Finally getting settled, at least for the time being, helped me rest easy that first night sleeping on the couch. I was there, we had made the long travel to begin this new adventure, and even though I had no idea how it would all work out, I had come far enough to find my peace.
The next morning my friend dropped me off at the warehouse, or as it is more commonly referred to in the pipeline world, ‘the yard’. I was really overwhelmed and completely out of my comfort zone, not only had it been well over 3 years since I’d been in this element, I had been surrounded by my family from day one. My pipeline experience had only reached as far as my family tree extended so stumbling upon this random pack in West Virginia was like stepping in front of a bunch of hungry wolves.
I braved the curious stares from men in all directions, I didn’t see another female that entire morning except for the ladies in the office. That’s fairly common in construction, but usually there’s at least a handful. Eventually a few others surfaced, but I was outnumbered from the start.
I was completely vulnerable, I didn’t know my boss and the only person I knew in the entire state of West Virginia had just left. He told me our foreman would be along later in the morning to pick me up and then he was gone. Great.
I mustered all of my courage and scouted everything out as I approached the onlookers. I wasn’t greeted with friendly faces, in fact, a lot of them looked like they had seen some rough miles in their lives.
I made it through the morning with my head held high and managed to find a little bit of conversation with a few others who had been signing up with me. Most of them didn’t really want to talk to me, and I knew why, they were either married or didn’t believe women should be allowed to work in their industry.
I wasn’t trying to impress anyone or shove any feminist beliefs about equal rights down anyone’s throat, I just really needed the money so I could move on with my plans. I was relieved when the tedious morning of paper work and safety videos had ended, my foreman finally arrived, and it was time to get going.
He was an interesting man, come to find out this was his first foreman job and it showed early on. It gave me even more anxiety to work for him because we would be working around live gas lines at a power plant and my only other foreman had been decades beyond his limited knowledge of managing a Tie In Crew. He was likeable, but shared too much about his personal life and let it show that he really didn’t know what he was doing.
I knew none of this was going to last very long and it was my first day.