“Bee P Three-One ” (To err is human, to forgive divine) (except if you are BP)
Posted on September 11, 2010
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“Bee P Three-One “
To err is human, to forgive divine. (except if you are BP)
Being a lower ranking, working class boy in the Gulf of Mexico oil patch, bestows upon the bearer of this common, but nonetheless merit worthy occupation the opportunity to be quiet and observe. (I never did excel at the former pursuit, but modestly make claim to being a not unworthy apprentice in the latter.)
The name ‘BP’ prior to a fateful day, was always associated with above average general excellence and very high standards. Thousands upon thousands of good Americans (and maybe a small handful of scoundrels) were and are employed directly by this giant, with tens of thousands more good souls, spread far and wide across the land, in a bewildering variety of service industries. The variety of pursuits and labors are too numerous to enumerate. Giving regard to the “multiplier effect “, a favorite drone of Ecomumblemists and TV talking heads, it is my simple understanding that a cool hundred million bucks spent casually by BP over a week or so explodes into four or five times that sum injected into the Gulf economies, by the time Mama has spent that twenty bucks she got from Pappa who got it from the butcher, who gave it to the baker, who created those sticky buns that were heartily eaten somewhere out on a platform in South Timbalier.
To my knowledge,BP, (again, prior to a fateful day), represented to many the pinnacle of career achievement. To get a toe hold in the door at BP, never mind to become a permanent full time employee, with all the attendant status, prestige, good pay and benefits, was the quiet dream of many a wage slave hack. Especially those whose lots were needfully thrown in with a dizzying variety of sub contractors, with all the risks of being laid off when the cycle of activity reversed itself downhill.
I never worked for BP as an employee, and I have no reason to apply there, and no likely reward for appearing perhaps sympathetic. But if I be permitted to toddle dreamily down memory lane, I well remember the time I served with my present (long suffering) employer, when I was directed to being the ‘Yellow Cab’ driver with the ringing call sign “Bee P Three-One “.
I confess (a trifle sheepishly) I rather liked being “Bee P Three-One “. There were several reasons for this.
My employer (well aware of the competitive nature of our trade) treated all customers as being very special, and from the small to the very large, all were equally important. “Through these gates pass the finest people in the world – our customers “. It was a true boast, and we little ones who depended on those customers to pay our mortgages, feed our families and chrome our motorcycles, knew it to be so. It is therefore wrong to say that there were amongst these equals perhaps one or two were more equal than others. But if such a wrong statement were to be made by some misguided wretch, (heaven forbid!), then it is most likely that the very name of BP would have been on that fool’s lip.
To even become “Bee-P Three-One ” was not just a matter for my employer to decide, like with most other customers. I was dispatched for a BP interview, where no less than three separate gentlemen individually queried me on my Cab Driver background and experience. Once seemingly satisfied, I was then politely but carefully guided through the BP requirements, and courteously but pointedly referred to additional safety considerations. Only after a few hours of this, and my signature, was I finally anointed with the BP Holy Water. Spiritus Sanctus. Amen. I was in.
The actual cab driving itself, approached initially somewhat nervously by me, was very pleasurable.
This was made so, significantly, by the cheerful demeanor of my many passengers. Not all were BP employees. But they were unanimously friendly and easy to work with, and they welcomed me on board as part of the team from the very first day. The field foreman especially seemed to go out of his way to be very approachable. On one of the first nights, he took me out for a very fine meal indeed, and seemed intent on making my acquaintance as early as possible. From then on in, I was regularly invited around to dine at the BP accomodation house in Fourchon. It was a good and pleasant time. It was a wholesome departure from some other customers I have flown in my career, some of whom were frowning and silent, and treated me as the uninteresting hired help. To be seen, not heard, and not involved. Just drive the cab, shut up, get us there. Also a customer’s privilege, and not to be condemned by myself, and surely not so judged. But nowhere near so involved a team, as that which I served during my sojourn at BP.
Two additional small memories tickle their way to the surface of my frontal lobe. They are in truth small memories, but prod at me relentlessly, like the upturned beaks of a hatchling of chicks, demanding to be fed and nurtured into prose.
