I go drilling for natural gas on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
As Rusty and I walked around and over the equipment, I looked at the gorgeous aqua ocean, dotted with bobbing yellow seaweed. Rusty said the rig is a haven for migrating birds. A few weeks ago, a flock of hummingbirds took a break onboard, followed by one of purple martins. Amy said the birds are sometimes so exhausted that when they land they fall into such a deep sleep that she has stroked their feathers.
Three hours after our 6 p.m. dinner (I topped off my enormous meal with two bowls of ice cream), Amy escorted me across the rig. There, a group of welders were fishing from 90 feet up. Barracuda and swordfish are common sights, and someone pointed to flashes of brilliant blue—a school of mahi mahi. Within minutes the welders were hauling a 10-pound tuna onto the deck. They unhooked it and threw it back—it landed with a hard thwack that I hoped was not the tuna equivalent of the jump from the Golden Gate Bridge. Incongruously, on this part of the deck someone hung a white porch swing facing north—toward land too far away to see. I sat for a few minutes enjoying the darkness while engines hummed and gears turned.
We went back to our room, and Amy turned up the air conditioner to high, to drown out the hospitallike sound of the PA making incomprehensible announcements all night long. I slept wonderfully, the slight swaying of the rig having a womblike effect. I also discovered that being in the middle of the Gulf totally cleared up my allergies.
Recently the Washington Post reported that the Interior Department was looking to expand coastal oil and gas drilling to include a now-forbidden area off Virginia. Of course, environmentalists objected, citing potential damage to the tourist industry. But why should the choice be tourism or rigs? You can have both! Think of the marketing: unlimited food, suntanning on the heliport, fishing from 90 feet—just don't mention the 5 a.m. wake-up call.
OK, maybe Mohamed Al-Fayed and I are both crazy, and no one will want to vacation on a rig. But anyone who goes on that vacation will have a new respect for what it takes for you to warm your house with a push of a finger on the thermostat, or to get a flame on the stove with a turn of your wrist.