Archive for June, 2007

Chicks Dig Scars

I love my job. Even though I say it all the time, I don’t say it nearly enough. Lately, with doing some work "under the table" for someone at the office and our trip to England, I’ve been getting closer with the people at work, which feels great. When we’re yakking and relaxing after a job, I could just stay there forever. Not just because of the atmosphere and great times, but just because I feel normal then. I can just be one of the guys, with my own character, and still be… one of the guys. Maybe I’ll divert on that later. Maybe not.

Naturally, there’s numerous down sides to the job, quite a few of which I’ve already ranted about. But one of them only recently has started to bother me: Every 3 working days or so, you can expect to get hurt. Usually no big deal, but after a while you can almost map what you’ve been at by the scars on your body. From the top of my head, here’s mine:

I don’t have a scar to prove it, but my first injury was during Disney on Ice, 2005. I was standing inside the trailer, which was rigged with a crane-like device that was used to lift the cooling plates out on which the ice was installed. The crane itself weighs quite a bit, and I can know. Hardly having slept at all, I was just too stoned to react when the metal structure swung my way. I took the clamp thing in the knee, did half a spin forward and landed on my back. It wasn’t that terribly painful but I felt it for quite a while after.

At break-down of Pukkelpop 2006, there were metal T-bars rigged from one truss in the roof to the other, I’m not sure what for. Now, these are made of metal and to be comfortable, you need 4 guys to lift one of these. Even when the roof is brought down they still hang just slighty higher than I am. So, 4 of us grab it to bring it down; except the other guy on my end either didn’t have breakfast, or was jsut fucking pretending to be holding it.
As it slid the other way and off the truss, it landed on my shoulder. I didn’t want to let it drop for the sake of the guys holding the other end, so I took the full force and basically just squealed like a pig. The dumb shit was just staring at me right until the moment I barked at him, "Lift, God Damnit!" The line where the edge of the beam landed is still visible.

The Shakira production, somewhere around newyear 2007. We get started and the first trailer swings its doors open. Inside it is fully stacked with flight cases and 3 ramps on top. They are used as a slope to ride cases on and off the trailer. The edges are turned upright a bit so cases don’t drop off, and one end is bent so it is flush with the trailer floor. So when you stack them, what you get is a slight open space between them as they rest on the edges of the one underneath. Except, the middle one was turned upside down and slightly towards the back of the trailer, so what I got when I grabbed the curved end of the top one and shoved it back with considerable force, was a miniature guillotine.
Again, these things need to be lifted with 4 of us. When my fingers got stuck between there was fuck-if-I-know how many kilo’s on them. I didn’t dare look at my fingers, but as I glanced at the ramp underneath I could see my skin hanging from it. I had forgotten to put on my gloves first. My index finger, middle finger ang ringfinger got their skin and a good bit of flesh torn from them, resulting in 3 marks running along them today.

During preperation for the Genesis stage at StageCo Belgium, we were asked to stack "standards", 2 meter long steel pipes with 4 rings for attaching things to at regular intervals along the length, in a case. They were held together with 2 metal bands, and since we were too lazy to pick them off the floor each time, we held them up using a forklift as we stacked them.
Funny enough, the day before I had been discussing about the use of security boots. I don’t wear them, because within a week my feet are just gone, shaven away by lousy craftsmanship of supposedly qualitatively superior shoes. When I cut the second band, one standard fell off and landed with its ring and full weight, smack on my left big toe. It’s been a month now and the swelling is almost gone. Black, blue, purple, I saw them all fade in and out of my poor little toe.

