People Working In Extreme Conditions Share Their "Screw This, I'm Out" Moment
People say life's an adventure, and should be lived like one. But sometimes things go over the top and one thinks, hmm,
"Screw this, I'm out"
" I was a trainee on a north sea drilling rig, a mud engineer.
We were drilling and hit a pocket of H2S gas, explosive and highly toxic, we had gas detectors which went off the scale. The 'pit room', which has big tanks of mud and huge pumps to pump mud down the well, was evacuated but the mud pumps were still running. Now somebody had to go back in, open the emergency air ventilation and shut down the pumps.
I drew the short straw and put the respirator on, very old and possibly not in working condition, and wandered in.
What followed were the longest 2 minutes of my life.
I don't work offshore anymore. "
" I worked at sea on fishing boats for a number of years as a biologist.
One time our boat sank and I had to be rescued by the coast guard. A couple of times the boats caught on fire as well. And there were times when I was in storms that I thought would kill me.
But the real reason why I quit was because my boss was not a good man. "
" A former co-worker, Jason, told me this story.
Jason was working at a dock in China. Part of his job was to unload shipping containers from huge international cargo ships. A typhoon had just passed, and many of the inbound ships had been delayed for days due to the extreme weather. Once the weather cleared, there was a backlog of ships waiting to be docked and unloaded.
To make matters worse, a tropical depression had just been upgraded to a tropical storm, and was expected to make landfall within 48 hours. It was organized chaos as the dock workers frantically tried to unload three times the volume of shipping containers in half the time.
Jason was a Senior Cargo Agent, and his job was to verify that the information on the offloaded shipping containers matched the information on the manifest, and to visually inspect shipping containers for damage. A cargo agent had to sign off on all cargo before an unloaded ship could disembark.
Because there were a limited number of spaces for ships to dock, it was crucial that the cargo agents verify the unloaded shipments as quickly as possible so that another ship could dock immediately. Everyone at the dock had walkie talkies (hand-held portable two-way radios), and Jason heard Dock Manager 1 going absolutely ape crazy because an unloaded ship had been waiting in the dock for nearly two hours, and no cargo agent had verified their delivery.
Jason radioed Cargo Agent 1 assigned to that area, but there was no answer. He then radioed Cargo Agent 2, and still received no response. He then radioed the next closest person to Senior Cargo Agent 1 and asked him to drop everything and verify the cargo immediately. After thirty minutes, Dock Manager 2 radioed that the ship was STILL docked. Jason then radioed the person whom he had sent over there, and did not receive a response. He then radioed Dock Manager 1 who had been screaming into the radio, and again received no response. Jason was now the only Senior Cargo Agent in the area, and it now fell to him to verify the unloaded shipment and get the delayed ship out of port ASAP.
As he got into his truck to drive over, a nagging feeling of dread kept telling him not to go. He ignored the feeling and drove there anyway, all the while trying and failing to radio anyone else in the area. When he arrived at the unloading zone, he couldn't bring himself to get out of the truck, and later said that it felt as if he was being physically pushed back into his seat.
Jason then picked up his radio with a shaking hand and broadcast, "Unknown threat near unloading section four. All workers evacuate immediately. This is not a drill." And just like that, a multi-billion dollar port was shut down.
A HazMat team was soon dispatched, and found that a shipping container damaged in transit had been carrying heavier than air inert gas. The gas leaked and displaced the air, then became trapped between several rows of closely stacked shipping containers. Every person that approached immediately lost consciousness. Five people were found dead near the damaged container, and Jason was later fired because he did not actually have the authority to shut down the port.
The Chinese equivalent to a wrongful termination lawsuit was filed, and Jason was strongly encouraged to settle, or else the Chinese government might find him partially responsible for the worker's deaths. As a white foreigner in China, this was a very real possibility, and he ended up settling for a modest amount.
Jason still blames himself for the death of Senior Cargo Agent 1, and gave the settlement amount to the man's widow. "
" My dad was a traveling salesman in Pakistan and was very dedicated. He insisted on cross-country trips for high end clients. He would go days without sleep, traveling through tribal areas and mountain highways in the dead of night.
But he was also a nave guy in his 20s. He picked up a random hitchhiker because it was raining and he felt bad for him.
The hitchhiker pulled a gun on him, and told him to stop the car. Now my dad, in addition to being nave, was also a crazy stubborn person. My dad had cash in the car, so instead of stopping he started accelerating the car. So if the guy shot him, the car would go flying off the hill!
