Getting to know me, or not.

Good morning, blog. Although, actually, it’s more like evening, seeing as how it’s 7pm and everything.

It’s probably morning somewhere in the world.

I have a friend on this ship who has a fetish for “Awkward moments”. I’m sure he wouldn’t like it to be called a fetish, but whatever, he really loves them. He savours them, as a connesour, specially saving them up and preparing them, finely planning moments of Awkwardness in the same way that a conductor of an orchestra prepares the finale of a grand opera.

He’ll often say stuff intentionally to make people uncomfortable.

So I asked about a week or two ago, why?

And his response was something like,

(a) it’s fun,
(b) I enjoy seeing how people really are.

And the second one is the bit that I took issue with.

He said watching how people react when they don’t know how to respond gives a great insight into them, and let’s you see them without the pretence and acting that accompanies so much of human interaction.

What’s there to take issue with?

Well, seeing people when they don’t know how to react, is that really how they “really are”?

It seems to me to smell slightly of the whole humans-are-nought-but-animals thing.

And also, the “You know the real person by seeing how they behave under pressure”. – Likewise, the same.

There is some truth to it, of course. It’s much easier to act nice and give a good image when you are relaxed and can concentrate on impressing others, or on behaving well, than when things are stressful and you’re under pressure and don’t have time to think about what to do next.

Others have also said that you know how someone is by what they do in their spare time, or when no one else is looking, and so on.

Some people seem to do well under pressure, and be able to think quickly and clearly. Others don’t. Some people find it easy to find jobs to do and to use their spare time productively and pro-actively.

So… it’s often very useful to know how someone behaves under pressure, but I don’t think it really shows who they “really” are.

This would have been all nice and theoretical, and all that, except for this week.

I got sick.

And, it turns out, I don’t act very nice when I’m sick.

Usually, when I’m healthy and fine and everything, I tend to use a lot of hyperbole, sarcasm, and irony in my general day to day language. It tends to be (I hope!) fairly good natured, and over-the-top enough that others realise it’s not intended seriously.

“Could you play this CD for me?”
“Nope. It’s completely impossible – the computer can only play CDs on Thursdays.”

and so on.

Well, the thing is, recently I’ve started to tend to mix double meanings and more biting sarcasm into what I say, and, usually, it doesn’t mean anything – to me.

Ie, “hey, the programme schedule says you’re doing a song later, but you haven’t put a form in saying you want any microphones or instruments or anything, so it’s just a Capella, right?”

It appears though, my sarcasm and hyperbole and so on don’t pan out so well when I’m tired/sick or stressed.

We had a wedding yesterday on board. About half way through the ceremony, right in the middle of a song just as I was mixing the band and having to be constantly mindful of the two wireless mics the MC and someone else had and things were quite hectic, when one of the people who was videoing it (a local) came over and asked “Do you have any power sockets? I need to re-charge my camera batteries”.

“Yes, right here.” (pointing at the sockets)

“Ah.” (he pokes around)

“They don’t fit…”

“Oh, right. Um, yes. It’s European, sorry, the whole ship is set up with European sockets. It’s a European ship, after all.”

“You mean you don’t have any standard sockets??” (disbelief in his voice)

And this is, I’m afraid, where my stunning wit came to the fore again, and really didn’t help the situation at all.

“No, no. They’re all standard sockets.” *helpful smile* “European standard.”

Very helpful, wasn’t I. – I don’t think!

Yes… I don’t think. Maybe that’s the problem.

I’m struggling a lot right now with trying to balance work with relationships. Not in that I work too much and don’t spend enough time with people, but in that when people do things which really mucks up my work, I find it very hard to still be nice.

Part of it is I just really have no idea how to be nice.

Middle of a programme, pressing buttons and cueing video clips and trying to make the whole thing smooth and beautiful, and someone comes into the AV room from behind me, is standing right where I need to move to press a button on the video mixer, and asked “hey, would it be possible for you to play me a DVD in the other room in an hour or so?”

How do you respond to such things?

“Go away. I can’t listen to you now.” – Not really polite.

