The phone was ringing, and I could tell it would be a mistake to answer it by the way it rang. It was a shrill, malevolent, insistent kind of a ring that filled the room with tension on every ring. I picked it up anyway. I love calls that begin with someone's voice at a tone that lets you know that there's a problem. The gentleman at the other end of the phone began describing his problem with all the displeasure of a wounded bear. In fact, after hearing his problem, I wasn't sure that I wanted to get involved.
Apparently he had experienced a compressor failure while some 280 feet in the ground. After extracting all the details I could from this gentleman, we agreed to get involved since it was relatively close by, and we had a rebuilt unit available. Now, I have to tell you, as we pulled into the drill location, my heart sank because the rig location would not make for an easy job. We had just enough room to get a hoist truck in close enough to uncouple the air end and move it back so we could operate the hydraulics to pull the drill steel out of the ground. After this was done, we lowered the mast and moved the rig to a better location locally to clean the system and install the rebuilt compressor air end.
But I was even more frustrated at that moment when we started the compressor because I had a couple of oil leaks where the discharge flange is bolted to the compressor, which, by all standards, is just about an impossible job of eliminating under a drilling rig. We raised the rig up on the outrigger jacks as high as possible - giving us room to work. After replacing the flange gasket twice in an eight-hour time period, I could see everyone was getting excited and tired and our customer was no exception. I could not see any crack in the discharge flange or in the compressor casting, but I did notice that the discharge flange bolts were threaded all the way to the bolt heads, so I purchased eight new flange bolts, lock and heavy-duty flat washers that had a close fit around the bolts, and some 510 Loctite to coat the flange bolts. The 510 use was in case someone had, at one time, used a flange bolt without a lock washer, or a bolt that might have been too long, and caused a crack in the thread area of the high pressure casting.
So, after two days of fighting these oil leaks, we eliminated them. I was fairly frustrated at this point, and so was my customer, but I am sure he understood we've spend our lives fixing rigs - not breaking them. We've also developed a pretty good reputation for being successful far more often than not. My customer wasn't impressed, but he wanted to get back to drilling. So I tried explaining that I've heard of people who can be alive and doing fine and then just suddenly fall over and die. And light bulbs can, and often do, blow out for no apparent reason at all. I tried to explain what happened and why it happened, but to no avail.
I'd love to be able to tell you that logic prevailed and that he understood, but I guess you already know how unlikely that would be. He was not only frustrated and angry, he was ill, and now he was exhausted as well. I could empathize and after our conversation, I wasn't feeling too good myself. When all was said and done, with the rig back in the hole drilling, customer entered good water (30 ft./min.) just 20 feet after the compressor job was complete.
By the time our technician returned, I was so deeply involved in the business, I didn't have the time or the desire to think about my assailant. All I cared about was our performance and our reputation, and at that point I felt we had gone above and beyond what anyone else might have done. Interestingly enough, the customer had become a whole new person by the time our technician left the job site, tools in hand and compressor operating like a new one. The customer was courteous and appreciative, even a bit remorseful for the way he treated us. Of course, he never said that to me, nor did he apologize or thank me, but he now was civil to me.
As for me, I was just relieved - relieved to be rid of the job. Despite the toll it may have taken on my psyche, I felt good about what had happened - I didn't lose my temper once through the whole ordeal. I didn't fly off the handle, I didn't say things I was sorry for - then or now. Through patience and performance, we caged the monster. Through professionalism and perseverance, we tamed the shrew. I suppose the only question I have now: will I answer the phone the next time I hear the "special" ring? Would someone tell me why I shouldn't? The compressor is operating!