When skins are used in a stage, they are slid with the edges in aluminium beams that are bent in the corners in such a way that the tickened ends of the skins can slide right in. The stage for the Rolling Stones is about 23 meters high, so I estimate the beams we were handling were about 500/600 kilo’s each. We lift them in sections, using eye bolts that we attach and then slide a metal pipe through. We shove them together, and then put wheels underneath so they don’t drag as one end is lifted with the crane.
To put those wheels under, one end needs to be lifted. We were having problems with that though, as they were positioned too much together. We managed to pull one end to the side a bit, but that caused it to bend. In itself no big deal, if it weren’t for the fact that the base is shaped like a pretty narrow rectangle, and the thing was lying on its side. Because it was bent, and we lifted one side, it fell over on its side. Mind you, this thing weighs about 700 kilo’s, you don’t just stop that from falling over. 
I was squatting over the bar, since we didn’t have to lift that high anyway. It’s the best way to lift the weight on your legs instead of your spine. I don’t even recall it being jerked from my hands as the beam fell over towards me. My side of the pipe we were holding, touched the ground and was shoved through the ring, while the other side, now being the length of the entire pipe, smashed into me and flung me over two beams behind me like a rag doll. I was hit over my chest and collarbone (Which I do remember quite lively), and miraculously all it left was a shave wound and a bruise on my shoulder. I don’t even Want to imagine where I would be now if it hit me in the head or collarbone full on. I know where I was then, though: groaning and squirming, trying to figure out what the shit just happened.

Aside from that, I have marks under 2 of my nails that I got by crushing them, and several other minor cuts and shaves that I don’t even know how I got. So far I could just pull myself together and continue working, so I’m hoping my angel isn’t growing tired of saving my sorry ass time and time again. Even the most careful people get their share once in a while.


“Home! England!”