“Dear brother! I would be more than glad to hear from you, and to help you in any way I can, even though you’ve broken two of our published policies in the last 10 seconds, nevertheless, I completely forgive you and forget all about it so if you come back to me in 20 minutes then I’ll be very happy to hear your request and see how I can most elegantly acquiesce to your desires.” – too long, and I’m already late for a cue.

“Ask me later.” – Usually what I’ll try and say but, unfortunately, what people want is something they need more input for. And usually they leave it right until the last minute before asking us. Usually the reply I’ll get from them (while they’re still standing in the way of my mixer) is “Well, I need to know now so I can arrange a laptop or something if you can’t do it.”

“Oh, are you running the programme now? Since you’re in the right place to press the buttons, does that mean I can leave?” – Unfortunately, something close to what’s likely to be my first response.

And it’s not that I really bear them any ill-feeling, or even that I mean to be nasty, mean, or sarcastic.

Sometimes as well, I’ve noticed I have a tendancy to use hyperbole, sometimes in ways which just don’t make sense to anyone other than me:

“Oh yes, it’s horribly frustrating when people forget to hand in their forms on time. I feel like screaming like a little child and jumping overboard whenever they do.” – yes, it’s frustrating, but not that frustrating.

I dunno.

I feel kind of like I’ve picked up some really rude sarcasm and humour somewhere. And especially when I’m tired, frustrated, under pressure, and sick, it really comes out and is just plain nasty to everyone.

Is this the real me, coming out at last?

Or is the real me the nice one?

“When a man’s at his worst, then you see him the best.”


“It’s not how good you are, but how good you want to be”.

*sigh* I have so far to go…

There and back again

Before I begin today’s tale, there are a few things I must first explain. The first is that the UK has these things called “Bank Holiday Mondays”, which basically means most people with office-type jobs don’t work on random mondays throughout the year. Nobody whom I’ve asked seems to know what these Bank Holiday Mondays are in aid of, nevertheless, they seem quite keen on them, generally as they happen to be some of the people who don’t work on these aforementioned Bank Holiday Mondays.

The second thing I’d like to mention is that I’m kind of used to the Doulos work week, which means that also, most people don’t work on Mondays, however, we do work every other day, including Saturday and Sunday.

So being here in Carlisle, where the team has 2 days off per week (Saturday and Sunday) is quite a rare and interesting experience. Then these Bank Holiday Mondays on top of that, wow! It’s surprising they get any work done at all! We had one of these Mondays about 2 weeks ago.

The third thing, is that you should now promptly remove all of the above from your current thoughts, but allow it to drift uninhibited and unwatched into the depths of your subconcious general knowledge. This will put you in a better frame of mind for listening to the rest of the tale, but also put you in roughly the same state as I was 4 days ago.

I got up as usual, showered, dressed, and made myself a rather tasty cappuccino with my breakfast. I headed early to the Shed to start getting some audio files ready for posting later on this week. So I got to the shed about 10 past 7, my housemate was still asleep when I left, and while I was walking to the Shed, I thought
“Once I’ve got these files going, I’ll try walking to the Office (which is on the opposite end of town) for 9am devotions” (that we have together with the Office staff 3 times a week).

So once my audio files were happily working, I set out from the Shed at about 8:15 and started walking at a reasonable pace towards the office. I kind of hoped to see the bus at the bus stop as I went past, and maybe see my housemate on it.

No sign of the bus.

“Hm,” I thought, checking my watch.

“8:23.. that bus must be a bit later than I thought.”

I picked up the pace a bit, thinking, “I wonder if I can get to the office before the bus and my housemate do!” and briskly hopped down the steps to the underpass, and headed through the park.

One cool thing about Carlisle is the rabbits. There are wild rabbits all over the place! I’m sure the local farmers hate them and so on, but I quite enjoy seeing them all over the place as I walk about early in the morning, and while along the footpath I saw a rabbit jumping out of my way.

I continued up the main road, noticing a large car boot sale in the yard of the Catholic church, St. Augustine’s.

(USAian translation: a “car boot sale” is a kind of a communal garage sale not in a garage, where people bring stuff in the trunk of their car (which they call a boot) to some church or other parking lot and hopefully make a bit of money for the church or whoever as well).

