My wife and I caught the first night of U2’s world tour. We had nosebleed seats, so I took the binoculars I bought for our summer African safari, binoculars that will isolate a lemur a quarter mile distant. My wife was the first to notice that Bono had a string of video monitors placed subtly around the various stages, angled up for he alone to view, “Look! He’s got the words to ‘Beautiful Day’!” And sure enough, through those amazing binoculars I saw: It's a beautiful day - Sky falls, you feel like - It's a beautiful day - Don't let it get away…
Several minutes later, I noticed something odd. Bono implored the crowd, “You in the heart of America, sing along!” and the monitor read You in the heart of America, sing along! Then he implored, “Sing with us tonight!” (MONITOR: Sing with us tonight!). Then, “Sing with the Irish boys!” (MONITOR: Sing with the Irish boys!).
80% of my immediate family and many in my extended family are, or have been, professional musicians. I still play in public 50 times a year. I fully appreciate having the words to songs available at your feet, but sing with the Irish boys?
It caused me to think about the drilling rig I was on last week outside Big Lake, Texas. Big walking rig, 20,000’ of hole, hundreds of miles away from support and infrastructure. There on the rig you deal with crazy weather swings, random equipment failures, loneliness, and never-ending, around-the-clock critical decisions to be made – and executed! – with creativity and enthusiasm. This is all experienced and created by guys wearing coveralls and hardhats, driving pickups. These guys have no monitors at their feet telling them right exactly at this moment what to do and what to say.
It makes me wonder about creativity. Who is the more creative in the field? U2 gets all the credit and all the glory, but I’m going with the roughneck, and the frac hand, and the water transport driver, and the directional driller.
A couple years ago I was thinking about the Rolling Stones and how many times they had played, “Honky Tonk Women” since they released it as a single in 1969. 49 years x 50 shows per year = 2,450 time, played exactly the same each and every time. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” played exactly the same 2,450 times.
What a funny economy we live in where we take our most successfully creative people and cement them into a purgatory where, like lean manufacturers, they churn out the exact same product night after night after night, until they can’t even think on their own to say spontaneously, “Sing with the Irish boys!”
So here’s our salute to some of the unsung, ultra creative people on the planet: The oilfield workers, solving problems creatively and spontaneously day in, and day out.
PS: If you see the band on tour, I know it’ll be a great show (because it’ll be the same show that I saw Wednesday night). And a spoiler, at the end, clap all you want, or not at all: they’re programmed to come back and play 4 songs for the encore.