Saturday, April 30, 2016

An Easy Decision

For as long as I can remember, we were champions of J&G Security. We took some flack for it, but we persisted. So much so that some thought of us as paid recruiters. Although we occasionally were rewarded for our efforts, we were never on the payroll. Little did anyone know, but I actually was a "go to" guy for guards for several companies. I'm still doing that, it's just the phone doesn't ring as much these days. I took great pleasure in helping others and felt like I had to pay it forward after the help I received (thanks Andy!) J&G had a tarnished reputation because of dealings I'm not familiar with and won't comment on. Justin French was in the process of gaining control of the company when we signed on. Therefore. I think it's unfair to saddle past mistakes with him. We have seen the company grow from a half dozen gates or less to well over two dozen during the $100 a barrel craziness. Thankfully, during the current collapse and glut, our main customer rewarded J&G with an exclusive security contract, ensuring that at least a core group of us would still have work.

I could spend paragraphs citing examples where J&G went above and beyond to help us out and/or keep us employed. However, for me, the best example has to be their caring for both of us during our recent health issues. When I recently suffered a heart attack on a gate, they had subs in place before I could get in the truck to go to the hospital. Through the years at J&G we have been surprised by their candor and rewarded for our efforts. We always know where we stand, making the choice of who to contract out to an easy decision.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Medical Emergency in the Oil Patch

.As some of you may know I recently suffered a heart attack. I've had cardio problems for years so I'm familiar with what to expect; or so I thought. My initial experience came after a lack of vigor and notably slow blood flow. I had my first experience with the cath lab then. Most heart procedures are handled by the cath lab, so named because of the catheter the cardiologist uses. They make an injection in the patients groin or arm and, using dyes and cameras they navigate around the arteries of the heart, looking for blockages. Once a blockage(s) is found the cardiologist can either insert a stint (to widen the vessel or artery) or; if things are too bad; he can opt to pull out and perform a bypass. That calls for open heart surgery. That's what eventually happened to me; I ended up with a quadruple bypass. Throughout all the years of cardio problems, I'd never suffered what I call a "classic heart attack". You know; like the guy doubled over in pain in the old movies screaming for his digitalis. In fact, the only way they were able to tell I had had a heart attack was scarring on the heart muscle and elevated enzymes in my blood. I had felt no discomfort. That all changed with this heart attack. I started to feel like something wasn't right a few days before the event and it got progressively worse. I really wanted to cause as little fuss as possible and tried to find someone to cover our gate, with no luck. The last two nights I awoke to extremely acute angina, something that had never happened before. Finally, I could not take the pain and could not move more than a few feet in any direction. I messaged my boss and told him I needed to get to a hospital. Many remarkable things happened after that, mostly from the kindness of guards; some that were strangers and some that we knew. Everyone of them had to drop what they were doing and some had just worked a shift. I am VERY grateful to all of them. We were rolling to town in less than thirty minutes. No offense meant to all the very capable medical professionals in all the small towns we passed through, but we knew we needed a cardiologist, so we didn't bother to stop. We also knew it would take time and that they would more than likely put me on a life flight to San Antonio, so we pushed on. One of my fears of dealing with heart disease in the oil patch has been the remote areas we work in. I have to say this fear was realized because it was a long, painful ride. On top of that, the first hospital we stopped at did not have a cath lab or even a cardiologist on staff. Let me say that. the folks at Mission Trail Baptist Hospital went to great lengths to diagnose me and alleviate my pain. Unfortunately, I only remember the name of the gorgeous nurse that attended to me; thanks Priscilla! As an aside, let me tell you that you have no dignity when those folks are poking and prodding. All I know is that I had to pee something awful and no one missed a beat while I stood up and peed into a portable urinal. That was strange, but at that point I simply wanted the pain to go away. I had a goofy doctor (no offense meant, it might have been his bedside manner); that knew what he was looking at. Amongst all the chaos in the small room I was in, he burst in and trumpeted to all who could hear that I was suffering a heart attack. I'm not sure why, but it kind of reminded me of a scene from a Groucho Marx movie. He then dropped the "bomb" that they didn't have a cath lab or cardiologist on staff and that I would be transported by an ALS ambulance to Baptist Hospital in downtown San Antonio. I had some morphine in me by then (here I go again with my wild thoughts) and all I could think of was Mr. Toads Wild Ride in Disneyland. I had a pint sized lady for a driver and she made Danica Patrick proud. Everyone could learn a lesson from the communication at Baptist Hospital(s). They were expecting me at the ambulance door and a armed security guard shepherded us through a warren of passageways and elevators(all requiring his key card) till we reached the cath lab on the sixth floor. There, an entire cath lab, a cardiologist and assistants awaited me and knew who I was. Amazing! By the time Missy arrived from the other hospital, they had started the procedure. I can't say enough about the staff at Baptist Hospital, especially downtown. The remarkable things continued to happen, because I also ended up with a top notch cardiologist looking after me. Now; if I could just improve the food. I am on the road to recovery and need to mention one final thing. I have some of the best people you'd ever want to meet at the security company we contract out to. J&G Security has always had our back and this time was no exception. They have let us roost in their yard; both this time and during Missy's recent health issues. They have also kept some money coming in by assigning us twelve hour gates. Our trust of each other is mutual and we go out of our way to represent them professionally.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Worth of a Gate Guard or Workamper

