Saturday, October 03, 2015

Could Only Happen To Me, #1744…

Soooooo…I have a confession to make: I haven’t really played my harp in literally years. I dust it whenever I notice it needs it, and usually tune it to itself at the same time (translation: it has been nowhere NEAR a ‘concert A’, tuning-wise, for a very long time); very occasionally, I’ll sit down and fumble through a mockery of something I used to be able to play with my eyes closed and my mind elsewhere, and that’s about it.

It’s a combination of time, and pain. I don’t have a whole lot of the former, especially not in the “have both time and energy” bucket; and unfortunately, things like playing the harp / piano / guitar fall into the grim category of Stuff That Tends To Set Off Flare-Ups on both my hip/back and my shoulder-nerve-damage.

Undaunted by the fact that this means that a) I cannot play actual music on it anymore due to lack of practice and b) told him in as many words “OH HELL NO!” when he first brought it up, the husband went and volunteered me to play at a wedding in a couple weeks.

In a couple weeks.

You can imagine how rattled I am.

Since I’m apparently not going to be allowed out of it, I moved the harp into my office and started using my lunch hour as practice sessions instead of what I usually use them for if/when I actually get a lunch break, which is doing little chores around the Den. (No. You can’t use our bathroom. Seriously, you will prefer to use the nearest truck stop, it will definitely be cleaner. And more likely to have toilet paper.)

The very first morning after my very first damage assessment practice session, I came downstairs to find that a string had snapped. A nice BIG bass string.

Oh, fantastic, just faaaaaaaantastic. {grumble-grumble-grumble}

So I replaced the broken string and began the tedious process of getting it through its initial stretching period; it takes a couple days of frequent tuning before a new string will have worked out all its “extra” stretch and starts holding its tune well again, and often the 2-3 strings on either side of it experience a milder but still annoying adjustment period as well.

Now, I told you all that so that I could tell you this story: SO THERE I WAS, sitting in a late afternoon meeting. I had been in back to back meetings for a good four hours already, and my primary headset – the one with the noise-filtering microphone – fits rather snugly on my ears. It’s great for an hour or two at a time, but when you wear it continually, especially when you also wear glasses, it becomes painful.

My ears were killing me.

So, I’d stopped using the headset and had switched to using my conference-call mode…something I can really only get away with when all the Denizens are out of the house and the cats are napping, because the microphone on that deal is the opposite of my headset for the ‘filtering’ thing and will pick up the sound of a cat sneezing from clear across the house. And somehow amplify it so that the sound of my voice two inches from it will be completely overwhelmed by the dumb cat’s allergy attack.

We were in the middle of some intense negotiations, wrangling about current release items and going over the stories for the next release. I’m right in the middle of explaining in my best Trust Me I Am A Professional voice that such-and-so can’t be done like this because of reasons and blah blah blah performance and etc. etc. etc. when suddenly…the C string right next to the B that broke earlier…snapped.

If you’ve never heard a thick bass string snap on a harp – it is not a particularly gentle event. And my office was set up to be well-insulated from exterior noise, which perversely makes it a rather live room, sound-wise.

The initial snapping of the string sounded like a gunshot. POW!

And this was immediately followed by a ghastly series of hisses, hums, and almost sizzling noises as the broken string flailed around on its way to eternal rest, striking other strings and the soundboard as it went. The entire harp was vibrating from the shock.

It’s the least harp-like sound a harp will ever make outside of something like being dropped from a moving vehicle, an unmistakable yowl of protest. A sweet, classy lady shrieking obscenities. Just. Plain. WRONG.

I jumped about five feet into the air and came down biting off curse words. I was startled on the way up, and already knew what it had to have been before my backside returned to my chair.

Sure enough, I look over and the C string right next to the new B had given way. Damn, should have known THAT was gonna happen…

My teammates, however, had no idea what that noise could possibly have been. It was just as loud and startling for them as it had been for me, and they were all talking at once, asking what had just exploded and was that a gun and was I alright and OMG WTH?!

