Yesterday evening, when I arrived to work front of house at one of the many theaters with which I have apparently now become affiliated, I discovered that there was no one to run concessions. So I did. After prepping the lobby, doing the administrative work for check-in, answering the phone even though we weren't technically open, and not incidentally handing out a million and one answers at the reception desk. Which were technically all to the same question -- "Where is the discussion group meeting?" -- which proved popular among many, many people who apparently did not know how to read signs.

One of the full-time office staff placed herself at my disposal. Even though, being full-time office staff, she would technically have been considered in charge. They handed me control of the bar inventory and an awful lot of money. I have keys and combinations and number codes for everything short of the gigantic safe we keep the cash drops in. I wandered in and out of the office and storage closets at will. I rummaged through someone's filing cabinet to find supplies. I stole the bookkeeper's desk to do my paperwork because he happened to be away at the time. I very nearly ended up running some of the sound for the show, because it involved a jumpdrive and a laptop, and the people who run the place are very old-school artistes who have spent their lives doing a great many fascinating and creative things that are all entirely unrelated to learning how to work Windows Media Player.

The stage manager gave me a rundown of show order, entr'actes, sets, and cues. "I'm telling you this because you're a tech person," she said. News to me; I have, in fact, worked house crew and tech positions for various shows over the past few years, but I was unaware that I was now considered a 'tech person'. Generally when asked I classify myself as 'talent', the contrasting term which means roughly, 'someone who stands on stage, at the mic, or in front of the camera, who may be a perfectly cromulent person overall, but should not under any circumstances be allowed to touch any of the expensive equipment'.

At the end of the night, the staff went home and left me with the bar inventory and the keys and the large amounts of cash and all the expensive equipment, perfectly sanguine with the idea of leaving me to lock the place up alone.

It boggles me that I can roam around doing random things, and other people consider this proof of competence. Not even that -- most of the time, they just take my word for it, or at least keep their doubts to themselves. I have no idea why. It's not that I secretly believe I'm totally incompetent at everything; rather, I don't have a good grip on what exactly constitutes 'proof of competence' at something, and therefore don't know what I'm doing that causes other people to nod and go 'oh, yes, of course' before handing over things like money, or important keys.

I suspect that often what they are keying on is what they assume is confidence, but which is really just realizing that there aren't a lot of ways to fuck up in life that can't eventually be fixed, and most things are not worth freaking out over. If nobody dies, nothing explodes or catches fire, and at no point in the evening do I end up talking to the 911 dispatcher, I figure I've probably done all right, and if anything turns out to be wonky we can sort it out in the morning.

[My personal theory on why I keep getting elected to leadership is that I'm willing to make stupid unimportant decisions by fiat. Everyone has an opinion on the major stuff, and most people will fight for them, but ask the room what they want on their pizza and the session grinds to a halt. You hear chirping crickets. Everyone sorta cares, but nobody cares enough to impose their preferences on anyone else. I just announce we're ordering one cheese, one veggie, and one pepperoni, if anyone objects then speak now or forever hold your peace. Nobody does, and now we can get on with the damn meeting.]

Apparently now I'm both talent and tech, as well as networking; marketing; advice fairy; porn fairy; seamstress, haberdasher, and designer; salesgirl, bookkeeper, and bartender; researcher and analyst; IT support; translation services; skip tracer; A/V wizard; and probably a load of other things that I have either forgotten about, or of which I was never made aware.

I have made the comment that if I wrote out my CV in full, it would be a small novel, and not only would people assume I was lying through my teeth, but also that I wasn't very good at it.

So here's to 2015, when I decided to stop giving a fuck about whether people believe my résumé or not.

Comments

  1. "I suspect that often what they are keying on is what they assume is confidence"

    And I suspect that they're right. And what you describe as "it's just blahblahblah"? That's what confidence is. It's the certain knowledge that you can handle whatever comes up. Because you've seen it before, or because you're good enough at life-improv to handle it on the fly.

    A lot of people aren't certain of that. Or they aren't certain that others will believe it of them. Because they haven't yet learned how to give zero fucks when appropriate. Some of us are better at the giving-of-zero-fucks. (Some of us had to learn how to find a fuck to give when needed, which can look like arrogance, I admit. That's my little piece of screwed-up-ness.)

    I enjoy your strange blog. Thank you, and my best to the rats.

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    Replies
    1. Confidence is not the same as competence, though. It is often, in fact, wholly unrelated. Being so terrible at something you have no way to judge how terrible you are is a great way to sally forth in complete ignorance of how badly you are fucking everything up. I have no idea why people conflate the two.

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  2. "I don't have a good grip on what exactly constitutes 'proof of competence' at something, and therefore don't know what I'm doing that causes other people to nod and go 'oh, yes, of course'"

    I don't think it's the confidence.

    I suspect it's that every time they look at you, you are already doing the correct and responsible thing. In this case, the fact that you found no one running concessions and responded by running concessions yourself, rather than, say,
    * stealing refreshments
    * selling refreshments and stealing the cash
    * standing around complaining
    was evidence that you were trustworthy. If you had demonstrated that your goals were not aligned with the theater's goals or that you gave wrong answers / messed up the cash count / couldn't keep track of cues, they would have whisked you out of those roles immediately.

    Anyway, congratulations!

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