Fucking Up

Few businesses have workers required to work in harmony quite like ours. Like gears in a well oiled machine, whether we like each other or not, we have to work together and if something fails or if a mistake is made, we have to seamlessly cover for each other. More than once I’ve heard all hell breaking loose on the radio, while the crowd isn’t even aware of the slightest problem.

However, some jobs are just plainly irreplaceable. You can’t take away a sound or light technician and still expect the show to go well. Usually though, all that jazz is none of my concern and I couldn’t care less if the show was one huge disappointment, or not. Okay- that’s not entirely true, but really it shouldn’t be any of my business if the technicians do their job right. I do what I’m required to do and the fact that I am easily replaced, doesn’t really bother me. In fact, the lack of responsibility is quite addictive.

I don’t know when all this changed, it seems like I missed some meeting where the decision fell. I’m usually still the same old knuckledragging stagehand, but it seems like I made the mistake of accepting jobs that require a sense of concern with the show.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I will continue to do so. This responsibility wasn’t part of the plan, however. Allow me to illustrate.

A couple days ago, I accepted a job to go operate a followspot for some metal gig. I have decent experience by now but for the first time, I would have to be climbing my way up into the truss grid on one of those absurdly narrow little step ladders. Even that, I didn’t really mind- I love new experiences and any reason to climb is a good one.

But get this: We were late. A van with all eight of us got stuck in traffic and all we could do was get in line while the GPS system’s estimated time of arrival crept closer and closer to show time, and eventually past it. We called and let them know, and the show was put on hold.

Can you imagine the feeling? A metal gig with thousands of fans waiting on one car. Ours. On top of that, the driver was too much of an idiot to read his GPS, god forbid he would ever have to hold an actual fucking map. Every time he missed his turn, we lost two minutes- minutes that were adding up to the time that is money. Lots of money.
As we arrived at the venue, a whole row of technicians guided us to the parking lot (our driver too stupid to get the hint, asking where we needed to be) where we jumped out, straight into our climbing gear, and without even taking the cell phones out of our pockets (which is usually an absolute must), jumped into our seats on a lowered truss and got hoisted up.

Around that time, I noticed that the intercom system I was given was a one-sided one, meaning it had only one earphone. I challenge you, I double fucking dare you: As a Belgian just try to understand a German light technician yelling in English through his microphone while The Scorpions are screaming in the other ear. What kind of fucking dickmonkey put a one-sided intercom on my seat, is what I want to know. This is the type of people who are supposed to have studied for this weak shit.
On top of that (it doesn’t end), they actually managed to put our seats, with spots attached, too close together. No joke. I was on the bass player, who by the way was most of the time behind me because they had attached my seat the wrong way, and I kept bumping into the spot that was on the lead guitarist. I figured a bass player was slightly less important in a band so I blacked out my light and moved out of harm’s way until I could catch my guy again. If the guitar player moved stage-left, I had to lean out of my seat to make room for the other spot’s filter frames sticking out which we never even fucking used.

Whew.

Now, again, I like my job. I don’t mind being stuck in traffic, really. I’m not the one driving so it just gives me more time to annoy the one who does. I don’t mind ignoring safety regulations, either; I strapped my cell phone in, problem solved. It doesn’t bother me that much if for technical reasons, or in this case, the sheer stupidity of someone supposedly better educated than me, keeps me from doing my job right. It’s frustrating, but usually doesn’t upset me very much. I work with what I have.
What gets my goat, is the stress that is factored in with each of these separately, let alone combined. When it’s a problem I can help, I’ll just give it 120% until the coast is clear. But if it’s some other mouthbreather who doesn’t let me do my job right, a job that doesn’t allow compromise, that’s when I get a little pissed.

I signed up for a followspot job. In, spot, out, go home, eat pizza. Another day at the office. I did not agree to be surrounded and lead by mongoloids who seemed to do anything in their power to make my job difficult.
I care about what I do, because I love doing it so much. I want to do it right because I want to contribute to something as inspiring as music. When I do something that I know damages the whole, I would rather walk away than continue what I’m doing.
The option to walk away, is what “freedom” really means to me. Even when I give up that freedom, by accepting followspot jobs or as a sound technician, I do so voluntarily and with conviction. But being forced to do a poor job, is the exact opposite of the spectrum and stresses the fuck out of me.

Luckily, we had load-out afterward and I got my stress relief. I even got to loot the drummer’s tee shirt that has “Rock ‘n Roll Forever” on the back. Poof. Stress gone. True story.
It should also be noted that I didn’t yell at any of my colleagues. I think I’m making progress on that. Go me.

 

 

On my long list titled “ROYAL FUCK-UPS”, a new entry is now added, right below “BLEW THE SOUND AT A FESTIVAL” and “GET LOST IN THE ARDENNES WITH SOMEONE ELSE’S CHILD”.

One freaking smoke machine is all it took. All I needed to do was move it. I wanted to test if it would work if I placed it behind the set pieces and let the smoke rise from between them. I was responsible for the set, after all. For that, I needed to plug it in. I had the choice between finding a 20m extention cord, or finding a socket closer by, in the hallway behind the emergency exit- technically not allowed.

Easy choice, right? I found my socket at a small distributor in the hallway. Three of the sockets were marked with a battery symbol, so I plugged it into the fourth one. I pushed its button, but the smoke machine didn’t work. My colleague noted that I would have to wait for it to “heat up”. I should have realized right then, but I did not.

Two minutes later, it did work but the effect sucked. The smoke just kind of crawled out without the big cloud I was hoping for. Oh, well. Changed its angle and left it on stand-by.
I was painting when ten minutes later, two house technicians opened the door, following the cord. “Ahh, so here’s the hero who did this,” one chimed. I had no clue what he was talking about.

Apparently, this little power distributor was actually an emergency battery. For their telephone network. And I had burned its fuse with the power-hungry heating element inside the smoke machine, cutting the whole building off from the phone network, phones that were linked to cell phones and fax machines, used to take reservations. All dead. Whoopsy.

Coincidentally, the owner of the theater was present at the time, and he was livid. Apparently, I was “sabotaging his theater” and “should have asked” before making that kind of decision. I apologized half a dozen times, but try as I might (which I didn’t), I couldn’t feel any worse than I already did. The theater group offered to pay the reparation bill and I said I was willing to compensate, which luckily, they refused. This is a €2000 battery and really, I didn’t mean much of my offer.

So yeah: The house technicians pissed because they got yelled at. The theater owner pissed because his whole phone network was down (although they got it fixed quite soon). The group pissed because they would have to pay for it (luckily, only a fuse so not all that much). The director pissed because now, smoke machines were no longer allowed.

Congratulations Maarten, you twat.

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