56 year oldBill Gates– the pipefitter-- drearily blinkshiseyesopentothe all-too-familiarsoundof his
cell phone alarm. He s...
it feelslikethere’snochoice. I’dbe lyingif IsaidI neverfeel like I’mwastingmylifeuphere. The
schedule 14 onand 7 off isnot...
of 2


Published on: Mar 3, 2016

Transcripts - Natalie-oilsands

  • 1. 56 year oldBill Gates– the pipefitter-- drearily blinkshiseyesopentothe all-too-familiarsoundof his cell phone alarm. He squintsashe glancesat the blindingbluelight.5:30a.m. Swipingthe screento dismissthe alarm,hiseyesfocusonthe photoof three blonde women -- twoyoung,one aroundhis age -- for a momentbefore swinginghis legsoutof the single bed. Day five. He flicksonthe lightrevealingthe small bland bedroomand methodicallypullsonhis insulated workpants,matchingjacket,and wornsteel-toedboots beforemakinghiswaydowntothe dininghall. The CanadianNatural ResourcesLimited (CNRL) oil sandsminingand bitumenextractionplantis one of manysuch plantsinthe Fort McMurray area. It hostsfourworkercamps, each holding2000 workersemployedtoconstructan enormousexpansiontothisalreadyoperating site. Hundredsof these workers are inthe diningroomnow,the smell of friendbaconandeggs,toast and coffee cuttingthroughthe grumblingbuzzof voices. Gatesshufflesinline shouldertoshoulderto fill aplate withsome eggsandtoast, and grabssome foodfor lunch.Each workergetstwobrownbags worthto take withthem. Gates glancesaroundthe dininghall foranopenseat, contemplatingwhohe’sinthe moodto sitwith. He choosesaspot where three menaroundhisage and twoothersintheir30’s sitbentover theirfood. “Look at Husky.There’sbeenthousandsof jobcutsthismonth,”one of the oldermenissaying, “You turn on the news andyou hearthiscompany’sshuttingdown,thatone’sshuttingdown.Itaffects everythinginAlbertaandripplesout.” “Rememberthe eighties?”Gateschimesin ashe sits.“Price of crude oil was US$35 a barrel in 1980. In’86, it droppedfrom$27 to $10. I couldn’tfindajob as a dishwasherbackthen.” “I tell ya,I swearwe needanotherbigwar to boostitagain,” the oldermansays. “It’s a volatile commodity-basedindustry.” “It’s gettingalittle scary,”saysone of the youngermen,“I’mjusthopingtomake itto Christmas. See whathappensinthe New Year,withthe new government.” “Flyday for you,isn’tit?”Gatesnods at him. The youngerman smiles.“Yup. Home fora week. Slowestdayof the shift.” Gates smilesinagreement. Countingdownthe days. He grewup inEdmontonbuthas beenlivinginthe Vancouverareasince the early1990’s. “WhenI was 45 I got a plumbingjobwiththe school boardnearhome and I thought,whoathat’sit,I do thisfor 15 yearsand I’mdone,”he says.“But, we were goingbroke,Iwas makinga thirdof what I’m makingnow.It wasstupid.Iwas home everynightat4:30 butdidn’thave any moneytodo anything,so
  • 2. it feelslikethere’snochoice. I’dbe lyingif IsaidI neverfeel like I’mwastingmylifeuphere. The schedule 14 onand 7 off isnot that bad,but not everybodycandoit.It screwsaroundwithyour mind.” Afterbreakfast Gatesstepsoutintothe frigid toe-curlingmorningair.He can see the plantfrom here;the toweringbronze structures,some standing450 feethigh,are lituplike a cityskyline stretchingformilesagainstthe still-darkindigosky.Surroundingitisvastflatlandcoveredinicy glisteningsnow. Crowdsof workersloadup on yellow school bussesforthe shorttripto the plant.Whenthe windblowsjustthe rightway,theycan smell it:the smell of burningdirtandwavesof sandthat massive trucks bringinto cook,to pour chemicalsthroughtobreakdownbefore it’sshippedtorefineries. “It’sthe smell of money –dirtyoil money.There’snothinglike it.” Whenoil’sbooming, the workers have amore laidbackattitude,Gatessays.Now,everyoneis justa little more onedge.Guysare hiredandfiredeveryday,sotheydotheirbestand playby the rules because doingsomethinglike notputtingonyoursafetyglassesorearplugscan getyoufired. Donninghissafetygearanda clipboard,Gates getstowork on QualityControl,ensuringthatthe ice cold steel pipe piecesare assembledcorrectlyinthe intricate multi-billiondollarpuzzle. He climbs ladderafterladder, stoppingtoinspectsectionsashigh60 feetinthe air.On the ground,trucks with wheelsasbigas housesare loadedwithtarsands. Each time he looksout overthe plantstretchingformiles,he isoverwhelmedbythe vastness and powerthatit holds. “A goodday isa double-timeday,”he says. “A bad day iswhenI’mnot at home whenI needto be. Earlierthisyeara kid,anapprentice, attemptedsuicide,tooktoomanypills.Itwasn’tgoodforhim beingaway,he had twosmall kidswithmedical problems. Itwasn’tworkstress,itwasstuff that happenedoutsideof work.Peoplecanhandle the work,theycan’thandle beingaway” 5:30 signalsthe endof the day-shift.Enteringthe dininghall,itsmellslikesteaknight.A lineup curvesaroundthe servingcounter:men,women, young,old. Gates sitswitha fewfamiliarfacestoenjoyhissteak.A manthat lookstobe inhisearly70s passesthem. “FuckI hope I’mnot here at that age,”one of the mensays.He laughs, “He didn’tplan right. Once you’re on yourthirdwife,you’re done.Maybe yougetthroughone or two,butthe thirdone screwsya.” A fewhoursafterdinner,Gatesisback inhisroom forbed.He turns off the light,the bland bedroomdisappearingintothe dark, andclimbsintothe single bed.He sendsoff a“Good night”textto each of the blonde womenonhisscreensaverandre-setshismorningalarm. Nine more daysuntil flyday.

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