Just to let you know, I felt like pouring my heart out in this post. If you get bored just quit, or alternatively revisit your speed reading skills from GRE prep. It was so much that I split it into two sections.
It feels like I never left. Especially since I still have helmet hair and I still keep thinking that eating dates is a good idea… déjà vu. The good news is that since I’m still doing night shift mine site cleaning, almost no one can hear my loud farts. And since by the looks of the “inspirational message” on our snack packs today – “Do me a favor…smile!” it appears the negative attitude that began to surface during my last swing is still in full force. Someone in admin must have tricked the kitchen staff is trying to lighten the mood.
Just like old times, people continue to take their phone out of their pockets and show me any number of things from their personal lives, unsolicited. While I am mostly flattered that they want to show me their seventeen grandchildren or the 35cm fish they caught in the Adelaide River or their fourth cousin that lives in Germany, it’s always somewhat alarming to suddenly have a Samsung phone screen in your face.
Yep, it’s good to be back.
After a turbulent-ridden plane ride into the mine (one of my workmates actually barfed), we drove in the shuttle from the airport back to camp, passing two dingoes drinking from the billabong with the orange sun rising over the mountains behind them. Ah, the Northern Territory.
This time around I’ve been placed in room 42, “near the front where the invalids are,” said a very politically correct Croc Dundee this morning. As I was on my way to room 42, I ran into Ryan* one of the sparkies on site (the one that the plumber refers to as “off-center”). When he saw me, he smiled and screamed “WHAAAA WELCOME BACK!” as he leaned over to give me hug that I halfheartedly reciprocated. I was shocked to see him. After he got in an altercation with the security guard at the mess hall last swing, we all thought he’d be fired for sure. Gossip spread that he awkwardly tried to defy the mess’s policy on not taking hot food back to your room.
“Why don’t you go do your job,” he is rumored to have told the security guard.
“This is my job, mate, keeping hot food from leaving the mess,” the disgruntled security guard supposedly responded.
I got in a good snooze before I ran around the lake, taking in the pungent aroma of bat shit that invaded the foliage. I kept finding myself veering off path, running through piles of dried up leaves. Whenever I did, one of the East-Timorese girl’s voice ran through my head: Be careful of dried up leaves! Them snakes love to stay in there because it warm! Without any snake encounter I then went to the mess for my first meal. As I put my cauliflower on my plate, I saw the Thai chef and asked if she did anything fun during her week off.
“No,” she initially told me, “just sleep!”
A few seconds later, I was already near the potato fritters when she threw her head back laughing, saying, “I go to casino!!! HA HA HA!!!”
We’re Still Three Birds, But Different
I’m with a “new mob” as they say. I’m back on the mine site, but with two new girls. We same-same but different. Still three girls, from three different generations from three different countries. Just like last time. But unlike last time, we don’t have Martha’s piercing judgment or Diane’s insight and simultaneous constant complaining. This time, we have the Rebecca,* a half-indigenous with spunk and Carla,* one of the many East-Timorese on site who talks- and gossips- more than anyone I’ve met since this girl Bailey I used to know in high school (who I’m pretty sure won the “most talkative” award senior year). If we were in a movie there would be a montage scene where the three of us were in different locations and Carla kept talking and talking and talking and Rebecca and I were still nodding and nodding and nodding.
When we sat together at the crib room table eating lunch, I noticed a difference in how these girls discuss complaints from the miners in comparison to my previous group. “If they ask for something, we just give it to them. We are here to serve them,” Rebecca said tonight. She continued, saying, “It’s really important we are always stocked up and prepared.”
It was a stark contrast to Martha and Diane, who I found to be highly sensitive. It was almost as if those two had a vendetta against anyone who spoke up asking for something slightly different than what they were providing. As a temp, and as someone on a working holiday visa just passing through, I try not to get too emotionally invested. I brush things off and I let people complain about what they want. So last week when Martha and Diane had their various whining sessions, I didn’t think twice about it. That was, until I didn’t hear the same attitude from the new girls.
One miner mentioned that his clothes weren’t dry enough. That night, Martha and Diane thought that in retaliation we would just put all of their laundry bags on two cycles of the dryer, in hopes that their clothes would shrink.
“I would love to see them put their clothes on in the morning!” Martha sneered, “They’ll look ridiculous!”
The next night, Martha and Diane were still sour from the comment about the clothes. Not to mention disappointed that none of the clothes had shrunk.
“Well,” Martha huffed, “We can’t wash and dry clothes properly if they’re not put in the bag properly.”
Thus, Martha and Diane spent most of the night unzipping all of the laundry bags and examining its contents. If someone had included a towel, a glove clip or any other object that was deemed out of bounds for the laundry bag, they took pictures of it with the person’s locker number included.
“I went around to all of the changing rooms and there are even signs with specific instructions on what is allowed in the laundry bag,” Diane said defiantly.
She had taken one of the signs out of the bathroom and held it up to show us. Martha shook her head.
“How can they expect us to do our job if they aren’t putting their clothes in the bags properly?” she asked.
They vowed to catch every offender and report it to the mine authorities. While I understand that they are worried about having an innocent mistake fall back on them, I can’t help but feel that they were taking it a bit overboard.
On our last night, a soft spoken man approached us while we were doing laundry.
“Are you coming to the extractor tonight?” he asked with no particular emotion behind his question.
“Yeah, we normally go but our passes don’t work. If you want us to go clean it we can radio up to you and you can come escort us in,” Martha said.
We knew all along that our passes didn’t work. We just decided that since day shift also cleans that area, if we were short on time we didn’t have to do it.
The man shrugged.
“No, it’s alright,” he said.
And just as calmly as he had approached us he walked away.
Martha and Diane looked at each other and gave looks as if to say my god, the nerve of that man. Once we got in the car and started to drive back to camp, they couldn’t stop talking about the encounter.
“Some people just want a whinge!” Martha howled. “I bet his wife wanted to come work for us but she didn’t pass her medical exam!” she unfairly continued.
“These miners, I swear,” Diane added, “They won’t stop whinging!”
I just sat there in silence.
Eventually I just admitted, “I didn’t think he sounded mad at all. He was probably just curious or bored.”
They sat in silence for a few seconds until Martha repeated, “No, he wanted to whinge.” We were almost back to camp when Diane brought it up again.
“Well, it’s not our fault that we our passes don’t work for that area, there’s nothing we can do about it,” she justified.
If there’s one overarching trait that both groups have in common, it’s the blame and complaining of the opposite group. People who claim that “I’ll tell ‘em to their face if they piss me off” seem to forget how confrontation works when it comes to work communication. Once we walk into an area, I hear my workmates grumbling about how the day shift didn’t clean this area properly, and now we have to spend more time. It happened with Martha and Diane, and it happened again last night with Rebecca and Carla. No one wants to take responsibility and everyone is ready to point a finger at the other.
That, coupled with constant complaining over the fact that this new management cut the cleaning staff from four to three and cut the hours from 11 to 10, make some moments unbearable. Sometimes it feels like we stand around for more than ten minutes while they complain, saying, “Well how do they expect us to get all of this done if they cut our people and our hours!”
Carla will add in, “F*ck that!”
I understand it can be frustrating to feel shortchanged. It can be annoying to cut resources and expect the same results. But isn’t the coolest thing about humans that we can adapt, grow? Move beyond? Figure out a way to do our best given our limited time and man power?
…To be continued. Stay tuned for Part 2.
Featured photo originally published in this post about Sydney, Australia.