Saturday, November 6, 2010

Richie's Big Adventure

He just left for the Chevron refinery, El Segundo, to hook up with Emma and Dale (both Thurs. Writers.) The three of them will board a posh tour bus and be driven all over the refinery while a Chevron employee tells them what they're seeing.

I have no idea what propels Dale (aerospace engineer) or Emma (retired grade school teacher) into the bowels of a refinery, but I certainly know why Richie's there. It's a free tour.

Richie loves "free" or even "nearly free." I think we all remember the recent Nathan's Coney Island hot dog caper? Billed as "Buy one at regular price, receive the second one for a nickel!"? And in his vast excitement, we arrived one full week ahead of time for this gala?

This is Chevron's third offering to a (supposedly) admiring public. I know this because Richie invited me to go the first one which I did and he dragged me, kicking and screaming, to the second. As it happens I hav a lot of uncles and cousins in South Texas and Oklahoma who were/are in the "awl bidness" thus a refinery is not all that exciting to me.

Chevron has very strict security, you must call them well ahead of time for the tour and make a reservation, including the full names of all in your party. Upon arrival, you must show Security a photo ID before your name is ticked off of his clipboard and you are allowed onto the bus which is, incidentally, quite fancy -- reclining seats, foot rests, big TV screen over the driver's head.

There are a couple of spots on the road that are quite exciting. This is becaue the road would only be considered two lanes if you were on a motorcycle. It is narrow; the bus is immense (comparatively) and there are a couple of very tight corners. I remember the driver having to back up once just to make a turn. Not quite a Disneyland E ticket ride, but when the back of the bus extends out, off of a cliff face, you tend to pay a certain amount of attention.

After about half an hour of winding around the refinery -- "We have our own fire department" -- "Employees use the bicycles in that parking lot to get around quickly" -- "We're proud of the fact that we have gone 3,452 hours with no accidents -- safety first!" -- you are deposited gently back at the offices where you started out.

I'm just as happy to be on my own at home. It looks like it's going to rain; all of the refinery buildings, fittings, pipes are varying shades of gray ... they can have it and joy to them!

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