It's July! Summer weather is finally here! Check back once in a while I may stay in evenings a bit and write about life in the summer.
Happy Canada Day from Surmont 2
The Instrumentation Crew Wishes You Happy Canada Day
This is the instrumentation crew this morning. Most of them flew home midday for their one week out. Some of us stayed to carry on on the "B"shift. We get to fly out in a week while they are flying back. I'm the fifth hardhat from the left. The first white hardhat on the left. The other foreman is the white hardhat at the extreme right end of the line-up.
3 Doors to Life
On a two-week-in schedule one starts counting the number of compartments left on the vitamin pill container. It is July 26th as I write this. There are three doors left to open to get the vitamin pills. The day the last door is opened is the day we get to work a half day and leave for home. That will probably be my last day on site.
I like the work. The day's go very quickly and the pay is not bad. It is not up to the usual standard of shutdown work. Overtime rates are lower than many work sites and the client is "not in favour of jump time". Jump time is the pay that most other employers pay their foremen to come in early and leave late to stay on top of their paper work and be prepared to keep the work in front of their crews. Most foremen come in early anyway and work on paperwork while they eat so they can maximize their time in the field.
The first week I was here somebody issued a memo that all foremen were to accompany their crews to the task location and back to the lunchroom at breaks and back to the task location after breaks. That didn't happen. I remember that happening when I was a teenager working my first few shifts in a boiler house, but can't say I've seen it since unless you include kindergarden field trips, but certainly not with skilled tradesmen or foremen who are using their breaks to keep up with paperwork. My daughter and a fellow engineer proposed that we could use a length of rope that everybody could hang onto, but that was just humour. Or was it?
Anyway. I enjoy the work. The days go quickly. The weeks go quickly. The week off between the two work weeks goes very quickly. Summer is slipping away and none of my home projects are getting done. If I slip back into retirement that would be the primary reason.
A secondary reason for contemplating a return to retirement is the travel to and from Surmont 2. You can't just get in your truck and go. You go home by air which involves a 45 minute bus ride away from home. a two hour wait in a converted airplane hanger and then three plane loads of people are told to go through one door while the person on the public address system admonishes the crowd to "get organized".
I live a five hour drive from the camp. The airport I am delivered to is a five hour drive from my home. It takes them four hours to get me there. I could have been an hour away from home by then, enjoying my surround sound stereo in my new truck and not riding in the middle seat T-Rex position between two, three hundred pound boilermakers. Not a big deal, really, but just one more irritant of working in the low-trust work culture that could be explained as necessary in dealing with large groups of people in a highly regulated industry.
Last Flight Out
The trip out from camp was true to form. I think if they just had a paid, secured parking lot fifteen minutes from the camp gate it might have tipped my decision to stay. I don't mind being incarcerated in one of the nicest minimum security prisons in the world, but the hassle of getting to and from it when you are not economically desperate was a bit too much. But I digress.
Mikisew is Cree for eagle. Mikisew Air didn't quite soar with the eagles and was permanently grounded a couple of years ago. Its hanger has new life as a private air terminal. Surmont 2 workers are funneled through this terminal on their way to and from home. The spirit of the turkey must still haunt its walls, however. My first act of retirement after I caught up on my sleep after sleeping only four hours a night in camp was to send the following to the Surmont 2 people. Hopefully they will pass it on. Even if they don't the rant was cathartic.
As the plane landed in Edmonton the Pilot announced "Sorry we're late arriving in Edmonton. We were delayed in loading at Fort McMurray. That usually happens to us there. I don't know why.” He was being polite. Anybody who has travelled through the former Mikisew Air terminal has a pretty good idea.
Passengers are handed boarding passes of various colours, including different shades of the same colour. Then they are put in one large room and allowed to mix and mingle and clump near the doors. They are sent out to the airplanes at the same time through fewer doors than airplanes. Once on the airplane the passengers fill the seats closest to the front of the plane first. This blocks the aisle, slowing down the entry of the passengers that will sit in the rear rows.
What possibly could go wrong with that process?
Here are some modest suggestions:
1. Only issue boarding cards of different colours. Do not hand out different hues of the same colour or shades that can be confusing. Light green looks like yellow if you don’t have a yellow one for comparison. If you are going to keep two shades of green then always announce “light green” or “dark green” never just “green.”
2. Keep people together that have the same colour boarding card. This doesn’t have to be too rigid. A sign on a stanchion with the colour of the card designating the waiting area would do it.
3. Keep people away from the doors until you want them there. Use retractable barriers across the end of the seating areas (designated by colour) to create controllable access to the doors. Retract the barriers as you let passengers head to the doors.
4. Board the airplane rear rows first. If you don’t want to assign seating and board accordingly then have the flight crew direct people to the back rows first.
You have several hundred people who want to get home. You have airplanes that should be in the air. Make it easy for them. You don’t want them still talking about you in a bad way when they get to Edmonton.
Well. I did it! After the plane landed and I greeted my son-in-law in the parking lot where the baggage tractor delivers the luggage I phoned the "hot-line" repeating twice (should that be "repeating once" since I said it only two times?) my name, my foreman's name, my trade and why I was leaving a message ("I am quitting to enjoy the rest of the summer").
Independently poor again!
Will our savings last?
Will our pensions cover our life style?
Will I get work in the future if I need it?
Will I be healthy enough to work if there is work to be had?
Scary questions as one pulls away from the mammary gland of mammon, but the bigger question to deal with. The biggest fear and doubt of retirement despite being the one that one has control of is "will I use my time wisely?"
Work provides traction. There are buses to not miss. There are crew members who need stuff to do and material to do it with. There are deliverables and deadlines.
You walk briskly all day and you rush to catch the bus at the end of the day. The priorities and urgencies mean that you are always moving and generally you are moving in the right direction and overall you are productive.
Retirement has none of that. I have so much to do it would be easy to go into reset and freeze - doing nothing because I am unable to choose what to do next. There are few deadlines and hardly anybody to answer to if nothing gets done, so that the situation could go on indefinitely. On the other hand I could try to do it all and get so furiously busy on crap that has no lasting value that relationships and eternal values get sloughed aside. Tough, scary choices. No wonder so many people are too scared to retire. It's not for sissies. So I better put on my big girl panties and go seize the day and the week and the summer.