As I sit and stuff my face at breakfast and dinner and watch the news from the flat screens in the dining room, I can’t help but feel like I’m in this weird alternative universe where nothing happens. The world is happening outside the mine camp and I couldn’t be any further removed. People are getting shot while I’m scared shitless by the poisonous looking spider in the bathroom, the lizard falling from a light pole onto the floor in front of me and golf ball-sized flying insects hanging out in my hair.
Our biggest dramas are making sure that we get enough smoke-o’s during the day (15 minute periodic breaks) and if we’ve filled out our health and safety reports before doing each task. For management, their biggest concern is which ones of us have the bum runs (actual word used by my superiors in a meeting), because apparently the “city kids” aren’t used to the bush water and are having some squirts. Because I frequent the bathroom on account of my peanut-sized bladder, people have been suspiciously eyeballing me thinking, is she one of them?
Besides feeling the beginnings of isolation, I’ve also been feeling like this place is fulfilling my Australian stereotypes. There are curse words being thrown left and right, people yelling f*ck me dead and bury me pregnant, calling each other c*nts and telling each other to f*ck off. This is everyone, including management. The inappropriate banter came to a new level this morning when management introduced a new clocking in and clocking out system to replace the paper records. It’s a finger print scanner that connects to the computer. My supervisor refers to it as “fingering” and I’m beginning to think it’s on purpose.
At the meeting she said, “Don’t forget to finger when you come in and make sure to finger before you leave.” Someone chimed in, “Yeah, we finger and blow before we start work,” referring to the breathalyzers we have to blow into every morning before starting work. Someone else yelled something about doing a good job or you’ll have to start over. Then everyone had a good laugh and my supervisor went on with the meeting.
Following the discussion about fingering, the supervisor reminded everyone that we are a very multi-cultural team, including Americans, English, Scottish, Pilipino, East Timorese, Danish and aboriginal. She reminded us that especially considering the diversity, there should be no racism, bigotry and none of the boy/girl divisions. One of my work mates raised his hand and point to me and the Scottish lad. He said, “Does that mean we still take the piss out of the Scot and the Yank?”
Observation: It’s becoming more and more apparent that for at least my work mates, making connections means making fun of each other. The victim is supposed to just laugh it off and take it, knowing that this part of being in the group. It’s a strange concept for me – I make fun of my friends in a light way and they make fun of me – but this stage usually occurs far after establishing a connection. I’ve noticed that for my work group, connections are being made via ridicule and jokes.
Today in English language crisis: I don’t say toss it in the trash I say chuck it in the rubbish. It’s not all figured out, it’s sorted. I don’t jot down your name, I pop it down. It’s not right there, its just there. When I do something well, it’s not great, it’s too easy. I’m not going to the toilet right now, I’m going at the moment. I never mess anything up, I stuff it up. Who have I become?
Featured photo taken at Barrow Creek Roadhouse in Northern Territory.
Read other updates from life on the Mine Camp here.