Last saturday I was sent to England for work. The Isle of Wight festival, featuring the Rolling Stones (how original) among with many other huge bands.
How is this possible, you ask? It’s really a story too bizarre for words, but here it is.
It started in the catering at Werchter, a Belgian town that has little to offer but a meadow where festivals and concerts are held. We were building up the stage for the Rolling Stones and having lunch break, when a colleague of mine said, "I won’t be here tomorrow. I’m going to England to build a stage at the Wembley stadium. I don’t have an ID card though, I’ll have to hop by the cops for a ‘proof of loss of ID’".
Another co-worker mentions that that won’t get you past the check-in. You’d have to start an emergency procedure to get a temporary ID. The guy, with a reputation of being lazy, immediately starts thinking out loud about how he’s going to manage that an easier way.
"Perhaps I could borrow a friend’s passport and have the name on the ticket changed."
Little me, who had just been daydreaming up until now, perks up and gives him a look. "If you actually mean that, I might give you mine just to see if you could."
I hardly meant that, but he was so enthousiastic about it, I went and gave him my ID card. We look sort of alike and we have the same first name, so he seemed very sure this was going to work. "I get away with things like this, just watch me."
He called RoadRunner, RoadRunner called me. We both lied our asses off about having done this a few times before, and RoadRunner agreed and changed the name on the ticket. However, they couldn’t afford not to tell StageCo about it, who was the customer in question. StageCo disagreed.
By then, a plane ticket existed to England, with my name on it. The next day I get a phone call in the afternoon. "Could you make a flight to England tomorrow morning?"
After a few calls home and to my girlfriend, I agreed, and was told "We’ll send you the details tonight."
I thought this was weird, but little did I know I wasn’t even half-way there.
The only "details" I got was the time of my flight. So the next day, not exactly looking forward to this, I was at the airport lobby, at the help desk, with nothing to go by.
I didn’t know what flight company I was flying with.
I didn’t know where to.
I didn’t know when I’d be back.
I didn’t know what I would be doing.
Or for how long.
I didn’t know whom with.
You can imagine, I just felt like telling the otherwise very kind lady, "You know what, Forget it." when my phone rang. It was Leen, a colleague of mine who, along with Jan, appeared to come with me to England. I waited for them, and Leen had all the info on plane tickets so at least that problem was solved.
Jan had lost his ID as well, but he was quick enough to start an "emergency procedure" and get a temporary one. Still, he guy at the check-in had to call his chef, telling him Jan had lost his passport but had the nescessary papers. From the man’s face the three of us could read this wasn’t going to fly. He was about to hang up when Jan said "Tell him I have a temporary ID!" The man did so and suddenly his expressions changed. We were in. I don’t even want to imagine what would have happened if Jan hadn’t been so persistent. That’s two points for him.
Leen had her safety boots on, with steel and everything, so we were held up at security. They were actually looking for drugs, weapons and explosives in there. All this, combined with me who hadn’t had breakfast yet and the other two needing their nicotine shot, we just barely caught our flight. It was beginning to dawn to us that we might want to hurry it a bit, when our names were called on the intercom for the whole airport to hear.
And what a flight it was.
I think I’m going to look up what exactly turbulence is all about, so I don’t wet myself every time we get any. Honestly, I fucking hate flying. All sorts of stuff happens and you have no clue if that’s a cloud passing by or if the cockpit is on fire. At one time, during landing and with a shitload of turbulence, we heard what I’m assuming is another plane pass by. A roar was hear all through the airplane, not deafening but still loud enough. I just about cried for my mommy around that point.
But hey, we made it, and landing in Manchester I heard that there’s another flight to catch to Southampton. Hot diggity. Not too eager to get on another machine of flaming death, as I like to call them, I was almost relieved when we heard our flight was delayed for at least 6 hours. It wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the roster, so you might imagine, travellers were a leetle pissed when they heard "Your holiday isn’t going to happen. Oh and no refund. Next, please!"
Eager to please as flight companies always are (fuck you too), they managed to divert another flight to EasyNameToForgetAndNotThePointAnywayVille, and land in Southampon just for us and the fairly attractive lady who was about to start murdering staff members. At check-in, the three of us insist that our luggage be double-checked and made sure it was put on the flight.
Nice flight, got to see a bit of each airport as we were guided to the stairs going up directly from the ground. With a sigh of relief that we finally made it, we skip to the luggage whatchamacallit.
No luggage there.
We go to the check-in of the flight company and find out that our bags never even left Brussels. It turns out, your luggage is only placed onto the plane when you actually get on. Understandable, it’s quite suspicious when you have luggage put on a plane and though you are at the airport, you don’t get on yourself. We are told that our luggage could be delivered to us on monday morning, but upon reading the tickets it turns our that monday afternoon is our flight back. We decide to just leave it in Brussels.
After grabbing the ferry (which brings the list of methods of transportation to foot, bike, train, car, plane and boat) we are brought to our "hotel". I don’t know if they have Center Parcs or Sun Parcs where you’re at, but it was about the same, only better. We got our own little bungalow, complete with two bedrooms (of course the lady in the company got the king size bed), two bathrooms, tv and DVD player that could -hurray!- read MP3 cd’s (I ALWAYS have my music collection at hand).
The permanent crew just had a horrible week in Budapest, and was delighted to see us. We were welcomed warmly and thanked several times. Catering was near perfect (cake, fruit, tea, you name it) and the local crew was a great bunch. The three of us got along great, too.
Without anything more than the clothes we were wearing, we had to borrow some shampoo from a colleague and use it to, besides the obvious, clean our underwear and socks in the sink. The hot-air oven did a fine job as dryer.
All the while, we couldn’t figure out why it was that we were sent over to England, taking a day and a half travel in total, for a day and a half work. One of the permanents mentioned it’s probably because of the fragmentation of the office. One guy determines, "We need this many people to get the show on the road", another guy sees there are too few, and yet another guy calls to StageCo Belgium and the Netherlands asking for reinforcements. Those, in turn, call to the local crew there, who fly their people over. Communication issue, anyone?
Before flying back, we check if any of our luggage didn’t happen to fly over after all, it was a tip we got from the nice lady who told us where our bags currently were. Turns out, only Leen’s bag flew over even though we asked to leave all 3 in Belgium. The flight back was a direct one, on a tiny plane with 2 seats on one side of the aisle and 1 on the other. Very smooth too, every flight should be like this one.
The next morning I wake up, and wonder if I haven’t dreamt the whole thing. All these events seemed just so completely random, it would seem I just made them up. It was a fantastic trip though, my very first time as non-local crew. If they got any more of those lying around, let them come. Rock ‘n roll at its best!