The Joy Of Making Mistakes Without Repercussions
- Volume 16 - Issue 5 - May 2003
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I am occasionally asked why I write this column. The answer is simple. Writing fulfills my need to engage in an activity where if I screw up and make mistakes, there are no dire consequences and nobody gets hurt. At times, I overstate an opinion and a fellow DPM gets mad but that doesn’t count.
There are aspects of my life in which it is more imperative to avoid mistakes. I’m a husband and father. I’m a doctor. I’m an instrument rated pilot. If I make mistakes in these roles, people can get hurt. I am responsible not to let mistakes occur and to pay the consequences if they do.
To maintain balance in my life, I like to engage in activities in which I can make mistakes and nobody suffers. I write for this magazine and the only harm is to Brian, my long-suffering editor, who has to sort out my ramblings and make them printable.
I also act in community theatre and play the cello in orchestras that don’t insist on auditions. I screw up regularly in these activities. Since it’s all volunteer work, my pay is never cut and I can’t get fired.
My acting is a bit limited. About every five years, I try out for a part in a play. I am mostly selected for parts that involve physical comedy. This involves stuff like sticking my finger in a light socket and getting electrocuted or getting kicked in the groin.
My last play was Bullshot Crummon. I played the leading part of Bullshot, a blundering hero who was a legend in his own mind. He wore tight swimming suits with a huge, strategically placed codpiece. In one scene, I was fighting with two villains. One had a fencing foil and the other was a deranged gorilla-like fellow who specialized in kicks to the groin. The director choreographed the action carefully so nobody got hurt.
The gorilla guy would stomp toward me in three steps and then, on the four count, would kick me you-know-where. On this count, I would jump up and yell. It would appear that I got nailed. While this was going on, I was also fencing with the other villain. The foils had red rubber protective tips so nobody got stabbed.
The two villains were very serious about their acting but tended to get nervous so they had a drink or two of bourbon before going on stage. On one particular night of production, they had about three shots each and the timing got mixed up. The gorilla took two steps and kicked on the three count. I didn’t jump in time. The fencing guy had taken his rubber tip off the foil because it spoiled the theatrical effect. He removed a sty from my left eyelid. During an unscheduled intermission, I sat in the dressing room with an ice bag in my lap and a towel on my eye. The codpiece was destroyed.
It’s difficult to screw up when you’re one player in a symphony orchestra but it can be done. I was playing cello in a local college orchestra. The director chose a challenging piece, the Mahler “Resurrection.” This calls for a full orchestra and chorus. The performance hall was small so there were nearly as many on stage as there were in the audience.
Conductors can take little liberties like including a grand pause in which everything goes quiet. These punctuate a dramatic ending but they are dangerous. Sometimes a single player will forget and play through the pause. That’s embarrassing, but perhaps not as embarrassing as other things that can occur during a grand pause.
We were doing surprisingly well with the complex symphony that frequently modulated to different key signatures and timing. The conductor had inserted a grand pause in the final movement in which the chorus, the orchestra and a pipe organ were booming in the dramatic upward progression to the final chord.
With a swift sideways swipe of the baton, the conductor signaled the grand pause. The auditorium went suddenly silent. Unfortunately, a member of the audience chose that moment to break wind. The silent auditorium reverberated with double forte flatulence.
It was difficult to recapture the drama for the final chord. My vibrato was assisted by my chuckling. I can’t help laughing when I hear the “Mahler Symphony No. 2” on the classical station and God help me if it is ever played for a funeral that I’m attending.
My screw-ups in writing haven’t been quite as exciting as the ones in drama or music. I would like to slip a mixed metaphor past Brian someday but that’s a horse of a different ballgame.