They suddenly reached some gas station with armed tribesmen and tribal people aren't very nice to criminals, so the hijacker quickly put his gun away, and walked off.
My dad left the business soon after that. "
" They gave us a pizza party.
I spent a few months loading trucks for a major package shipping company. Every night, starting at 11PM, I would stack boxes, one in every 12 seconds, supposedly. In one night, I'd fill at least one of those giant 18 wheeler trailers with boxes, crates, industrial materials, car parts, flowers-by-mail, presents, and an endless flow of amazon packages.
I worked each night with not enough sleep, doing exhausting labor, moving heavy dangerous machinery, and got heavy packages dropped on my head almost every night.
We got one 15 minute break a night. One day, during our break,
they told us that our section had been the most productive in the shipping hub that month, and for that we were going to be given pizza. By the way, we couldn't actually relax during our break, we had to listen to announcements and safety tips.
The next night, sure enough, we got pizza. To eat as quickly as we could during our break. And as I sat there, eating my kinda stale, cheapest possible pizza, I thought to myself, 'I am done. I don't need this job that bad.'
I never went back after that shift. "
" My brother worked on a North Sea oil barge.
His buddies found out that he would be getting married after the current 2 week shift and in the middle of the night they pinned him down, shaved his entire body and gave him tattoos using permanent marker pens.
He had some explaining to do on his honeymoon and stopped working offshore after that. "
" I work for a contracting company who handles a lot of maintenance in an iron ore mine up in Canada. One of the sketchiest moments I've ever had was having to crawl on a structural beam 50 feet in the air underneath a floating crusher hopper and hold on occasionally when the haul trucks would dump 250+ tons of rocks only a couple feet above my head.
What made it even more terrible wasn't the fact that the whole plant would shake, but that all the structural support plates reinforcing the hopper walls were all sheared off.
I've also had hydraulic jacks break off their strong backs and go flying past my head, I've seen a coworker get launched six feet in the air by a belt being pulled taught by a shuttle, things fall down and nearly kill someone.
Not to mention heat exhaustion while working on the induration machines (building sized furnaces used to bake iron pellets), easily 122 degrees+. Or outside changing conveyor belt rollers in -40.
I've had my fair share of near misses and seen a bit of wild stuff. Mines can be pretty dangerous. People do lose fingers, hands, arms and sometimes their lives. People like to think that we've improved in safety and in some aspects it's true. However, the attitude is still very much not much caring about human life. "
"I spent two weeks being lowered into the ballast tanks of Great Lakes ore carriers in Milwaukee in December. The tanks are about the size of a railroad box car and they all have about three inches of mud in them.
I had the vacuum cleaner from hell and sucked up all the mud while trying not to freeze to death. When that job was done, I was put in a full protection suit and SCBA and crawled into the exhaust system of the ship's main engine with a solvent gun. I scraped diesel exhaust soot out of the three inch diameter exhaust pipes.
I didn't quit for a very long time cause the money was really good. "
" I was laying civil pipe, and the foreman quit on the job. Im still in the ditch. Now our 75 year old superintendent says 'I used to run a track hoe all the time' and hops in the place of this foreman, and starts digging. Then he proceeds to knock my hard hat off my head with the bucket of the hoe while Im hand digging around a T for a hydrant. I left the vest in the ditch, climbed out of the box and never looked back.
In this job, most of the time you are working in very close proximity to the machinery. You learn early on never to get in the ditch unless you trust the operator with your life. You also learn to never take your eyes off the operator. I ignored them this one time and it could have killed me.
We had a guy killed by a track hoe on a site I was on. It can and does happen. One wrong flick of the wrist is all it can take to turn that machinery into a merciless monster. "
" I worked with an EMS team at an airport for an international freight company which I will not name ( think UPS, Fedex, DHL). I was not an EMS guy, but was just their dispatch person in a way, and here are some job horror stories which made a number of people quit.
One night a cricket shipment came through and the boxes were busted open. When people opened the container to sort the various boxes a swarm of crickets came launching at them like a locust swarm!
Then there were body parts and other hospital things being shipped for medical examinations. People would sort packages full of drug tests (urine) and these
packages would fall apart all the time, spilling someone's piss all over people. Then we had to record all that stuff.