This subject has been hashed about ad nauseam. Several blogs have dealt with everything from work environment expectations to rate of pay and beyond. With the over abundance of oil and the subsequent slowdown have come the expected cuts in pay and decline of the RV as a guard shack/home at a ranch gate. So the subject is worth revisiting.

First, let me speak on the subject of workamping. Having tried it, I remain skeptical of anyone making it on the road workamping unless you have little debt and some sort of supplemental income. I have kept tabs on the workamping scene and it has gotten worse, especially with the advent of having to pay for your site out of the meager income you do make. The rational from some pundits is that it is an ideal job for retirees and; if you need money, you can always get a part time job. Let me say that there is no way I could do the work I was asked to do at my current age or beyond. As far as finding secondary employment, I was never able to make anything fit in with my workamping obligations.

On to gate guarding. This has always been a tough gig as the aforementioned blogs will attest. Noobs that came in without doing their fair share of investigating faced an uphill climb to success and lots gave it up. Woe to the person(s) that thought they would kick back in their camp chair and pickup some easy money. There have been and continue to be sweeping changes in the industry. I thought guard shacks would take over the industry (they may still), but I've seen some resistance building. There are a whole lot of negatives for shack work, most notably the drive back and forth and having to pay for a place to park your rig. The most striking change has been the decline in pay for gate guard work. Most of us knew it was coming, but sub $100 for a 12 hour day even surprised me. The only advice I can give you, is know what your getting into and the rate you agreed upon. A man's word is still his bond in Texas and you should abide by it. I'm one that believes you should finish the task at hand before moving on.

IMHO the day may come when this gig is not worth doing; especially in the hell that is called summer in South Texas. However; every time I think to myself that there is no way someone is going to take a job, someone jumps into the saddle. I, for one, am making preparations for a future outside of gate guarding. It just makes sense to me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Value of Experience

Other than a couple of occurrences; me for some heart work and Missy for "woman" issues, we have remained fairly healthy. Some time after we moved down here to work in the oil patch Missy started having prolonged coughing spells. For convenience, and since we didn't have insurance, she went to the local clinic and hospital. Although they noted a high calcium count in her blood, they failed to put that together with several other issues she was experiencing. If they had correctly attributed her high calcium count to a problem with her parathyroid glands, the calcium wouldn't have caused stones to accumulate in her gall bladder. Now she is facing surgery to remove her gall bladder and to remove tumor(s) from her parathyroid gland. As it turns out, the pesky cough that the clinic diagnosed as whooping cough (along with several other symptoms) were the result of her calcium filled gall bladder. The specialist in the "big city" figured that out after just a few minutes spent reviewing her chart. Skills vary in every profession, but to get the best out of our legal and medical system requires deep pockets and/or insurance. We can all learn from this and try to get a second opinion, especially with prolonged symptoms.

While I was composing this Missy had her gall bladder removed and is doing better. Her parathyroid surgery is next.