The door was slightly ajar to Carlos’ office. Two shadows nervously shuffling outside the door finally entered.
“Come in”, growled Carlos.
An older man appeared with permed hair accompanied by a younger man with a goofy expression.
“Carlos, my name is Paul Gray, lead engineer for Energy Systems,” the senior man stated.
“And I’m Gary Cooper, engineer for Spec Systems.”
The dislike was immediate. Carlos noticed the older man was trembling while the younger one had sweaty palms.
The Energy Systems’ engineer was, in Carlos’ opinion, a ‘pretty man’. Not a handsome man, but rather a ‘pretty man’ with a neatly permed head of blue-white hair, the kind that reminded him of fit and healthy elderly people living in his mother’s retirement home in Palm Springs. Carlos would often observe them at the same time look over at his own mother asleep in a wheelchair with her head lowered, her wiry hair grey and ashen and wonder why they were even living there. To him it seemed they should be at some senior citizen disco bar with others of their ilk.
The other engineer was equally unimpressive. Having naturally rosy cheeks and a gooney expression coupled to a bulbous nose he resembled an unemployed circus clown.
“Gary Cooper, uh?” Carlos commented.
“Yes, my parents were big fans of…..”
“That’s nice son,” Carlos interrupted.
“So Paul, who’s the woman?” Carlos asked without skipping a beat.
“Donna. Donna Carrette. She’s our process engineer. Very Bright.”
“Is she gonna be a problem?”
“Hasn’t been yet.”
“How long she been with Energy Systems?”
“’Bout three months, I guess.”
“Three months? That’s it, three months?”
Paul didn’t answer. He didn’t see the need, realizing it wasn’t a question at all but merely an expression of Carlos’ disapproval.
“If I find out she’s been giving all the welders head I’ll kick you off as well, understand?”
Now this was a question that cried out for a response.
“Really Carlos, the woman’s a process engineer with over ten years experience and speaking of her that way…..”
Paul stopped in mid-sentence after seeing those dark, pupiless eyes flash at him.
“I’m not joking here, Paul,” Carlos hissed.
“I’ve seen a lot of shit on this platform, and sex always seems to be a factor. If my operators aren’t beatn’-off in the head, their sneaking women on board from boats.”
A moment of awkward silence ensued.
Carlos looked down at his desk, rubbing his club fists together, trying to formulate a tactful way of expressing to these two that all he wanted was for the construction to go forward successfully without any drama and most importantly, safely. The Tampco safety award this year was a five hundred dollar gift certificate at an exclusive men’s clothing store in Huntington Beach and Carlos wanted it.
Lately, the king had been contemplating new clothes.
“Look you guys, I don’t want any problems,” he finally said, breaking the silence. “I want the project to go as smooth as snake snot, Capish? No fuckin’ around. That’s all.”
The two engineers turned, glanced at each other, fumbled for a moment then clumsily exited, both attempting to get through the bulkhead door at the same time.
The engineering effort about to commence was an impressive effort consisting of relocating all of the on-shore oil processing equipment onto the platform. Traditionally, the only function oil recovery platforms performed was simply extract crude oil to the surface them pump it to shore via large diameter submerged pipelines where it was then processed by equipment separating the oil from seawater. In effect, separating the wheat from the chaff. The current school of thought dictated the separation of oil from seawater on the platform itself over the ocean was a bad idea, the reason being protecting Mother Ocean and the environment.
Apparently, one beautiful California morning some developers drove by the twenty or so acres of oil/water separator equipment straddling Pacific Coast Highway and decided to change the law for the purpose of acquiring the property for development. This was expensive real estate. In their argument it was simply a matter of polluting either the groundwater or the ocean.
Mother Ocean lost.
The City of Seal Beach, in its’ ultimate wisdom (or lack of), decided to capitulate with environmentalists, excuse me, developers, change the law and everyone was happy.
Everyone except Tampco Oil, Seal Beach’s mistress for some fifty years. It was then Tampco began contemplating a divorce.
The City of Seal Beach was actually going to make Tampco spend large amounts of capitol which no company likes to do amounting to a kind of alimony in one large, lump sum.
In defiance, Tampco decided to skip town after the project was completed realizing they could recoup construction losses selling an oil platform that met the City of Seal Beach’s mandate.
Carlos watched this play unfold from the very first act and was now aware the curtain call was about to commence. He was about to be evicted from his cold, rusting home of some twenty years keeping it band-aided together on a shoestring budget. The deepening adversarial relationship with his wife and daughters seemed to coincide with this passion play of anxiety unfolding before him.
His biggest fear was dying alone.
After sixty years of walking on this planet he was facing thoughts of his own mortality and didn’t like what he saw.
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