Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Overnighters

I watched an interesting documentary that was so suspenseful that I almost thought it was fake. There are so many fake documentaries out there now that it's hard to know what's real. Once upon a time the only fake documentaries were comedic so people knew they were fake. Now, the challenge to trick an entire audience into watching a documentary that was scripted by paid actors has all kinds of crazy productions being released until even the real ones, like The Overnighters, could possibly be fake. Who knows?

But if it's fake then it still resonates as authentic with me at least. The premise is one that I've experienced on more dimensions than most. It starts out simply enough with a pastor in the oil boom town of Williston, North Dakota who has invited aspiring oil field workers into the church to sleep at night. What follows sort of runs the gamut of human experience, success, failure, sins and redemption, consequences unforseen, deceit, betrayal and hypocrisy. I don't want to spoil the suspense but it's worth looking for. It's on primewire if you want to navigate the pop up ads.

I had several reactions as I was watching it because I can identify with quite a bit. I remember trying to clean the house of the woman with multiple personalities in Corpus Christi...the whole thing slowly deteriorating into madness...and I felt the police were going to be called by her or me very shortly and the outcome would be bad for everyone, but mostly me and so I went to the Salvation Army and I found the same single men with faded photos of their children in Arkansas or Kentucky, children waiting for birthday cards or something, wives whose patience had run out, in-laws raising the kids, no money and we're playing softball in 112 degree humidity and heat. There is work in Corpus Christi in the refineries but there are unions and drug tests and prior conviction hoops to jump through. It's funny because I wasn't even there looking for any of that, no, not in the oil field or the refineries or off shore. But it found me and that's another story. So, I personally experienced the relevant issues. Never mind a lifetime of tramping and gypsy living, this is the most recent experience and this documentary seemed very relevant.

Corpus is a big city and it's noteworthy that it has 4 refineries. Corpus can accommodate or absorb immigrants. Williston, ND can not. That's the main difference, but the interesting part of The Overnighters is not merely how foreign that scenario will be to the average viewer, but how all the reactions are not uncommon at all. So it's an unusual circumstance met by normal people and filmed. Worth watching, especially if you are about to go to ND to look for a job with oil prices plummeting and all the oil field contractors laying people off and slowing down expansion. If you want my advice then you will go to a craft/trade school in Corpus and get some verifiable skills in welding, industrial painting, electrical, pipefitting, etc. And you will not go to Williston, but instead go to Odessa and Midland where all the human resource departments are for the Permian Oil Field. OR maybe San Antonio where the bases of operation for the Eagle Ford Shale are. If you are an idiot you will go to Pecos and everyone will tell you to drive back to Odessa because the field offices are in Pecos, but not the human resources. No one can hire you in Pecos, there are no facilities there, water is rationed, you will end up living at a truck stop with no work unless you have the $1100 to rent a room at an abandoned old age home...which will actually be in Fort Stockton, not Pecos. And you will be shocked to see the gas prices around the oil field are not lower but actually higher and that's because all those gas stations are not charging people, they are charging corporation's credit cards that employees are using. All those bills end up back at Exxon and Chesapeake so people are as careless as possible with the 80 miles for a good hamburger and then forget your hard hat and drive 80 miles back. 320 miles of driving and $155 of gas for a $22 lunch that would cost $6 anywhere else in America but because the restaurant knows you are paying with a per diem expense account they added $16 to the bill. Ridiculous. But if you are not an employee with a bottomless gas card and a per diem account then you will spend all your money paying the idiot tax. Go to Corpus, then Odessa. Williston is not the right place to start. Knowing someone already working with the company is also important as a reference. No one gets hired without a current employee reference. You will also be drug tested, a background check run and you will go through a safety course with a test in English.

It's rare that I see a documentary that I relate to.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.