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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pipe Dreams: a Syncrude Story

A few years ago, I spent a couple of months on site in an attempt to learn the craft of pipefitting. I eventually left this trade after a short three months but in the interim, wrote about my experiences. Because I have mentioned them to some people, I am publishing them again, here. Feel free to have a giggle.

Pipe Dreams: a Syncrude Story

by The Eager Beaver

The Prequel

I have never actually dreamed about becoming a pipefitter. In fact, up until about five months ago, I had no idea this trade even existed. A closely related trade is plumbing, so I have heard. Good enough for me - I know what a plumber is. I think I may buy some low-rider pants and white Fruit of the Looms for the occasion. I may have to buy some high-rise shirts, too. May as well ‘Go hard or go home’, I say. I do what I want!

This year, I am taking a break from my teaching career to try something a little different for awhile. I have had a lot of fun teaching (even when it was a struggle) but it is time for a much-needed break. I have applied for, been interviewed for, been offered and have accepted a job at Syncrude as a steamfitter / pipefitter. If I love it, I will stay in the trade and work my way up to either teach / supervise / train others. Once a teacher, always a teacher.

I don’t know all my duties yet. I will learn. I heard there might be catwalks involved. I am not in love with heights. Actually, I barf in my own mouth just thinking about it.

In being ready for this new position, I bought the industrial, steel-toed, CSA-approved work boots (actually, I bought 2 pairs. I bought both black and brown. They were on sale and I don’t know if I have to wear cover-alls or Carharrts ~ which, I will, in true Fort McMurray fashion, promptly wear to WalMart shopping as well as to work ~ but I figure I want to match my boots as best as possible to my pants so I don’t look too weird - I don’t want my future colleagues to make fun of my fashion sense or lack thereof - who knows if there are fashion rules about overalls? I will be safe and have both sets of boots ready) and I bought the industrial-sized lunchbag (with room for reading material just in case of boredom), contacted supervisors and learned the bus schedule.

It’s nearly Go Time.

The New Job countdown has begun. One day until I am a pipefitter. I am ready.

I chose pipefitting after narrowing the trades list down to two choices: Heavy Equipment Technician or Steamfitter / Pipefitter. I spoke to some people who know some people who do some things and these two trades were explained to me. While HET is lucrative, the chance to MAKE something is just too great of a lure for me... I get to (eventually) make pipes.

Now, for some, you may think I have been smoking the pipe if this makes me excited. To tell the truth, I am kind of an ‘Eager Beaver’ (as my friend, Sherra-Lee, would say) to get started. I am not getting excited about putting together little, baby pipes - I am getting excited about fabricating GREAT, BIG pipelines. BIG ones! Syncrude-sized pipes for the oil industry! To tell the truth again, I never thought I would be working in the oil industry but it sure is booming and filled with opportunities. And as they say, I’m in oil country now (with appropriate tip of the cowboy hat. Crap, I need to buy a cowboy hat. Black or brown? Both?).

Leaving the life of academic labour for one of physical labour. Eyes wide open, 1, 2, 3... JUMP!

Chapter 1: The First Day

... to come...

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