You wouldn't think bartending and creating maps for the Gulf oil spill have much in common.
But Matthew Hosey of Wichita learned this summer that they did.
Hosey worked part-time as a bartender in Manhattan while finishing his bachelor's degree in geography at Kansas State University before graduating in May.
"There's no such thing as doing one thing at time as a bartender," Hosey said. "You get used to dealing with pressure."
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Plenty of pressure, stress and chaos greeted him when he arrived at an oil spill command post in Mobile, Ala., in late June.
"At first, my head was spinning," said Hosey, who grew up in Goddard.
He spent the next six weeks working 12 to 14 hours a day — 14 days on, four days off — for one of the oil recovery companies contracted by British Petroleum to help contain the disaster that erupted with the April 20 explosion of an off-shore drilling rig.
Hosey, 27, used his skills as a geographic information system analyst to collect data, create maps and make daily presentations for operations in Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle.
Much of his information came from satellite images and pictures taken from airplanes and helicopters. More data was picked up from workers rating the heaviness of oil that had washed up on the shoreline.
Hosey pieced it all together to create the maps. And he had to do it often, usually producing a map every 10 minutes.
Right from the start, he was asked to learn 10 maps.
"The guy who trained me was intense," Hosey said. "He didn't sugar-coat anything."
It prepared him well for what he would face.
He made daily updates for 10 to 15 maps — aerial operations, oil observation summaries, boom placements and where oil was being washed up on the shore — plus met map requests from contractors and the U.S. Coast Guard.
"But they didn't like you to call it oil on the maps because you couldn't be sure what it was," Hosey said. "So they wanted us to call it anomalies."
His working environment in a large building with no room dividers was often chaotic, some 650 people all trying to carry out a mixture of duties.
"A thousand different conversations going on at once," Hosey said. "All these people were trying to accomplish something."
To help bring some order, categories of workers wore different colored vests. Hosey was in the planning group, so he wore blue.
He and his co-workers lived in a make-shift tent behind the command building. They were fortified with three meals a day.
Good thing; the work was long, hard and intense. For his final three weeks in Mobile, Hosey worked the night shift from 8 p.m. to about 9 a.m.
One of his least-expected duties came each morning at 6 o'clock sharp. From his very first week on the job, he presented the maps in briefings to the operation's top brass, including executives with BP and the Coast Guard.
"I'm sitting in the front of this room with 50 or 70 people behind me waiting to see the correct visuals on the screen," Hosey said. "That was part of the chaos."
With the capping of the well in mid-July and the cleanup progressing, jobs were phased out — including Hosey's.
But his work was regarded so highly that the Coast Guard has asked him to display his boom retrieval map at a conference next summer in San Diego, he said. He spent his last eight hours on the job creating the map, carefully highlighting the booms against a faded-out background.
Some may wonder why a veteran analyst wasn't chosen to make those morning presentations.
"I don't know," Hosey said.
The obvious answer is that he isn't your usual recent college graduate. Besides being older, he came to the task with hands-on experience in the working world.
A 2002 graduate of Goddard High School, Hosey went to Pratt and Cowley community colleges before taking two years off school to work full time.
His duties ranged from driving a 7UP truck to working as a plumber.
Last summer, Hosey was an intern for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"That's probably a big reason why I got the job," he said.
But don't discount his passion for geography.
As a first-grader he took home flash cards of the United States. He had them memorized and could write in the names of all the states. He later won a geography bee at his Goddard elementary school.
"I've been obsessed with geography for a long time," Hosey said.
And now he has the satisfaction of using that passion to accomplish something.
"Before I went down there, I was pretty upset at the situation," Hosey said. "I had no idea I would be able to help out.
"Now it will be one of those things to talk about for years."
He's now back looking for a job, but you have to figure this summer's work will open some doors.
"Coming out of college, it was the best job I could ask for," Hosey said.
"I made a lot of contacts. My fourth day down there, I was asked if I would be interested in a full-time job in Anchorage, Alaska.
"I told him I'd think about it. I'd love to go there, but I'm not sure if I want to plant roots there."
But he is sure this summer prepared him to handle pressures that even juggling customers at the bar couldn't.
"I can't see how it couldn't," Hosey said. "I learned and succeeded in that environment."