Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Fate or Fortune’ Take a Chance on Yourself

New Mexico: check. Texas: check. Next stop: Lafayette, La.

Earlier that week, I’d realized I had no plan for how to find employment – I had been hoping an oilfield Wizard of Oz would pop up at some point. During one of my pit stops in Texas, I ran a few searches on the Internet, submitted a few more applications and talked to a few locals at the gym – but all I came up with was the location of an oil company in Lafayette that advertised interviews from 8 to 11 a.m. on Mondays.

I covered the 250 miles to Lafayette that day. I was all pumped up and ready to force my way onto the payroll. In the parking lot, I threw on a wrinkled button-down shirt and a fresh layer of deodorant. I was five-foot-nine and bulletproof. Nothing could stop me, except being turned away without an interview – which is exactly what happened.

Back in the parking lot a half-hour later, my spirits were much lower. I didn’t feel any better after my back tire blew leaving the parking lot. It was a definite low point, and I snapped. I wrestled the bike into a parking spot and left it there. With my bike disabled, I set out on foot, sweating profusely in boots, Carhartt jeans, two undershirts, a button-down and my leather jacket with insulating liner. August in Louisiana – it was hot. As luck would have it, the neighborhood was full of offshore oil companies. I went from one office to the next delivering crumpled résumés, all drenched in sweat and addressed to Hercules Offshore (along the way I’d gotten my hands on a copy machine).

I met Sammy in one of these offices. He had come from Phoenix on a pilgrimage similar to my own. Sammy, however, had more serious financial responsibilities and more to fear from failure. We teamed up to keep each other motivated and optimistic. Unfortunately, despite all our energy we wound up doing a lot more searching for work than work.

While Sammy went off to hit up a few more offices, I got to talking with Mr. Gary, the tow truck driver who had transported my bike. Mr. Gary sympathized with my situation and kindly offered to exploit my desperation. He told me if I gave him eight hours of work at the junkyard, he would pay me 40 big ones. Spending a sweltering hot night in the front seat of Sammy’s van was more than enough to make up my mind. (I’ve been bitten by lots of bugs, but none as vicious and organized as in Southern Louisiana.)

The next day, I got my cash at the junkyard and Sammy got his down at the day labor station. That night, we enjoyed the miracle of cheap motel air conditioning – none of the roaches or cold water or filth could negate its beauty. The following day I was back at the junkyard, ready for more dirty work and disrespect. I was not disappointed.

r. Gary looks like Santa Claus going through a Harley phase. Like Santa Claus, he has a world-class wink. Unlike Santa Claus, he’s a jerk. His best trick is to deliver a belittling comment with a wink and a smile. Very endearing, as I’m sure you can imagine. Ms. Helen, Mr. Gary’s wife, was just as bad. Because I didn’t know how to bleed a brake line or replace a master cylinder, she got it into her head that I didn’t know how to use a dust pan or a tape gun.

Brian, the son of these two monsters, seemed to have been produced by some kind of chemical reaction among all their worst characteristics. His best trick was to make loud, offensive jokes which were never funny, and which he followed up with the reliable “You know what I mean?” I took to responding to everything he said with “I hear ya.”

Around his parents, I kept my mouth shut entirely. The only person at the towing service that treated me with any respect was Karen, the part-time secretary. When Karen wasn’t taking a cigarette break she was sitting in the office rubbing her temples. All of these people hated each other (for obvious reasons) and they all came to me to complain. They took a liking to me, even though I didn’t give them anything they couldn’t get from a brick wall. I worked hard and they noticed; they decided to help me. For two weeks I worked at the yard for minimum wage so I could afford to split the motel bill with Sammy.

Sammy wasn’t quite as lucky as I was. He woke up every day at 5 a.m. to go down to the day labor station. He got work, but his bosses were often racist and the labor put a strain on his old bones. Then, out of the blue, he got a call from his doctor informing him he had to be back in Phoenix for an experimental arthritis treatment program. At least that’s what he told me.

I let him off the hook on the motel bill and lent him my last $200 for fuel to get home. Before asking for the loan, he rolled out legal paperwork documenting his felony conviction. His crime was taking too much veteran’s compensation – not the worst crime out there. I decided to give him the loan with no strings. My infallible reasoning told me collateral would just make taking the money easier. If you stick your neck out just a little bit someone is bound to sneak up and hack at it; but if you stick your neck way out, no one would be so indecent. So I showed him my trust and gave him my money and never heard from him again.

For our last meal together, Sammy and I had Chinese food. My fortune read: “You will find opportunity in difficulty.” The next day Mr. Gary introduced me to his friend Richard Carlisle, owner of C.E. Oil Tool and Supply, Inc. Richard interviewed me and, at the end of the interview, offered me a job.

Before leaving Seattle I told my dad I would be employed by August 1. As it happened, I signed the contract and dated it 08/01/08. Fate is what happens when you realize you are stronger than you thought – when you realize that you really can reach out and take what you want.

You might say God helps those who help themselves – but maybe that’s not quite it. Maybe you only underestimated yourself and couldn’t believe it when you really made it. When you do make it, instead of looking for outside factors, you should question your initial belief that you are weak and underpowered. There’s a V8 engine somewhere under the hood. Crank it up.

Desmond Rawls is a senior in the College and is taking a year off to work as a mechanic for an offshore oil company. He can be reached at rawlsthehoya.com. Wheelie appears every other Monday on www.thehoya.com.

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