Things I Learned in The Oilpatch
By Debbie Bernard
English 354That if you encounter a group of men who are laughing really hard, and you ask them what they’re laughing at, and they say, “You don’t want to know!” Grab a clue: You really don’t want to know. I could’ve lived my entire life without knowing that Mark one time emitted such a foul fart while driving Will to lunch in the company truck that Will--tough, macho, Will!--actually threw up. Three times! Luckily he managed to open the door and throw up on the ground.
Later, I questioned my friend Mark about The Incident. Mark, my witty, analytical purchasing-agent friend, whom I thought I knew well. How could he also be capable of such unthinkable cruelty? Not to mention such toxic gas?
Mark confirmed the incident and said his first thought was, “What did I eat before The Fart Heard Round the Oilpatch? I’ve got to remember so I can recreate it!”
“It doesn’t seem like something you would do,” I said.
“Oh, you don’t understand!” Mark said. “Will used to come in my office when I was on the phone with a vendor that I’d been waiting for hours to talk to.” (Mark’s office phone was not cordless, so he was literally tied to the desk in the tiny office) “He would then fart--several times!--going around in a circle like a motorboat, and leave and shut the door, laughing his ass off!”
“Well, I knew that Will had a weak stomach. I bided my time. Waited until it was just him and me in the truck. Locked the windows. And got my revenge,” Mark explained, a faint tinge of pride in his voice.
“It’s all fun and games until somebody throws up,” Dan, the Outside Salesman, concluded. “And, hey, we told you that you really didn’t want to know!”
That there really is a Good Old Boys network and, if you have a vagina, you cannot join it.
That men who move dirt and build roads for a living are every bit as intrigued, and every bit as entertained, by what they do as are seven year old boys playing with their Tonka trucks. It‘s just that the men’s sandboxes are much, much bigger.
That there is a flipside to the macho, sexist attitude that prevailed in the early years of the oilfield. Yes, they might call you “Sweetie.“ And you must remember that this was 1981. The Feminist Movement had taught us wonderful things, but had also taught us they we weren’t The Girls! We were Women! And that we pay for our own dinner and open our own car doors, thank you very much (WHAT were we thinking?)
The flip side to the seemingly sexist, politically-incorrect-by-this-century’s-standards is this: Those men who called you “Darlin’” would fiercely defend you, appreciate you more than you possibly deserved, rescue you when you were in trouble, treat you like a gem precious beyond measure, a beloved object. But, hey, a precious object with privileges! I saw the dichotomy, the double standard. However, I was making more money in a week than I did in a month as a degreed journalist in the Lower 48. More, I was quite sure, than President Reagan’s secretary.
So go right ahead. You can call me “Darlin,” Darlin’.