I sometimes wonder if there’s anything I won’t do if people asked me. Within reason obviously, which is usually the case. My initial reaction might be “Fuck No” but if I get the feeling they’re being serious, I am usually easily persuaded.
Three or four years ago, a theatre group contacted me through my sister, who babysat one of their kids, with the urgent message that they had fallen without sound technician. I would have to master the concept of a sound table and computer-controlled sound effects in two hours, do a single complete rerun, and then proceed to help with live performances. Naturally I said yes.
I’ve had a close relationship with this group (though no individual in particular) ever since, and they still regularly contact me for similar jobs. Even though I don’t get paid for up to a dozen nights of work, I have yet to refuse.
I’m not sure what it is; I know just about anyone would have walked away by now. I on the other hand, only get more and more involved.
I think it’s safe to say I stand out there. Not only am I easily the youngest, but this is a non-profit organization of order loving, law-abiding elderly citizens with, in my opinion, often naive views on the world. Every time when I walk into the room and all heads turn (the door makes a lot of noise), I have the feeling I just broke into the wrong building.
Still, I feel very accepted. My usual greeting, rather than the whole kiss-on-cheek ritual, is provide them with a crooked grin and broad wave, mumbling ‘good morning’ (At 7pm) from behind the sandwich that is my dinner. They ask me to do crossfades at random, operate the video projector -that projects the screen of the laptop that I use for audio- at the same time, and I spend hours mastering whatever they come up with next. Obviously they would notice I don’t look like anyone else there, even with a show going, and that I have a different perspective. But rather than give me stupid (read: negative) remarks or questions, they leave me be and respect me as a colleague without fuss. I can’t remember when I’ve felt less judged.
Why? Because I confidently believe that I am the right guy for the job. I don’t just do it for them, I do it well. While the professional light technician regularly fucks up to the point where it’s noticeable, I make no mistakes. One of Flanders’ biggest directors has complimented me publicly. I hate to boast but for once, I can be genuinely proud of myself.
The group (named Balsemblomme by the way) is now nominated for a prize for a performance they did while I was in Norway earlier this year. Fantastic as that might be, it means that they have to organize another couple gigs. This time, I get to help. We’ve done two now and we’re switching venues next time.
They showed me pictures of the set they used last time. They made me look up and ask, “You built this?”
The set builders, an elderly couple, are very creative people and have many talents. But the scaffolding they built to hang up a whole house worth of furniture from, could have killed people. Just about every rule I picked up about structural solidity, was broken in a single one of those snapshots. On top of that, they informed me that it took them two days to build it. I took a second look, and said, “I can do that in two hours.”
And that is how I fucked myself in the ass.
Okay, it took me well over two hours. More like four, which, I would like to point out, is 1/12th (or 8.333%) of two days. And I did it alone, and stable as a house despite the shortage of diagonals. At one point, an actor dryly mentioned, “Actually the jury liked how the furniture jiggled whenever someone touched the scaffolding, last time.” She shook a standard, which did absolutely nothing. They actually remarked that I had built the thing too well.
We took it down again today and will be rebuilding on Friday, elsewhere. Because I climb and work from the structure itself rather than ladders, I can do a lot of work in a short time while they go and take care of other stuff. At the end of the day, though exhausted, I go home feeling pretty awesome about myself.
I realize that these people aren’t as young as I am, anymore, and that it’s quite easy to stand out if the job at hand happens to be something you do every summer. My contribution isn’t bigger than the others’, just different.
What makes me pat myself on the back, is the fact that I do this for them. It’s very hard work, and technically I’m not even in the group. I can’t think of many colleagues who would follow me in this, especially free of charge. Have I mentioned that this is all voluntary?
Until recently, the most I ever drank was on New Years Eve 2008, in Dublin. If I remember correctly, I threw back two Baby Guinness (coffee liqueur and Bailey’s layered in a shot glass) and a glass of Bailey’s, which I happened to like. I was… light-headed, at best, and though I had fun, I found the whole Irish Pub scene rather bland. In fact, I found pretty much any club scene dull as a sheep farm. Any attempts to get me drunk have failed spectacularly and among my friends I’m known to be sober at all times. This bothered me for several reasons.
First of all, I am thoroughly convinced that, besides the obviously stupid, one should try everything at least once in life. If for no better reason, to know what you’re not choosing for.
And secondly and more importantly, I repeat: Among my friends I’m known to be sober at all times. The bore of the party. I can have fun at a party whether I drink or not, but as the night progresses I am distanced from my friends more and more. They go on and on about stuff I don’t care about, and I am left to make my own fun. While there’s nothing really wrong with that, it’s getting… old.
So when two friends decided, “LET’S GET YOUR DRY ASS DRUNK” I responded as I lately tend to: I shrugged and said “Sure.”
I didn’t expect them to actually succeed, though. I gravely underestimated their skills at getting “so washted”. Two hours later, I nearly stumbled to my face when getting off my barstool. My first reaction? “What the fucking fuck.”
Before I knew it, I was unable to walk or piss straight, talking random shit to strangers and groping people not made for that purpose. And everywhere I looked, I saw… sober people. One guy didn’t even drink (Like, fucking EVER can you IMAGINE THAT) and when I declared him a hero for it, he smiled a little and nodded coolly to me. In a flash, I recognized myself, being talked to by some dickweed on alcohol poisoning and subtly wanting to end the conversation. I felt so terribly sorry for myself, and I celebrated with vodka and orange juice.
I think it’s safe to say I genuinely scared myself. My thoughts seemed coherent at all times but I did things I would otherwise consider “too far”. I did have my clear moments, though: I quickly learned how to focus and assess the situation, coming impressively close to a non-drunk state for at least four consecutive seconds. It was when the decision taking happened, such as “Don’t punch him no matter how ugly he is” and “Time to stop drinking.” The night could have gone infinitely worse if I hadn’t managed to do that. Hurray for me.
What’s left (no hangover yay) is a lot of doubts about what happened and why, and a sound warning for next time. Because there will be a next time, although I will not turn this into a habit. This was an exception to the rule and it will never go beyond that, end of fucking story. No matter how awesome my friends might have found me, I have better shit to do than party all night.
I’ll let you know when I come up with an example.
One little thing I forgot to mention: I was lying there. It was actually me who came up with the idea of drinking. I was asked to join in and figured it was as good a time as any to get loaded. Didn’t expect to succeed, though.