gate guard (or contractor) is simple. It has led employers (in this case security companies) to further themselves from involvement in the day to day activity of their contractors (gate guards). A lot of guards came from a corporate or military environment where their day to day activities were spelled out for them. This makes the transition into contracting difficult for some folks. Personally, I prefer a "hands off" work environment; I don't need or want anyone hovering over me. Gate guarding also presents numerous challenges. You live in close quarters with someone, dirt and/or mud is your constant companion, proper rest can be difficult, you have to reconcile the fact that you're married to the job 24-7 and 365 days (or until an assignment is finished or you make arrangements for relief) and you need to be a self starter and disciplined. And that fails to take into account the whole "off the grid" thing. If you're like us it will be the first time you have had to ration water and deal with a generator for power. There have been seemingly endless arguments posed over the compensation versus the hours worked. However, there is very little in the workamping world that pays near as much as gate guarding. Contracting also allows you the freedom to come and go at your leisure between gate assignments. You can still make decent money and enjoy some leisure and travel time. So; if you think gate guarding is a simple deal, mostly accomplished from a chair in front of your RV you are in for a rude awakening. Finally, the flip side of little or no supervision is that you're under constant scrutiny by the workers around you and the traffic utilizing your gate. Sometimes they can be a harsher judge than your employer. If you are found wanting as a gate guard it will manifest itself in the difficulty you have securing a gate. As in any business, valued contractors are rewarded.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Matter of Degrees

Fall is in the air. Morning and afternoon temperatures have abated and there has even been an occasional morning chill. We're approaching that time of year when it becomes more comfortable to work outside. It's also when systems on the RV seem to function optimally. Suddenly two a/c's aren't necessary and the refrigerator cools much better. We ask a lot of our equipment. The working parts of the refrigerator are in an uninsulated space, exposed to ambient temperatures. Most of the time we are parked out in the open, (I like to call it the bald ass prairie), without the benefit of shade of any kind. In 100 plus degree temperatures it's a wonder we get the inside of the RV down in the 80's. This is also a good time to do any needed outside maintenance and repairs. As a dear reader reminded me the other day, it's also a good time to exercise your house furnace. Just as it's a good idea to fire off the a/c in the cooler months. Equipment does not like to sit unused. After owning several RVs I have accepted that they are just not made for extreme weather. It doesn't matter if the manufacturer says it is a four season coach or that it's super insulated. With few exceptions, the RVs that fulltimers try to turn into mobile homes were designed for a vacation trip or a weekend on the lake.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Strange Times

I have struggled to keep from commenting on politics and other things as some of my dear readers do not seem interested in hearing my drivel. However, the state of affairs in every day life these days almost compels me to comment.

If nothing else convinces you of the need for a viable third party, the 2016 (it is 2016, right?) election should. Instead of unifying and solidifying the Republican Party, the Tea Party Movement has produced a schism in the party. Now we have a dozen or more candidates flailing about with very few of them capable of winning the nomination. Talk about smoky backroom politics, Clinton and her bunch are so sure of the Republicans ineptitude, that she runs unopposed. I understand that I am just one ignorant voice, but do you really think any of these candidates are the answer to America's problems? It has gotten to the point with Clinton that her innocence or guilt is not in question in my mind; its that she has so much turmoil and baggage to carry that it has to be a distraction. I am truly dismayed that our welfare society may indeed propel someone as corrupt as Clinton into office. And Bubba as first gentleman? Didn't he already soil the White House and Presidency enough? Again, we truly need a viable third party and some term limits. I fear that we are going to elect someone just for changes sake. Didn't we already try that? Buy the way; as I like to say, somewhere the Mullahs are rejoicing.

