Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fulfilling a Dream; Living a Nightmare

I got yelled at yesterday.  For the better part of an hour, a customer berated and finger-pointed.  It was not -- as they say -- fun.  I maintained my cool, in the sense that I did not punch the person between the eyes.  I did, however, bristle and give increasingly curt and non-acquiescent responses.  I failed Customer Service 201 while trying to preserve Customer Service 101.

And then, after having all of this piled upon me, I went somewhere and did something that took the pain away.

The customer was behaving like a petulant child.  I have little patience for unruly and spoiled children.  I have no patience for unruly and spoiled adults.  There were frequent sentences that ended "and I want it NOW!" after being informed that it would be another hour.

And then there was the "professional" musician comments.  If I heard them say it once, I heard it twenty-five times: I am a professional musician!  Dr. Andy's Fun Tip: if you feel the need to repeatedly tell people you're a professional, you aren't.

I understand one thing about playing music, and that is that one is always one bad step away from no longer being a professional musician.  I have been fortunate to have been called to assist the symphony several times this season thus far.  I try my best to be early for everything.  I comply with every directive.  I try to give everyone all the reasons to keep me around, and prevent them from having any reason to make me leave.  I'm not under any illusions: there are several people who can do what I do.  If I make myself into a lesser candidate, I will not be called.

Thus, my "profession" of musician is a fragile thing, but I am well aware of how much I need to protect my reputation.  I respond promptly when they ask for information or float possible gigs.  I allow myself the opportunity of arriving two hours before show time so that I not only have a good parking spot, but also a slim chance of not being in my seat when the show starts.  I am friendly to everyone and take everyone's advice.  I have no need to conjure up anecdotes and comments about how lucky I am, because I feel it every second I'm on stage.

So it irks me when someone engaging in unprofessional behavior rails about how much of a professional they are.  My level of respect turns inside out, leaving only contempt and disdain.  Such it was with the rampaging customer.  In the beginning, I was contrite for not having things ready.  By the end, I was shaking with contained anger and explaining what a promise from me to "do my best" means. 

Then I drove to the city, because after the end of my "work day", I was substituting for the symphony again.  Our concert this week is Science Fiction movie themes.  And I... am in heaven.

This is the music that first got me interested in music.  Even though I'm not playing on every piece, just sitting there immersed in the sound of "Superman" or "E.T." is glorious.  It is -- without exaggeration -- what I always wanted to do.  And this week, I get to do it.

I don't know if there's an entity or person I owe specific thanks to for being able to play this series, but it sure is a transformational experience.  I know the music isn't for everyone: some musicians are complaining about sight-lines, some are complaining about the fog (for the lasers!), and some just quietly move chairs before everyone else arrives.  Like in grade school!

It doesn't matter.  Yes, it's not a perfect experience.  I see the wrinkles, I see the gray area, I see the show behind closed doors.  I learned important things about people -- including George Takei!  And as I said, the only thing that matters is I was having the time of my life.  I would do it again in a second. 

It's *the thing* I want to do.  I have now had the chance to do it, and it's every bit as effortless and rewarding as I hoped.  I may have stumbled blindly into a career in music, but it is definitely what I enjoy doing.  After two nights of performance, I've left all of the negative feelings of the end of last week behind.  As I write this, hunkered under my covers on the bed, I have no ill feelings.  Now that could all change again with the start of a new work week, but for now everything is minimized. 

Playing this music for a living is truly the greatest job in the world for me.

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