October 26, 2017 0 Comments Experience Working in Alberta's Oilfield

Life’s Unfairness

My Post-13

Growing up in BC often involved a theme of unfairness in a lacklustre economy, where unless you came from a family of privilege, connections, and money, you really had little to no future, as the costs of living (especially real estate) were prohibitive, and jobs generally hyper-competitive and poorly paying.

Though regardless of location, if you were an attractive young woman, or a “pretty boy”, you always had something going for you because of the networking opportunities, and an unfair edge in certain scenarios where you’d be otherwise found at fault or in another negative outcome. No matter how incompetent you were, or how rude and negative your attitude, someone always found you something. In fact, some women would happily make it their life goal to “fix” the man in return for affection, and men spoil and pamper the beautiful woman with some of the world’s finer luxuries.

Getting into an automobile accident last spring was a prime example when no witnesses willingly stepped forward for my case. How could someone go against the poor, pretty, innocent, young blonde girl?

The more classic example was work incidents – if you were in the inner circle, your mistake was just laughed at. If you were not, you were quickly put on the back burner. Next time, you were unemployed. One colourful example was one woman cleaning the inside of a boiler, when another worker re-started the boiler without checking if anyone was still inside. The incident was brushed aside, as the supervisor and the re-starter were from the same nationality.

BC was stereotypically, full of wealthy foreign and immigrant families, and those from the Vancouver “old money” – intergenerational wealth. The money academically and socially nurtures offspring to out-compete the rest in academia and consequently the career and social ladders. In big name schools like UBC, an average student had no chance against an “Old Money” or “rich Asian” baby, and would not ever see a day of professional school. Parents bought them real estate, vehicles, and other assets- where the former usually only appreciated rapidly and the average citizen, bled dry from sky high living costs and poor paying jobs, had no chance to ever getting in. Someone around me always seemed to get school and home paid by Mom and Dad. Someone around me always seemed to get a car bought by Mom and Dad. Some people would not even get a car until their mid to late 20s, or even afford to move out of Mom’s Basement. I used to always ask Mom: “Why are we poor? Why do we have to be the poor students riding the bus in the rain, and to only see car ownership and driving just a distant dream? Why do we have to accept that we never had the money to go to elite private schools and be academically bred to become doctors or lawyers?”

Alberta was certainly not absent of unfairness. Even the oil towns, especially Fort McMurray, back in the day were full of nepotism. Yes, people in their 20s were grossing $100,000-200,000/year – if they knew a somebody who got them in. One company at Nexen had employees of mostly one nationality (non-Canadian); my friend at the time was the same, and concurrently got in to make about $10,000/month doing construction work. I remember living with a woman whose son was 23 and making $54/hour – because he happened to work through the apprenticeship/trades program during high school, and then joined the company full-time upon graduation. She was Fort McMurray born and raised, and knew the local community very well. The local college there would never accept me for their Power Engineering program despite trying 4 times with a strong academic record and showing a strong incentive, yet someone who just worked at Walmart for much of his life was accepted, and upon graduation, was on his way to making $120,000+/year.

Later when I moved south to work on the rigs, some crews mysteriously stayed busy working 21 straight days only to take 3 off, and then repeat the same cycle for months. Others like the ones I went on worked about 20 days of the month.

Other truckers seemingly always made $100,000 – 150,000/year in the good years. I barely struggled to make $75,000 – 85,000. I always found jobs, but they were the ones that never kept really busy. I always pulled the bad straws somehow.

When I tried to continue my electrician apprenticeship after moving to Edmonton, almost no companies would hire me as a 1st year apprentice. Pounding the pavement to go to offices in person seemed like I was interrupting family gatherings. When I went to school for my academic portion, everyone was employed somewhere already and seemed like they all knew each other.

During my student days, everyone who was in the more sociable circles somehow always stayed employed, while not even Burger King would not even hire me, despite multiple handshakes with the manager. Somehow they always found a sales, retail, or serving job somewhere. During the summers I’d frantically hand out or send resumes for any sort of labour work. I even drove for an hour and half to one factory to shake hands to no avail.

Today I am 24 and have two condos, and a original MSRP $101,900 car under my name. Most just see me as some well off young guy, but they do not know the pain I’ve endured. Everyday I face the threat of my entire future being destroyed, just like in the past in BC where my former academic and career goals met their end admist the competition. Slip too much, and there is no somebody I know, Old Money, or rich Asian parents to bail me out. Getting into a bad accident, sudden work slowdowns causing the bleeding of thousands of dollars, and medical, dental and legal bills in the thousands, are only some of the sudden hard blows to my morale I suffer regularly. Financial regulators and bankers are constantly stiffening the mortgage rules to stop risk takers and crush the market outside Vancouver and Toronto areas and concurrently the working person – constantly posing a significant threat to my financial advancement. The end seemingly is just around every corner. I just seem to have no luck. Nevertheless I must fight on, as this is like rowing upstream. To stop is to only fall back, and I refuse to fall back to my former lows in the past.