If you remember, a few days ago we got a call from the gate guarding company asking us to leave the yard and head to a gate. So we immediately sprung into action and were out of there in under an hour, driving across Texas and taking over the gate that same day. That’s who we are, and how we work with people, so it keeps surprising us when that level of commitment isn’t reciprocated. Admittedly, our experience with gate guarding is pretty small. We worked for a small company last year that was obviously in transition, so we chalked up a lot of their disorganization to the fact that the company was in crisis. Fast forward to this year, and we intentionally decided to work for one of the more established companies, in the hopes that we wouldn’t run into any issues.
Big shock, the experience has been almost identical. You get a call to go to a gate with little to no warning, and when you arrive, it’s between you and the people you are relieving to do the switch. They are in a hurry to get out of there, so you get some paperwork dumped in your lap (literally), a cursory explanation of the rules of that particular property, and then that couple is down the road. That’s OK, you think, because the company you work for will have the information you need, except they rarely know what is going on in detail. You are assigned a “local” technical person to make sure you have fuel for the generator, and water, but you won’t necessarily see that person for several days until after you arrive. The scheduler tries to be helpful but they don’t really know, so all of a sudden you are the hot potato in a game between the oil company men and the gate guarding compan,y and you are also no one’s top priority.
I get it, I really do, but the thing that really drives me crazy is the broken commitments. If you can’t help me, just tell me that, don’t say you will do something or call me back and then blow me off. It’s unprofessional and it happens all of the time!! Plus it’s not like we are that demanding. The only thing we need from these folks is generator fuel, water, sewage dump, trash removal, and working floodlights. And all of that is just so we can actually do what they sent us here to do. Oh, and of course, to get paid. In all fairness they seem to have figured the last one out, but at times the other items seem a bit optional. Then we have to end up escalating or talking to other people, and the whole thing just gets rather messy. We are here and doing our jobs from the minute we set foot on the property. All we ask is that they do theirs. Pretty simple really. (This stuff makes me crazy, too, but I prefer gate guarding to most of the stuff we’ve done, so I try not to let it make me too crazy. – Lee)
I know all this sounds pretty harsh, but neither one of us has any patience for it. Well, I say that, but of course we must have the patience for it or we wouldn’t be doing this. And again, in all fairness once you have settled into a gate and know all the players things run much more smoothly. Let me give you an example. When we arrived here the previous couple stated that they were almost out of fuel in the floodlight generator (which here is a separate generator from the one that provides our rig with power) and they gave me the name and number of the guy who was supposed to deliver it on New Year’s Day. I thought that was unlikely to happen, and it didn’t, but on Tuesday when we still had not heard from him I gave him a call. He apologized and said he would call the fuel company and see if they would get someone out right away, and that was around 5pm. Again, I thought that was highly unlikely, so wasn’t surprised no one showed. The next day Lee called and left him a message first thing in the morning, but we didn’t hear back from him the entire day. We also called our local company contact, but he went into a rant about how it wasn’t his responsibility, and how that company owed 20 gallons of fuel because he had filled it last time, and the company we work for doesn’t provide the lights. Alright then..that was different from our experience last year. Our light stand was part of our “house setup” and they provided fuel and maintenance. This company only provides two dinky light stands that you plug into your RV. Of the four lights on those two stands, 3 have bulbs, and 2 of them have broken switches. They’re the really lightweight kind you would use in your house, and they fall over in any kind of wind.
Finally, I decided to call the name on the equipment itself, since it was also on the paper I was provided with contact information. Coincidentally that company is heavily involved in the frack and the guy I called had just left the site about 15 minutes earlier. I explained the situation and my concern about coyotes, and he promised to send someone out. Well this time that actually happened, and the gentleman they sent seemed annoyed by the whole thing. I went out and thanked him though, and got him to talk a little, and he shared that the company who owned the drilling rig had been filling it. Now that the drilling rig was gone, he supposed he would have to do it since they were in charge of frack. “That makes sense,” I said, thinking it’s a good thing I kept dialing numbers, and I must have made a good impression because on his way out he handed me a card for when it ran low. Problem is solved, but the Gate Guard company was absolutely zero help, which was really the point of this story. Since they own the contract with the oil field companies and we are merely subcontractors, we are walking a pretty thin line here. But as I said in the title, that’s just the way things are.