So I explained what it was. But this is ME we’re talking about. So what I said was, “Oh. Yeah. Sorry about that, guys. Looks like my 29/C just went, nothing to worry about.”

Gosh, thanks, Tama, that makes everything clear, because obviously everybody there totally already knows that a) I play the harp, b) I currently have the harp in my office with me, c) by “29/C” I mean “string 29 of 36, the lowest-octave C”… {face-palm}

So there was a weird little silence while everybody tried to make what I had said make sense, during which I realized that I had just made no sense, sooooo, I tried to clarify.

While still being, you know, me. So instead as coming out in a sane and sensible way, it came out as a too-quickly-spoken babble similar to what I’d hear from a Denizen who was trying to explain why they got a lousy grade in something I know full well they are intelligent and skilled enough to ace.

With bonus All Statements Will Be Phrased As Questions phrasing.

“Oh, yeah, so, I play the harp? And I’m supposed to be playing for a wedding in a couple weeks? So I have it in the office, and, well, the 30/B? one of those big thick nylon-wrapped-nylon bass strings? broke the other day? So I replaced it? But sometimes? when one string breaks? and another one? is sort of thinking about breaking too? it will go ahead and break? because the tension gets all weird? So, yeah, that was the string next to the one that broke yesterday? Breaking?”

{more silence while everybody processes this, which causes me to get anxious so now I want to somehow make this completely OK…}

“But hey! At least it was still just a nylon string! When one of those metal core ones goes, man, now that is really an ugly noise! hahahahaha…hahaha…haha…ha…ahem…


I bring these things on myself.

If I could just be a normal person, if I could just have a normal person’s view of the world, or maintain a normal person’s sang froid about things, or even if I could just remember that so many of the things I do are not ‘Average American’ things and not toss them out in casual conversation when amongst Average Americans, these horribly awkward moments would not happen.

But I can’t, so they do, and I always seem to be having conversations with people that involve phrases like “I didn’t know that was even a thing” or “you…wait, you literally have a {harp, greywater hose, ‘curtain’ made of scarlet runner beans, etc.}, in your house?”

But at the same time, you know…I have to say…the people I work with right now are a true gift to me. They don’t just tolerate my Crazy, they embrace it. They almost celebrate it. They laugh with me, they accept my insane exuberance about everything from being able to make something run better in our application to having gotten a really awesome deal on eight bushels of apples from a neighboring gentleman farmer that made kick-ass applesauce.

They accept me, even when I’m charging around putting a weird, quirky spin on things that require them to readjust their thinking.

Without them, I would “merely” enjoy what I do all day long; they are what make it something I love, they are the reason I have so few days at work that are just kind of meh…they make the hard work we all do feel more like one extremely long play date with my besties.

Case In Point: Instead of just going, “Oh. Alllllllll righty then. Moving on…” – this group goes, “Oh. OK. Well. I think that what we’re going to need here is some validation…” – and that was how our meeting ended up going ten minutes over, so that I could replace that broken string and play them something.

You know, so that QA could sign off on my fix.


I love those crazy-accepting guys, and I hope our play date never ends.


Anonymous said...

It's stories like this that make me visit your blog before any others in my list of knitting blogs. Even though you don't seem to write about your knitting much lately.

Do your coworkers have a betting pool about what crazy-ass thing you'll liven up their work day with next? If not, they should :-)

PipneyJane said...

You aren't crazy, Tama, you're just a geek goddess like me. (I have a tee shirt to prove it.)

More seriously, though, I understand completely about how you feel about your colleagues. Three times, I've been lucky enough to work with people that have become my best friends. The last time ended a year ago, when my boss forced me to move businesses. The only thing that kept me at the company was the prospect that, some day, I might get to work with them again. In the meantime, I meet up with Tall or Dark in the office on the odd occasion, get a bear hug (that could be misinterpreted but just means "hey, you're one of my favourite people) and occasionally grab a cuppa with them.