Well, opening a semi trailer was always an event. You would never know what would happen. I have seen TVs fall on people's heads. Computers monitors, tires,... stuff that was just never secured down.
One time, I saw a guy open a truck and instantly just fall unconscious and die. The truck was
full of dry ice or some kind of chemical that just took all the dude's oxygen away!
I saw a lady paralyzed after being hit by a forklift driver that was driving around a corner with its forks up and empty. Never do that.
I have heard some unimaginably wild things too, a lady getting her hair caught in the mechanical belts that ripped her scalp off! "
" I worked offshore for a couple of years and loved it. Long hard hours for 2 weeks, and then a 2 week vacation. I was making good money, and bringing home tons of fish.
The problem was getting to and from the platform. I was on the edge of blue water, so we took a 30 minute helicopter ride each way.
A few months into the job I saw the helicopter safety record - X number of crashes per Y number of flying hours. I calculate it out and realize it is just a matter of years before I am in an incident of some kind. And then one day
I am half asleep at 5am, sitting in the seat behind the pilot. This means I am facing backwards looking at 3 other passengers. All of a sudden I am weightless and the guy across from me is crossing himself. I look over my shoulder out of the windshield and all I see is water. At the last moment we pull up and reduce our speed, and have a "soft" landing on the water. Pilot says he had a pelican coming right at us. Just the week before I had heard about a pelican flying through the windshield and killing the pilot instantly. We came pretty close to that apparently. A boat came out and picked us up to be brought back onshore. I went out 2 more times and could not bring myself to ride that copter anymore. I gave no reason, just said I am out of here. "
" I have 9 years in the navy as a submariner.
There was no specific moment, but this one entire experience that made me quit.
We were working pretty much 14 hour days 7 days a week in dry dock. I think we did it for over a month and then were sent out to sea for about 3 months.
I'm glad I didn't have a family then, but just being at work all the time and stuck in a metal tube for months on end was pretty bad. There are a couple of fond memories, but they don't outweigh the massive number of stupid experiences. "
" I'm a directional drill operator for underground utilities, but I don't usually work in extreme situations, so it's fairly safe.
However, there was one job I had in Virginia for an electric conduit for a new launch pad for Wallops Island, where we had a very small amount of time to get a lot done.
There was a week long period where there was an intense thunderstorm every day, and we delayed the job as much as we could until our company decided to not care and work through it because we were falling so far behind.
Directional drills have an alarm for when the machine is electrified by, say, drilling through a power line. My strike alarm began to constantly chime from lightning crashes. I silently got in the truck and left. "
" I was working in Afghanistan as a contract Air Traffic Controller when our compound was hit by a suicide truck bomber.
I was laying in bed when my wall and window blew in and flew over me. Most of the glass stuck into the opposite wall, which means had I been standing I would have been seriously injured, or dead.
I ran to the "safe room" in my underwear with no shoes on, which caused me to cut my feet up from all the broken glass, and was on a flight out the next day. "
" I worked on a fisherman's boat with my dad when I was a lad.
It was tiring and the smell was horrible, but I definitely felt cool and manly being a boy of the sea.
My worst moment was when we pulled a big marlin out and it started crapping everywhere and my dad made me clean it up. "
" I worked at a deep shaft coal mine and spent a few years as a production supervisor.
For one project we were moving equipment out of an old part of the mine that we were about to seal up. The roof there was sagging and the floor was heaving. Seemed like every time we went for a return trip, the roof was closer and closer to the top of the hauler. Finally one of my employees used his right of refusal and said this is not safe, I'm not doing, and I was like, good enough for me, let's leave! "
" My husband worked in the oil fields.
Our daughter died and they gave him 3 days of bereavement leave.
Only 3 days! He was done after that, didn't go back at all. "
" Not as extreme as others, but I used to work at a group home for troubled teens.
One day, during room searches, we found that the boys had smuggled in duct tape and had made wooden shanks. They were planning on taping down staff members and stabbing our life out of us.
I quit that day, my life is worth more than 9 dollars an hour. "
Note: Comments have been modified for clarity.
Racism is an insidious, and unfortunately prevalent, force in all of our daily lives. Maybe we're on the receiving end of it, being treated differently and losing opportunities because of others' preconceived notions.
Or maybe we're on the other side of things. Even those who aren't actively racist or discriminatory still have to process the world through the filters of the things they've been told about people who are different.