I’d still not seen the bus, so thought “It’s 8.45, I’m sure it can’t be behind me, and should have overtaken me by now, if it was, which means it must have been ahead of me when I passed the bus stop, so I must be quite a way behind schedule if I’m going to get there by 9..”

So I again increased my perambulatory velocity, and strode purposefully past the church, and up the hill towards the industrial estate.

The road was longer than I thought, and so soon it was 8.50 and I still wasn’t at the office, so I again sped up and was charging along the road at as fast a walk as I could happily manage, wishing I hadn’t worn my safety boots that day. I felt sure blisters were developing on my heels.

Eventually I got to the estate, and negotiated the roads between the shops and warehouses, noting the fact that it was now 9.05. Oh well, I’d be a bit late, but not too bad. I got to the office, and paused at the door.

There were no cars in the car park. That’s a bit odd.. And no-one arriving late.. that’s even odder. I was about to go in anyway, when I remembered that I don’t remember the alarm code, and if in fact no-one was in the building, I’d have no way to switch it off, and the police would show up and drag me away and lock me up for years and years, and I’d never see my beloved ship again.

The thought didn’t appeal to me too much, so I rang the mobile of one of the others on the team, to ask what was going on.

“Hallo” said he.

“Hallo” said I.

“Where is everyone?” I queried, “I’m at the office, and no-one is here.”

“Ah,” came the response, and with it enlightenment, “It’s Bank Holiday Monday.”

“What?!” disbelievingly quoth Yours Truly, “Another one?!”

Whereupon he laughed and verified that yes, it was another Bank Holiday Monday.

I sighed, squared my shoulders, and slowly began to make my way back towards the opposite end of the town, and the Shed again.

As I left the estate, I began to laugh, realising that I had indeed managed to reach the office before my housemate, but that it had done me no good at all, and all I had gained was the knowledge that the bus is indeed faster than walking, and perhaps a few more blisters on my feet.

What I really wanted was somewhere to sit down, drink coffee and rest my poor feet for a while. Pubs in the UK don’t seem to open before 11am, so I couldn’t even stop for a beer anywhere, which would have been equally welcome.

As I got to the church, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps they might have coffee and cakes there. So I popped into the yard, and went in search of coffee. They did have some, but nowhere to sit, and no cakes, only what a sign called “a biscuit” which rather put me off, so I wandered though the cars, and managed to find a few things I’d been looking for: a couple of small espresso cups, a mug tree for the kitchen, (40p the lot) a few more books (20p each), a cork pin board for my office (50p), a maglite and multi-tool (3 quid the pair), and a small filter machine for 2 pounds which I could take to the conferences.

Bundles of cheap second-hand clutter in bags, I continued to hobble on my merry – if slightly painful – way.

A few streets on I was accosted cheerfully, if rather extremely frailly, by an old lady who wanted to know if it was a Sunday, or in fact a Bank Holiday Monday, as they all seem the same to her. Apparently I either must deceptively look knowledgeable about such things, or I’m just perhaps the only person in this country who seems to pay any attention to other people around them. It’s really weird. No-one ever wants to make eye-contact.

Anyway. I explained about having been bitten by the situation myself, and we chatted for a while. She told me (twice) that she was from the highlands of Scotland, that I shouldn’t ask her why she was living in England, and that the reason she was living in England was because her husband had told her (when they were much younger) “We’re going to live in Carlisle”, so they did.

A brief aside: I promised my friend Kris from Doulos that I’d mention her in a blog post, and so I’ll just mention that the little old lady I met was about 50 years older than you, Kris, and about half as tall.

Anyway. A very sweet lady, and quite funny and friendly too. She told me I mustn’t go to work, but should go home.

I didn’t however, and instead went back to the Shed – after meeting briefly a beggar in the underpass who was being ignored by the rest of the general population walking past him in that peculiarly oblivious British way – and spent the rest of the day finishing those sound files. By the end of the day my brain was almost toast after having stared at audio waveforms for almost the whole day, and half of the week before.

At least I got some exercise, I suppose.