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Story Pick: GQ on Gulf's rigworkers

While many in the cable television chattering class fixate on BP's public relations gaffes, some reporters are crafting narratives reconstructing the days and hours leading up to the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Sean Flynn, a GQ correspondent, just came out with such a piece, recounting the actions of some of the rigworkers and their families before and after the blast.

Flynn's main character is a cocky, hardworking twenty-something named Shane Roshto, who was working on the Deepwater Horizon rig to support his high school sweetheart-turned-wife and young child. In the introductory paragraphs, everything feels hopeful and ominous all at once: "Backbreaking work, but it paid better than roughneck, and roughnecking wore a man out just as fast," Flynn writes. "'The oil field gave me life,' [Roshto would] tease [his wife] Natalie [Roshto] sometimes, 'but it's gonna take my life, too.'"

To quicken the pace, the reporter divides the article into sections, whose sub-headlines make you feel like you're reading about a prisoner's pending execution: 14 days; 7 days; 5 days; 11 hours; 5 hours; 90 minutes; 30 minutes; 15 minutes; 13 minutes...Boom.

But Flynn's piece does not merely celebrate the lives of the rigworkers. He includes details about some of their biographies that made me cringe. In one worker's case, his previous job was working at a car dealership.

Mike [Williams] is 38-years-old and a chief electronics technician on the Horizon, which means he monitors certain systems on the rig, makes sure the ventilation and the computer network and the gas sensors function properly. He used to manage the truck division at a Toyota dealership in Tyler, Texas, but the hours were brutal, working seven days every week, never seeing his wife, Felicia. He had a friend working offshore, and that was how Mike got on the rigs. "The good ol' boy network," he says. He's been on the Horizon now for almost two years.

If you're sick of reading about BP chairman Tony Hayward and his 52-foot yacht, then read Flynn's piece in GQ.

By Ian Shapira  | June 21, 2010; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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