The people of Williston

4 Jun

You meet some really weird human beings in an oil boomtown. They come from all over the place, and no one is here because they want to live here, they’re here because they want to work here.

The people who come to Williston are here because they can’t be anywhere else. They leave their families behind, or they don’t have families. There’s no work anywhere else, so they end up in the place where you can walk into a building covered in the grime from a three days of living out of your car and walk out ten minutes later with a job.

On my first day, it was downpouring. I work at a restaurant that hasn’t opened yet, and the downside of that is that there is no food in the building. My boss told me to get something to eat, as a recently hired girl was walking out of the building. I told him I had no car. She turned around, looked at me, and said, “you want a ride? I’ve got nothing to do.” So we went to McDonald’s and got some burgers. She’s from Kansas, came here with a boyfriend but it didn’t work out. Now she’s paying the absurdly high rent of life in oil country, not ready to go back home.

A man came in today to apply. He asked me if I was Brazilian. Then he asked my boss. And one of the chefs. I am rather pale, of Scottish descent.

A girl came in, talking about her husband and two kids. She was born in 1993.

I met a man from Spokane, engaged to be married this summer, with a Master’s in physical therapy. He works in a restaurant here because he couldn’t make half the money somewhere else.

My RD-of-sorts graduated from Creighton and then got either a Master’s or PhD (I don’t remember which) in some sort of science from Iowa State. Yet he’s here, working for the college, because his fiancee has a job with an oil company.

One of the men who will be working at the restaurant used to work at the thrift store right up the street from my parents. A small world moment.

Everyone here drives a pickup or a very large SUV. Most of them have a downtrodden look to them. Why wouldn’t they? All there is to do in a town like this is work and drink. Everyone plans on getting out. The question, of course, is whether they will.

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