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Old Man Musing – You Can Pay Now or Pay Later (Yeah, I’m Talking To You!)

PLSN Staff • News • February 20, 2021

Ten foot tall and bulletproof. That describes a ton of technicians I’ve known, including myself. “Man up. You can take it. We got this. Don’t wimp out!”  These are all old sayings I emphatically call bull on now, but wished I had done so much earlier in my career. Decades have passed since the early days, but I can point out certain gigs that have put me in the hospital for repairs, albeit many years after the injury.

When I was a young lighting tech I ran everywhere and I wore Converse All Stars at load ins, which were not a great shoe for arch support. I also worked some long ass days, usually on concrete. My feet always hurt. I recall that whenever an LD beckoned me to FOH (hey that light’s not coming up!) I would jump off the 5’ tall stage and land on my feet before running out to FOH. My rigging friend Suzanne Cordes can vouch for this bit of knuckleheadism, as I quote from her recent FB post. So I guess I won’t be dancing for a while…..Too much running and jumping off stages. Dang I should have listened to those old guys telling me not to do that all these years, to take the stairs. Three joints fused and I should be good to go in a few weeks.” The image above is Suzanne’s, post-surgery.

SO, IF YOU’RE A YOUNG TECH AND YOU’RE READING THIS – TAKE THE DAMN STAIRS.

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One New Year’s Eve gig I was up for twenty hours at a time, loading in for two straight days. I had to go back to the shop to pick up some parts for the next morning, so I just slept on packing blankets on a road case in the warehouse. When I awoke the next morning and stood on my feet an intense pain shot up thru both of my heels. I had to stand there and absorb this pain for two minutes, before I could walk a step. Rather than see a doc, I just went to the gig and hoped the pain would go away. It didn’t. It turned out I had grown bone spurs in my heels from crap sneakers (All Stars) and too much time on my feet. Surgery was not a good option, so for years I got shots in my feet to deaden all feeling. I could hold a match to my heels and never feel it. After about five years of cortisone, the pain finally went away.

SO, IF YOUR FEET HURT, SEE A PODIATRIST NOW. AND FOR DAMN SAKE BUY SOME PROPER WORK SHOES.

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In the mid 80’s I found myself out on a hard rock tour. These were brutal, six in a row arena days back then with no nap time. I usually went to sleep between 3-4 AM and got up at 6 AM for rigging call. It was the middle of the winter and this particular Canadian band liked to tour the north during that time – there’s little competition to tour snow country. By the last week of the leg I was hacking my lungs out nonstop. I developed walking pneumonia and it was pretty evident as a couple of my mates commented that I looked like death warmed over. The crew chief and I didn’t get along, so neither he nor the production manager ever once offered to send me to a doc, so I toughed it out. I recall two days before we went home, I asked where one of the other lighting guys was? Turns out they had sent him to a doctor for a sore throat.

At that point I said, ‘Screw it’, I’m not gonna stand in the back of the Providence Civic Center at 20 below tonight, coughing nonstop while the trucks were loading. I went on the bus early and was sitting there when the rest of the crew came on the bus 20 minutes later. The PM got right in my face screaming that I was worthless and not a team member. I ignored the hostility displayed by this person and walked away, coughing all night in my bunk,… one last gig.

I went home from that last gig and my gal took one look at me and it was straight to the hospital. I had double pneumonia now, both lungs on the verge of collapse. A week later I’m out of the hospital. I walked back into See Factor one last time just to take my pal Scott aside and we set up the entire dimmer pit so he knew where every cable went. I was off to a better gig.

SO, NO SHOW EVER CANCELLED BECAUSE YOU FELT ILL. IF YOU’RE SICK, GO TO A DAMN DOCTOR, PERIOD.

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For years I flipped cable boxes on end, flipped dimmers and basically lifted a lot of heavy stuff by myself. I tried to squat and use my legs, but probably didn’t half the time. It never bothered me til I was about 50, some 20 years after I had loaded my last truck. Of all places, I found I couldn’t bend over to tend my garden without this ache in my lower back that would end up lasting for days. Went to the doc who tells me I have a bulging disk. “Do you lift at the gym?” With a couple epidurals and the promise to never lift anything over 50 lbs. the rest of my life, I nurse this injury gingerly. I am past the point of healing.

SO FOR DAMN SAKE, JUST WAIT A SECOND TIL YOU GET SOMEBODY TO LEND YOU A HAND.

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Come 1988 I’m in Europe on a Huey Lewis tour when I’m unloading a truck. We have some big heavy transformers I need at dimmers. Whatever gig we were at had a step between the dock and the arena and we had not unloaded a dance floor ramp yet. Myself and three hands thought we could lift this 500 lb. transformer down over the step. 1,2,3 – go. We lifted the side handles and moved down a step. The three other guys dropped their handles from the weight, but my gloved hand was still caught in one. I felt something in my wrist area snap. I recall my gut reaction, ‘This is bad. I’ll have to get it looked at…., after we load in’.

It swelled up and I got some ice and ace bandages. I never went to a doctor and took it like a champ. Looking back, it wasn’t being a man, it was being a fricking chump. 10’ tall and bulletproof, it’ll heal itself. Now it’s 32 years later and I just left my hand surgeon’s office. Out of the blue last week my hand started killing me and my wrist mobility is 25% of what it once was. X-rays show an old fracture and how the bones in my hand have welded themselves together over time with arthritis.

I’m told this was purely preventable had it been set correctly in 1988. This spring I will  go in to get three bones broken in that hand and one removed. After three months I should have 90% of my hand movement back.

SO, IF YOU FEEL LIKE YOU JUST BROKE SOMETHING – YOU PROBABLY DID. GO GET A DAMN X-RAY, PERIOD.

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So, you can pay now or pay way more later… when you’ve lost an inch of height and are no longer bullet proof.

Written by Nook Schoenfeld

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