I was suddenly hyper conscious of my 5ft 3in frame amongst the sea of 6ft+, 200lb men towering around me on the rig floor. I had always maintained that I was an average height female.
The company man was screaming instructions at MY crew, in the middle of MY safety briefing. He was a middle aged guy with a stern face, battle hardened by years of exposure to the elements — the open expanse of desert and rig camps can be quite unforgiving that way. Not a fan of female engineers, I could tell. I had developed a knack for these things in my 2 yrs on the job. And he also facepalmed himself saying, “ohh they sent a girl engineer…I told them I don’t want a girl” when I entered his exclusive caravan to introduce myself. Where had I heard it before !!! I can probably forget about the accommodation, sleeping in the truck it is.
Back on the rig floor, it was dark but I could clearly see him fuming…his eyes burning, as if a girl on the rig floor had challenged his entire universal order and he wasn’t going to have any of it. I wasn’t worthy of him looking at me, let alone talk to me about the job I, I was in charge of.
My brain went in overdrive. There were a number of plans being actively forged, while I gave him my best eye roll — in my head. Think Nancy Pelosi at Trump’s SOTU. Just a small issue, there wasn’t a single one that didn’t warrant my crew and I getting kicked off the rig.
And I had discovered that I hated confrontation. I just refused to do it. I still believed in common decency and wasn’t going to swoop that low, or errr mainly my body wasn’t going to. You see, every time a moment arose for me to step up and blow my top off…I could feel the surge of energy and emotions running through me, my eyes got red, my heart thumped through my chest, throbbing green- blue veins appeared on my forehead but it isn’t exactly a cake walk to project, against gravity might I add, on someone towering a foot / foot and a half above you and twice your age.
I had never appreciated people underestimating me. So this wasn’t the moment to choke up. I was in-charge of this multi million pound operation, and responsible for the safety of the rig and the entire crew — including him, during the same. And I didn’t travel halfway across the world to Africa for another ‘know it all’ misogynist to tell me how to run my job or how could my boyfriend or fiancée ALLOW me to do a job like this or (my favourite) why wasn’t I married — all from well meaning strangers I would have usually met mins ago.
I took a deep breath and let him finish his tirade, no point swimming against the tide. I could feel my legs quiver, and my stomach churn. I looked directly at him, pointed to my crew and in my calmest, deepest voice I said, “they are going to do what I tell them to. And I know what I am doing so let me get on with it”. He hadn’t realised that I understood Arabic, his jaw fell to the floor.
Off the corner of my eye, I could see my crew chief and operators smiling with a hint of admiration in his eyes. I finished the safety briefing in my most authoritative voice. Puffed up my chest and triumphantly walked off the rig. My heart was still racing but I was grinning ear to ear. I would need to fight extra hard for accommodation. Resorting to begging might have a better win rate at this stage and would be prudent to forget about one with a washroom. I had my priorities all wrong but I loved every bit of it.