A couple of months ago, I was asked to get involved with a hydraulic problem on a water well rig that had blown a hydraulic hose, which, in turn, sprayed oil on the engine turbo and caused a fire. Although the unit was immediately shut down, the damaged parts consisted of hoses, control valving, the engine turbo, safety switches, wiring, gauges, a couple of tires and paint. The unit was repaired and painted, but, as the story goes, upon start up, the unit did not operate normally, so I was asked to travel to the job site and try to correct the problem. On my arrival to the rig, I soon found out that the customer was not happy - not with the rig and certainly not with me.
From the time of my first involvement when he called for help, I had never heard of, nor been involved with, this rig to share his disappointment, so I guess this was why he was venting his frustration on me - I was there. There really is not much you can do in a situation like that except listen. That sounds a lot easier than it is sometimes. It isn't easy listening to someone accusing you of everything from ruining his weekend to ruining his life, especially if you can't get the rig operating in the normal mode quickly. All you can do is remain calm, let them finish, then get involved in fixing the rig.
Whoever had repaired the subject rig had done a bang-up job. All I could see were new parts and good workmanship. I would have found the whole project a lot more stressful without the help of the operator, who had been involved with repair, as well as had operated this rig for the last couple of years. He was my most important asset, so together we traced the hoist problem to a hydraulic valve, which flows vast amounts of oil back to the hydraulic tank. This hydraulic valve had gotten distorted due to the excessive heat present during the fire. We did not have a suitable valve available for replacement, so we bypassed the valve to test the operation of the hydraulic hoist system.
We spent a good half day with this problem to be sure that we had a fix. We don't like to rush things - that only results in chaos later on. The harder you push, the more corners you cut trying to diagnose a problem, the more likely you are to forget something. The little things you forget have a tendency to come back at a later date to haunt you. So we took plenty of time to be absolutely sure the rig would operate to our satisfaction.
This owner kept pushing his way up to us, wanting to know when he could have his rig to put it in service. This is not exactly the way you want to be involved with a job, but you are. It was like a scene out of a bad movie. Here was this guy, who had seemed almost normal up until that moment, screaming and yelling for us to hurry up. I quietly and calmly whispered, "Calm down." He said, "What?" I said, "Calm down. There is no reason to behave this way. We have the problem under control now. We only need to acquire a replacement valve, install and adjust it." I was still whispering. I hadn't raised my voice. Don't get me wrong - my heart was pounding, my hands were shaking and I was ready for just about anything, but my voice was steady, calm and quiet. Again, I said, "We are not your enemy, but perhaps the most important asset you have if you want your rig operational again." At this, to my surprise, the rig owner had nothing else to say. As he walked away, the rig operator congratulated me on my self control. If he only knew how close I came to losing that control, he would not have been so impressed. I was now actually sweating and exhausted as though I had worked all day.
Over the next couple of days, the replacement valve arrived, was installed and adjusted, and the drilling rig was put in service. We stayed with the machine while two wells were drilled to be sure all the rig components were operating normally. Ultimately, everything checked out, with only a couple of hoses leaking.
I've only heard from the drill rig owner once since the rig was back in working order. First was to pay for my services, as well as apologize for his behavior the day before the rig problem was diagnosed. It was uncalled for and he knew it. He was embarrassed and wanted me to know he had made a fool out of himself. As we talked, he wanted permission to call if he encountered another problem. I never really considered to work for him again, because I am not sure I wanted him back, but I guess I should take my own advice and at least appear to remain calm. Before I left, I said to him, "If you need me again, just call." I've learned to stay calm.