Leaving Civilization

I'm Leaving Civilization Now

Words & Photos / Brittni Renner


I’m leaving civilization now. I walk up the ramp, off the tarmac, into the combi-style Boeing 737. Upon entering the plane, the flight attendant looks down at my feet and says “cute boots! I have something similar.” I’m going to boldly assume that she doesn’t freely give this compliment, as I am going to be one of possibly two broads traveling to Prudhoe Bay on this flight. I don’t let one second pass without pointing to my toe and showing the woman my boots-wit-da-fur at all angles. I ramble on about how they’re vintage. 2012 is vintage, right? This might be one of the last face-to-face conversations I have with a genuine stranger for the next four weeks. As a chick on the Slope you’d think dudes would be striking up conversations with you left and right, but you’d be wrong.


There isn’t tons of social time when you work 12+ hours a day, eat, and then retreat back to your kennel – more commonly known as a small empty room. But, then again, maybe the socialization problem lies in the fact that I suffer from Resting Bitch Face. Or it could be the fact that I coldly reply to the random creeps that decide to create roses out of paper towels and deliver them to me mid-meal. (“Wow, a flower out of Bounty? You shouldn’t have.”) Or maybe it’s the lack of enthusiasm that engulfs my face when Sméagol’s older brother plops down beside me and asks me what my favorite color is. Who knows.


I do know that as I near the end of my hitch, things become routine. I can proudly say that I take vitamins and workout every day. There would always be that moment, post-workout, where I would have to decide “is it worth going back to my room, bathing, and changing before entering the chow hall?” At times, I didn’t have it in me. These times were few and far between – sporting spandex pants in a room full of Slopers is a bold move for any woman. It’s enough just walking through the crowd of tables being a female who isn’t fifty, rocking a mullet, and having a lifelong smoking habit that aged skin and hair can no longer hide. Fuck it. As, I boldly enter the dining hall donning my spandex pants, I imagine this is how Heidi Klum feels in an abyss of Seals.


Now, don’t start thinking I’m overconfident. I’m well aware that I’m 624 miles away from being ugly. However, my youthfulness helps in the camp I stay at because I’m certain it’s where old, craggy Slopers go to die. To friends, I commonly refer to it as a “motel full of ashy skinned old men.” So, you can only imagine what went through my head when I saw a stout, young man with a full beard. I decided I had found my match made in “Slope Heaven.” [Looking back, maybe I should have toned down on the overly done winks, blowing kisses, and random waves. But on a serious note, eye contact might have helped me look less skittish. Sure, I didn’t talk to him for almost a year, but is that really necessary in a stable relationship?


First / How is he still smiling after this? Second / My fav. I'm only trying to workout, in that "country." 


One day while at my desk, a coworker popped his head into my connex office. He had a shit-eating grin on his face. “Ran into your Unicorn today. Somehow you got brought up, and he said you’re the prettiest girl he’s seen in 11 weeks!” First, let’s clear up the term “Unicorn,” I’d like to coin it as “a good looking guy on the Slope,” which you have about the same likelihood of seeing up North as a mythical creature. Second, I’m probably 1 of 7 females he’s seen in 11 weeks. Between that compliment, and not letting me go first in the salad line one evening, it’s no wonder it didn’t work between us.


I have enough Slope memories to fill pages. The important part, however, lies in the closeness those hitches create between coworkers. You end up spending more time in a year with these people than you do with your own family. Everyone’s experience up North is different, but everyone is there for the same reason: money. Yet, you can leave with much more. Working on the Slope gives way to a different community, one that people who haven’t been there can’t quite understand.

First / Mid twenties for a box of pens, sweet! Second / Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Orange Roughy? Preparer Unknown.


After two years of gracing Deadhorse with my presence, I made the decision to remove myself from the golden handcuffs that the North Slope can create. I’d recommend that everyone give the institutional lifestyle a try by working in Prudhoe. I’ll leave one disclaimer to the ladies though: the odds are good, but the goods are odd.