Knowing this, we are settling in. Each gate is a little different, and this one has the sand pit pretty close to the gate. From dawn to dusk trucks are removing caliche that is being used to build roads elsewhere. This results in a truck every 5 minutes or so, and since it’s the same traffic going back and forth to a nearby construction site, Lee put together a plan to handle it. At the beginning of the day he gets names, truck numbers etc, and then from that point on we just log them from inside the rig with the truck number as they come through without stopping them, or going outside. Our front living room model RV is the perfect solution for this as we can sit at the computer and easily see the truck numbers. We still get up for all cars and pickup trucks (along with any other frack related semis), but this reduces the workload considerably. And we are both really thankful that we don’t have to physically open and shut the gate. Now you may be wondering who gave us permission to do it this way? Well, that is one of the benefits of the disorganization. We can set up what works best for us and if someone has an issue, they can tell us how they want it done instead. Since no one seems to be in charge we wouldn’t know who to ask anyway.
What else? Well, we wanted to make sure we got paid, so we printed out our contracts and scanned and emailed them. As a side note we do carry a printer and a wand feed scanner and although we hate the space they take up, we have needed them on quite a few occasions, and often without much notice. For instance, the closest place to us where we could get something printed out is an hour away. Generally that need corresponds with us being nowhere near a place that could handle printing and scanning for us, so it’s just easier to be self-sufficient in this area. If you are thinking about going on the road and plan on working or volunteering I highly recommend bringing these items with you. On a completely different note, the weather has improved, and we are able to leave the water hooked up all night. It was 12° the first four days, and now it’s in the 60’s during the day. It is super dusty , with all the traffic, and our rig is already covered in dust. We learned our lesson last time and are keeping our windows shut! It’s a bummer not being able to air things out, but this dust does get everywhere and in the greater scheme of things it’s better. We still get dust though from opening and shutting the door, and of course we track it in on our clothes. I only mention this because if you hate dust and dirt this is definitely not the job for you, because it is 100% unavoidable.
On Thursday night around 9pm our gate guard company service provider showed up. We had asked him to call before he came, and he did, giving us all of 10 minutes notice. Thankfully Lee was still awake, and worked with him to set up our black tank and get some information on the other equipment. He also told us that the water was purchased from a water company and I was glad to hear it. Gate Guard companies do not guarantee potable water, which is a big deal for me since I drink so much of it. Since the water is coming to us fresh, all I need to worry about is the tanks and for the time being we are double filtering the water and drinking it. We have a filter at the hose and I also use a Brita, and I hope that works out OK. Some gate guards buy bottled water, but that is expensive and a pain in the tush, so I much prefer to use what they provide if possible. The only disturbing part of the meeting was when we asked when we would get more water. The folks before us left us with about 125 gallons in a 500 gallon tank, but our service rep said we would be fine for 10 days. When Lee tried to express his concern, the guy kind of blew him off.
That just wasn’t OK with us and after he left we talked about what we would do. The way I see it we are professional and low drama, but we expect the basics of timely fuel and water delivery. Since this is a new company and their contract didn’t spell out how much fuel and water they will provide (some are very specific about that), I decided to call our coordinator. I started the call very nice, and just looking for specifics on their water policy, but she immediately validated my concern. She agreed water and fuel were the bare minimum, and stated we could always call her if we ran out of water. That was good to hear because as I expressed to her we do use water. Some folks treat this job as if they were boondocking, but in our minds the water and fuel are part of the compensation. At this point we are still waiting to see when they come out. For the time being we have enough and they have plenty of time to address it.
All that being said it’s been a really nice week. We’ve settled into a routine, and both of us are working on tasks that never seem to get done when we are traveling. Plus we have strong cellular and all four TV networks, which is awesome because I have the time and means to watch some football, right as the playoffs are starting. Lee and I also had our annual budget meeting where we look at the year and adjust our targets for the next year. Those are always pretty tense, but we worked through it, and I’ll be providing more details in the January report. Mainly we are just happy to be sitting still for awhile. As much as I like traveling and seeing new places, it’s also nice to just sit once in a while and both of us are enjoying it. As proof here are some pictures of what Lee gets into when he has time on his hands! No worries, everything was put back together before he went to bed and is working just fine.
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