I have one workmate who is a lesbian, which made me (incorrectly) judge her as someone who might be slightly more conscious of gender/sexuality/power imbalances. That was until she told me about how she first got together with current girlfriend: “I took her into my room and I raped her.”
Excuse me? Since when it okay to refer to a hook up as a rape?
I’m sure she felt my complete discomfort with that statement based on my face that showed a mix of surprise and horror. Then later on during the same conversation she made sure that it was clear how much she hated working with women. “Blokes are just so much better,” she said, coincidentally the day the two of us were assigned to work 12 hour side by side, “they just have better senses of humor.”
Well, as people like to say around here, “We all bleed the same blood, I reckon.” So no one should be valued as “better to work with” or “funnier” based on gender. Little does my workmate know, I am a self-proclaimed girl’s girl, one who loves to be surrounded by other women and is a proponent of female friendships.
And double little did my workmate know, the last week I spent at the mine doing the nightshift cleaning with Martha* and Diane* (you met them both in this post. Martha is the slightly judgmental but funny one and Diane is the one who sometimes rubs people the wrong way, but is kindhearted) was one of the funniest and most enjoyable weeks I’ve spent at the mine so far.
Three girls in three different generations from three different countries coming together to get the job done. We spent a total of 67 hours together that week. “More time than we spend with our own families,” Martha noted. We shared childhood stories in between loads of stinky laundry from the miners. We snuck coffee from the fancy machines in admin – a huge no-no- and at the slightest creak of a door down the hall the three of us shot up, removing all evidence of our consumption within ten seconds.
As the three of us divided a massive donga into three sections to mop, Diane told me history of the Northern Territory. It may be her adoptive country but she is more passionate about preserving the history and culture of the region than anyone else I’ve met.
We bonded over sneaking a peak at documents and reports of agreements with aboriginals on the desks in admin and our mutual confusion over why the lady who rehabilitates the wallabies also sells chocolates for $2/bar in the same room. We empty the trash bins and hypothesize about who put the miniature garden gnomes in the fake potted plants around the building.
I learned about each of their quirks as they learned about mine. Like the Aussies they are (one by birth and the other by marriage) they teased me about my bathroom habits and how much food I like to eat, especially my sweet tooth. Martha says that when I get my food from the fridge during break time I’m like a “proud child with a show bag.”
And the laughing bits, the morning teas in the crib room where I was almost choking on my food, those were the most memorable.
One afternoon, Martha was speaking to a young miner – a very attractive miner at that- and heard that he had trouble getting into admin one morning before it opened. Trying to be helpful, she suggested that he take her number in case he ever got into trouble again, because she was one of the few with keys.
That evening, the miners talked about it on the bus and one suggested that Martha was a “cougar” and was trying to crack on him. Unbeknownst to them, the man who was driving the bus happened to be Martha’s husband, who later reported to us about what he overhead.
The whole rest of the week we devised hypothetical revenge plans that for safety reasons we would never be able to follow through with. We thought about referring to ourselves as the two cougars and the gold digger, as in “Brine concentrator, do you copy? We have two cougars and a gold digger coming up to clean, is that okay? Copy.” We thought of an ingenious plan for the mess at dinner, where Martha would pretend flirt with a new man every night, offering her number in case he needed to get into the admin building.
And I ended one shift, roaring in laughter as we told Martha’s husband the story about the wallabies. We complained about how they went to the bathroom all over the floor, and somehow, maybe it was the fatigue, the 3:30am hour or the language barrier, he thought I was explaining the wallabies were using the peoples’ toilets. “That’s wrong!” he affirmed, “You can’t let wallabies use the public toilets, that’s just wrong!”
The last night as we rode the 10k back into camp on a pitch-black bush road, we saw dingos scattering away from the headlights. We saw cane towards leaping out of the line of fire and stared at the same crocodile warning signs as we did every night. We sat in silence, too exhausted to continue the jokes of the night. It was over, and our experience together would never be repeated. We were three women, women who had a rip-roaring time together. No blokes required.
Featured photo: Sydney, Australia.
Read other updates from life on the Mine Camp here.