Based on the title of this article, you may think we are going to tell you a story about the whales who frequent Africa’s coast. Or that we are about to tell you some incredible stories of how, during the summer months, humpback whales leave the cold waters of Antarctica to enjoy the warmer waters, off the shores of Angola, Africa.
We may go into great detail on the playfulness of the male whales, as they show off for their ladies, during certain months for their annual breeding ceremonies. Or, how our co-workers call each over the public announcement system, to stop WHATEVER we were doing, just to watch these majestic mammals in their natural habitat.
However, those whale tales are for another day.
Instead, today’s story will be about baring a different kind of ‘whale’s tail’, anonymously submitted by one of our readers.
Let us preface this with some background information.
Working offshore in the oil fields of Angola for the first time, Angela, a safety officer, had been shadowing another co-worker as he led a field verification for qualified gas testers. The objective was to escort ten to twelve workers around the platform, to very specific high-risk gas leak areas, and have them demonstrate a competent gas testing exercise.
Fast-forwarding to the next week and it was Angela’s turn to do it on her own. She was ready! She met the team and facilitated a basic brief of the exercise, and what a passing demonstration would look like.
“Pumunta Tayo!” she said in Filipino. The phrase translated to, ‘We are off!’ and was taught to her by some of the guys, earlier in the hitch. Up three flights of stairs, across the connecting bridge platform, up a few more flights of stairs to the processing platform, where they finally made it to the first testing spot.
Now, let us pause for a few facts:
Fact one – Angela forgot to bring a belt offshore. She knew this would be a problem because her pants were, slightly, too big. She wore heavy radio equipment and walked a lot of stairs, which lent itself for plenty of opportunity for pant sliding in the “Newtonian” direction; aka down via gravity.
Fact two – Angela tucked in her shirt. Not only into her pants, but also tucked her shirt into her underwear, for a little extra elastic restriction. Unfortunately, the morning that Angela led her first solo testing exercise, she happened to, mindlessly, grab a pink thong.
Add that all together; the double-tuck, no belt, heavy radio and stairs. Lots of stairs.
At the first testing point, Angela’s Filipino translator, discreetly pulled her aside.
“Ma’am, Angela. I am really embarrassed to tell you this, but, I thought you should know that the guys behind you were mentioning… they saw your pink… some pink…”
He trailed off, turning a shade of pink himself.
Then it hit her.
Noooooo! It all flashed before Angela’s eyes: As she was leading the charge up the stairs, her pants were inching down, exposing her bright pink whale tail on top of her work shirt!
She had a decision to make right then and there because, she felt like melting down into the steel deck.
Here she was, in her second week offshore as one of six females amongst 1500 males, and she had exposed her thong to a bunch of men!
Can you say offshore nightmare?
But, alas, this was Angela’s reality. Instead of suffering the same fate as the Wicked Witch of the West, she just pulled up her pants, re-adjusted the tuck and simply stated, “I thought you guys were just really happy with my briefing earlier. When in actuality, you were just happy with my briefs!“
This statement freed Angela from shame to quickly realize the humor in all of it. From that moment, she realized the freeing feeling of being able to laugh off the situation and chalk it up to an ‘oh well’ moment. Following that, the task of proceeding with the rest of the training, seemed much easier.
Afterwards, Angela pulled the chivalrous gentleman aside to commend his courage for revealing the very embarrassing situation; a situation akin to being in a there’s-something-stuck-in-your-teeth-type scenario.
Seven months later, at this co-worker’s going away gathering, in front of all of the team leads and a few managers, Angela told this story emphasizing the benefits of stepping in and speaking up in uncomfortable situations. Looking out for one another offshore is a key ingredient to building and gaining trust in your co-workers.
Morals of the story: Always provide timely feedback, thank the individuals who give it to you, and bring a belt offshore. It is wonderful to stand in and speak up, but leave the showing-off to the humpback whales!