This morning, I had a rather unusual commute to work. I was only a few miles away from home around 7:45 a.m., waiting to make a right turn onto Highway 85. The long line of semis and pickups with a car or two sprinkled in trickled by slowly in the early morning light, cautious on the layer of ice from last night’s snowfall. I sipped the coffee from my travel mug and vaguely noticed a large cherry red pickup with dark tinted windows suddenly make a sharp left onto my road. I perked up a little more when it pulled up next to me. A young man got out and swaggered confidently toward my vehicle. I assumed he was asking for directions, but I didn’t like the looks of him much, so I rolled down my window only a crack, ready to throw my coffee in his face and barrel through the ditch in my little Ford Escape if necessary.
It turns out he was not asking for directions. Ohhh, no. Our conversation went something like this:
Him: “Hello, miss? May I have your number?”
Me: “Excuse me?”
Him: “I said, may I have your number?”
Me: Stunned silence. Isn’t it too early in the morning for this kind of thing?
Him: “My friends said they would give me 100 dollars if you gave me your number.”
Me: Stunned silence with raised eyebrows. “Uh…” I am not very often speechless.
Him [starting to sound more desperate]: “You can have half of it! I will give you 50 bucks right here for your number!”
Me [inching my car forward]: “Fifty bucks?” [Sadly, I considered the money for a moment, then thought better of it.] “I don’t think I believe you. Actually, I have to go to work.” [Inching my car forward some more, wishing there were a gap in the traffic line.]
Him: “Miss, please — it’s fifty bucks! Aw, c’mon, please!”
At this point, I would have loved to make a dramatic exit by pealing out onto the highway in a squeal of tires on pavement. Unfortunately, the steady line of trucks still trickled by, not allowing me an exit of any sort, dramatic or not. I think I said something like, “I’m very flattered, but I really have to go to work!” I attempted a smile to make my harsh rejection a little easier. “It was a nice try though!” I added as an afterthought. I rolled up my window in what I hoped was a firm gesture.
He made his way back to his red pickup where I am sure his friends were laughing uproariously, his swagger a little less confident.
I got different reactions to this story from the people I told. Some thought I should have taken the money. Some thought I should have given him a fake number. Some agreed that I did the only thing I could have done: leave. My brother, however, pointed out that his approach was all wrong. “He made a mistake,” he commented. “He SHOULD have said, ‘My friends offered me a hundred dollars to ask for your number, but I don’t care about the money. In fact, I will give you the hundred dollars because all I really want is your number.'” It’s true; that would have been a much smoother attempt. Should I be insulted that he offered me money in the first place, or that he only offered me HALF of the money?
Jokes aside, this incident made me think a little. We have some serious issues in the oil field: housing, traffic, infrastructure needs, you name it. Dating is a whole new ball game, and while it may not seem so serious as these other issues, doesn’t everyone need just a little affection from the opposite gender now and then? But there is a problem: men outnumber women here by A LOT. The few available girls that are not married are either 1. dating someone or 2. tired enough of the obnoxious male attention to be a bit cold and standoffish to the males providing the attention. (For some additional background, see my previous post titled “There Are Plenty of Fish in the Sea, but Mostly Sharks Where I Live.”)
The men at my second job at a local hotel lounge have shared plenty of these woes with me, and I feel for them. Just last night, a middle-aged man lamented, “It’s not easy being a single guy in the oil field.” Another one, this one a bit younger, said to me, “You’re a nice gal. But I bet you’re married or got a boyfriend or something, don’t you?” A man next to him added ruefully, “There aren’t ANY single girls around here!” I found myself wanting to help these poor lonely souls, but what can we do? Should we start a mail order bride service? Lure fellow females here by some other method? Last year, a man even planned to have a “Party in the Patch,” a singles dance in Williston to attract dateable girls to the area. To my knowledge, the party never happened, but I think it illustrates a pretty desperate need for better balance of gender. (Read the article here.)
These ideas are extreme, but there just might be another, simpler way. A few months back, my friend A, another teacher, thought of an excellent plan: An Oil Field Dating Service. I think this could be a new calling for us. “Just think,” she said, “how much better off some of these men would be if they even just knew how to ask a woman out!” She wasn’t thinking along the lines of a matchmaking service, but more of an… etiquette workshop of sorts. Lessons on making a first impression on a woman. How to be a gentleman. How to woo the few available ladies here with your charm and wit. How to show manners and therefore have the upper hand over all your rivals.
It’s not a bad idea. I think we could do some good here. Maybe even charge a fee and make a little extra cash, without having to give out our phone numbers on random highways. I have heard a colorful array of pickup line since moving here, and I’m sure other females in the area would concur. Some situations are humorous, others not so much. But what if we could give these men a few tips from a local woman’s point of view? Here’s a start: Don’t offer money for phone numbers in the middle of a highway.
Ok, I should put in a disclaimer: I think there are plenty of courteous, well-meaning men here. Just a couple weeks ago during my hotel shift, a man in his mid-30s observed as two other, rather forward men made an uncouth comment or two in my direction. It didn’t bother me, but apparently it bothered the observer. After they left, he stood up, quite tipsy, and threw down his napkin, proclaiming gallanty, “I just want you to know that although I think you are beautiful, I’m just going to leave it at that! I’m not coming on to you, and I would never say those things to you!” He left, head held high, stumbling just slightly to his hotel room. I had to smile to myself a little at that one. But his manners actually DID impress me more than the other two men next to him. Maybe this guy could be a coach at our Dating Service once he sobers up.
Yes, times are tough in the oil field. Women are scarce. Men are lonely. Both are working hard to make a living, but humans need a little more than just survival. Hopefully as our boomtown continues to adapt to the growing pains, the lopsided numbers will even out a bit and love will flare up all over the oil field (pardon the pun — I admit, it was bad).
In the meantime, I’ll be working with my partner A on our Oil Field Dating Service so we can provide a valuable service helping our community… one unfortunate pickup line at a time.