Without going into details, suffice it to say that the police have not always been my favorite people. As I have aged and mellowed I have begun to appreciate the need for some sort of law enforcement. The wholesale slaughter, especially of kids, in our cities has helped convince me of that. Isn't it odd that, if you do some research, the folks that run the worst of these cities are all part of the political machine that runs this country. For one thing Rob Emanuel and his cronies in Chicago are a prime example. They'll probably welcome Obama back to Chicago with open arms. (If you've been under a rock, they've been killing people by the hundreds in Chicago)  Despair runs rampant in our inner cities and the youth of today have generations behind them that have grown up in a gang culture. We're talking grandfathers and sons both rioting and on some sort of government subsistence. We (our tax dollars) have given a hand up to so many that the recipients feel no need to find other means of income. Add to this our appalling treatment; or the lack thereof, of the mentally ill. It seems as if every other horrific act is perpetrated by either someone mentally ill or having an extensive prior record; or both. This has produced a powder keg of emotions, making effective policing an almost impossible challenge. Now we are second guessing law enforcements every action and a disturbing trend of cop killings seem to be on the rise. It is going to take strong leadership and a resolute electorate to bring this under control.

Finally; I wasn't a fan of political correctness, or PC, when it started. However, lot of Americans needed to come out of the chauvinistic, male dominated thinking of the past. Some bucked up and resisted, spawning women's lib and minority movements, like Equal Opportunity, and adding them to the mix. Now, some thirty years or so down the road, gay folks are marrying and getting benefits and women have somewhat broken the glass ceiling. Minorities continue to struggle, even after having been given every kind of opportunity imaginable, and racism is as strong as ever. It's an uneven and ugly track record. People are afraid to speak their mind and there is a wholesale assault on just about anything someone finds offensive. From God in the Pledge of Allegiance, the Ten Commandments, Nativity scenes along with Menorahs and now; surreally; the Confederate battle flag-which has morphed into a movement to eradicate all things Confederate. It seems that this will never end and, to me, the bad part is a lot of it has to do with our heritage. No civilizations history is unblemished, they all have their flaws. To deny that is wasteful and ludicrous.

It is obvious that we lack a common goal. To be what has been traditionally defined as an American has become diluted. Unfortunately, we have let the genie out of the bottle and there is no going back. We need strong leadership and a groundswell of pride to get us headed in the right direction. To do the proper thing and find the right path is rarely easy. Unfortunately, these are strange times and we are faced with that very dilemma now. Let's hope we, as a society, can pull this off.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Little Fatigue

I know some of my dear readers have been expecting a post, but I am suffering a bit from writers block. We spent over a year working an almost "nine to five" existence on pipeline and construction gates. There never was a need for one of us to work through the night, as is common on most gates. Consequently, when we assumed this post on a drilling rig, it was both a shock and adjustment to provide 24 hour coverage. I volunteered to work the overnight shift and have struggled mightily to adapt to my new hours. Add to that that the security company we contract out to has been offered a ton of additional work. What does that have to do with fatigue, you might ask? Well, they got caught shorthanded and we ended up covering a gate for them for a day or two. Perhaps it's my age, and surely the change in work and sleep patterns had something to do with it; but working thirty some hours with just a nap squeezed in, kicked my butt. Then my body and spirit rebelled and I came down with a cold; or some version of the oil field "crud" that circulates around. One of the things we have to remember and adjust to is that frack and drilling gates run pell-mell 24 hours a day. There is no respite. That makes runs to the big city; as we did today, a chore. To keep it from being overtaxing, we find it works best if both partners give up a little of there sleep. Don't misunderstand this as me complaining. Far from it. We are always glad to have work and we actually are pleased to be back on a drilling rig. We feel a sense of camaraderie here and feel like members of the team. Like a lot of guards, we like to ingratiate ourselves with the crew. We prepare all sorts of things for them from cookies to smoked brisket. We have found that most of the roughnecks, support and supervisory personnel to be real "salt of the earth" people. Though we rarely ask for it we know that, in return, they have our back.

There has been a lot of uncertainty in the patch with the collapse of oil prices. It is a shame that most Americans seem oblivious to how much the folks in the oil business are affected by it. The layoffs and cutbacks have conspired to create an aura of apprehension. For whatever reason, some of the bigger players appear to be shrugging it off and continuing production.  I have and continue to be apprehensive, but the near future seems almost positive. So far I haven't seen the influx of winter Texans; at least not at the level of last year, and the demand for guards remains strong. Volatility goes part and parcel with the petroleum industry. Lets hope American shale production can survive these turbulent times.