Apparently the only interesting thing I have to write about right now is the ongoing saga of some random dude I know. I still have no idea why other people are interested in ye ballroom dance instructor and what I think about him. I try to justify the existence of this blog by using stuff in my life to launch into actual important thoughts about people and experiences and how social interactions work, so I hope you all get something out of this.

The important part, so far as I'm concerned, shook out several months ago. I was assistant stage manager on a show that ye ballroom instructor was arranging, liasing, producing, and performing in, because sometimes the really talented ones are also slightly insane. It was about 85% brilliantly orchestrated, but we kept running into things that should have been done but weren't, or information we should have had but didn't.

The stage manager and I both finally popped a sprocket at him when he remembered to tell one of us (me) that he wanted to tip over a water bottle at some point during his performance. Our theater is also a studio, and has vinyl dance floor. Water is almost impossible to mop up completely, it'll get into the underflooring (which is wood, because the building is ancient), and it's a terrible slip hazard.

We could not figure out what on Earth made him think that was a good idea. He's not normally bad to work with on stage; he's good at logistics and a surprisingly good mechanical engineer, which dancers for some reason normally aren't. I finally broke down and asked him. "You've never been on a tech crew, have you?" And he said no.

And I thought about that for a while. He's apparently been a performer since always, and I know he has some management experience. All of the things he had been remembering to do were things he either could have figured out from handling events, or from watching from the wings of whatever show he was in. He got a lot of it -- he's terrifyingly observant, especially when he cares to try -- but he was missing a lot of the internal tech documents, that crew would have had up in the booth or taped to the back of the props table. I'd already figured out that if I'd ever said something to him, or even just said it within earshot, it was probably still rattling around in his brain somewhere. If he didn't know we needed this stuff, it could only have been because no one had ever told him.

At this point, I went from being annoyed that I didn't have things I needed to run a show to being kind of outraged on his behalf. This happens a lot when you're painfully smart, especially if you're also self-taught. People mistake "learns best by cramming stuff into their head without distractions," for "pulls information magically out of the ether when needed". One of these things makes them think it's a good idea to leave you alone in a quiet room full of books, and the other one makes them think it's a good idea to maroon you in the middle of a random project with no resources. Ye ballroom instructor is more than intelligent enough to trigger this kind of magical thinking, even in people who would normally be much saner.

I could give you a logical rationale for what I did next, but it would be bullshit. I just felt, very strongly, that he needed to know that this was not fair and he was not a failure more than I needed him to not start politely avoiding me at work. If I have to choose between improving someone's life and getting someone to like me, I'll go for the first one every time. It sucks when someone you care about doesn't care about you back, but the feeling that nothing I do has any impact or makes the world any better is a thing that keeps me up at night.

I caught him on his way out after strike and told him very bluntly what I thought about all this. Mostly that if this was the job he did with no instructions whatsoever, he was clearly fucking brilliant; that it was not okay for them to have hung him out to dry like that; and that all he had to do was ask and I would be happy to tell him everything I knew about anything he needed.

He looked at me very quietly for a moment, and said: "We could fix this."

And he was right. It took a couple of months, but between my loud goddamn opinions and probably a lot of his diplomacy, we more or less turned the department upside down and shook it until it quit being a chaotic mess and started being an actual theater. I don't know all of what he's been up to, on the office end, but I've very nearly convinced them to use the computer correctly, too.

You could argue that by 'we' he meant the organization we work for. I wouldn't. Mainly because I was there, and I saw the look on his face. My guess is that he was feeling rather alone and out of his depth at that point, and I was probably the first person who offered any kind of constructive help. I'm infamous for telling people, "Yes, I know you can do it all yourself, but you shouldn't have to." He is quite clearly capable of learning how to do all of the jobs, and eventually will, but things run a lot less frantically when there is a second person, ideally who also knows all the jobs, to pick things up when you run out of hands.

I got a very big hug for that. Not the first one I got that weekend, but that happens when you're helping someone extract something important from their brain and put it on stage.

[I figured out later that when I really hit a button, he just quits answering verbally, especially when there aren't any other witnesses about. Have no idea if he does this with everyone -- I dunno what he's like when he's alone with other people, because I'm, you know, not there -- or if he just figures that I read subtitles well enough that he doesn't have to talk.

For all of you out there muttering, "Use your words!" -- I do. A lot. One of my missions in life is voicing all the useful feedback people need but rarely get, especially if it's nice. I say all kinds of weird shit. But, for better or worse, a lot of things are much clearer to me and feel much more 'real' when I get them off of body language. Either this is just coincidentally how he works, or he's doing it/letting himself do it on purpose because it seems to be more effective on me. Doesn't really matter; the end result is the same.]

I'm not going to pretend I haven't had random freakouts over all this. I've had random freakouts over everything. Probably the most impressive one was over Independence Day weekend. Narratively speaking, it roamed over five or six different topics, including 'oh god I am an irritating pest and nothing I've ever done has ever helped anybody at all'; on a practical level, it was mostly because I ran out of sedatives before the neighbors ran out of motherfucking bottle rockets. It happens when my overall stress levels climb too high, and starvation is really really good at making you feel like everything is awful and you might die. 

I am also aware that whatever part of my brain does that is stupid and flaily for no real reason most of the time. It's pretty impervious to logic, but even it doesn't really have much of a response to the rest of my brain pointing out that nobody ever asks if you're dating someone who looked unhappy about that hug he just got, so. Uninterested third parties often (accidentally) provide the best evidence for making shit like that shut up.

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