The first memory concerns a large gentleman, a positive gentle giant, who I shall call Hoss. I first met him at a project where BP was faced with a dangerously toppled production platform. This was a product of hurricane Katrina, and the insane angle at which this platform now sloped presented unprecedented engineering challenges. Not only was it necessary to proceed with all due caution to avoid the risk of an environmental problem, but it was equally critical to proceed with prudence to avoid personnel injury or worse during the mammoth task of first stabilizing, and then slowly disassembling the leaning Tower of Pisa in the Gulf. BP pulled out all the stops, and called in the big guns, including Hoss. This worthy had spent some four decades in the Gulf of Mexico, and all over the globe in oil work besides, and was a veritable authority on a great many issues, simply because of his breath taking experience. He had no formal qualifications, no letters behind his name, and had -on his own admission- barely finished High School, However, he was more than able to give the young engineers a run for their money. What the young engineers had in terms of years of college and study, and a veritable storage house full of formulae and software programs, calculus and logarithms, Hoss could match with decades of actual down and dirty oilfield wrenching and grinding. It was amusing to me to watch and listen to the interaction between two complete opposites. It was even more intriguing how well they all got on. It was quite common for Hoss to be seen in the company of the young brain-boxes, tactfully making suggestions, and even making engineering stress and loading forecasts. “I think “, he would say, almost mischievously, “that when you run the numbers, it will come in somewhere between needing such-and-size a size of girder, and a horizontal beam brace from there to here… ” The young academics would go flying off to their office, trailing copious notes and measurements, lap tops and brief cases. Hoss would come and yap cheerfully with me for the while. Presently the young boffins would re-appear, with wide grins, confirming that Hoss was right within the ball park. Hoss, a modest man, never given to bragging, would simply smile knowingly, with the proverbial impish twinkle in his eye. I would ride in the Yellow Cab with him, and he would explain how much he enjoyed working with the young lads. A while later, I would bring the engineers in, and the Big Bosses, and the Supervisors, all of whom would be joking about Hoss, and marvelling at his intuitive feelings, his gut observations, which were so often proven perfectly correct.
One day I brought a really Big Boss in, one of those way-up-the-Totem-Pole dudes, and he also was laughing and confirming what a great asset Hoss was to his team.
It took BP many months, but they successfully first stabilized, and then removed, a dangerously listing production platform from the Gulf of Mexico, with no environmental damage and no injuries. It is my understanding that they did some really original and creative fixing, with almost zero publicity or beating of the drums. Just another day in the Gulf, with dedicated professionals trying to do a difficult job in increasingly deeper waters, and keep it safe. A tremendously vital energy sector, employing hundreds of thousands, and of key economic and strategic importance to the United States.
The second memory concerns an observation I made of group of Oilies standing around, chatting. Just about all of them were in fact BP subcontractors, and just about all of them had been trying to get on full time with BP for several years. To no avail. Then another walked over, dropped a name, and a bomb shell. The owner of the name apparently had been hired, full time, by BP. The expressions on everybody’s face said it all.
He got on with BP? Man…
It was quite obvious that this absent Oilie had cracked the Holy Grail. If that is what you do with that blessed vessel if you find it. The expressions of awe clearly conveyed the message that every man in that group only wished for the same himself.
To ‘get on’ with BP…
I relate both these stories to perhaps attempt to “humanize ” BP, and its many workers and dependent families, in the face of a remarkably biased and judgmental onslaught from populist Left Wing politicians (with their own agenda) and their simple minded cronies. Consider that odious little man, promoted way above his level of intelligence, guile or civility, occupying the post as ‘Press Secretary’ of Barry Obama. That former person (and perhaps the latter also) reminds me of the scheming, sly, unscrupulous agitator by the name of Slackbridge in Charles Dickens’ classic novel Hard Times.
Many of us watched his overly theatrical tantrums, including his assertion of his Adminstration’s determination that…
“the boot ” be “kept on BP’s neck. ”
Really? I remember I thought of Hoss, and wondered how long Hoss would put up with that silly little man’s boot on his neck. Not long… The results might have been interesting.
Dickens described ‘Slackbridge’ as follows:
As he stood there, trying to quench his fiery face with his drink of water, the comparison between the orator and the crowd of attentive faces turned towards him, was extremely to his disadvantage. Judging him by Nature’s evidence, he was above the mass in very little but the stage on which he stood. In many great respects he was essentially below them. He was not so honest, he was not so manly, he was not so good-humoured; he substituted cunning for their simplicity, and passion for their safe solid sense. “
Had this Administration used “safe, solid sense “, the truth might have risen into full public view very quickly, namely that:
A) The Oil and Gas workers in the Gulf (and their service industries) literally POWER AMERICA.
B) Their work and the products of their work are ESSENTIAL to our quality of Life and our whole Civilization.
C) That nothing is certain in the field of human endeavor. That mistakes will happen, men are not perfect, and, to put it in diplomatic terms, that ‘excrement will have its day’.
One must strive for 100 per cent safety. Knowing it will never happen. It won’t happen in the oil industry,
nor any other industry spread right throughout the land.
If you apply the same requirements to every industry, and the same draconian punishment meted out by the ‘Ugly Quartet’ (The Media, the rabid environmental extremists, Jo Public and the vote hungry politicians)
you would quickly shut America down completely.
And the alternative?
In the words of Horace Oilee:
If you don’t like the Oil and Gas man, and you wish to boycott all oil and oil products, then:
1) WALK and 2) GET NAKED.
It’s as simple as that.
Last edited by Francis Meyrick on September 11, 2010, 10:17 pm