Some Experiences You Just Don’t Forget.
I used to do some work for a local crewing company, operated by a guy who would struggle to run a bath let alone a business.
He was the kind of disorganised person who would text at midnight on a Friday offering you a shift at 7am on the Saturday, and he seemed to always be relying on the next job to provide the funds to pay the crew on the present one. There were always delays in payment, and on the occasions when I chased him up in person I would always be told by the receptionist at the arts venue where he had an office that “there’s a queue” of people to whom he owed money. It seems that it’s a reputation that he was known for. There are two particular jobs that stick out in my mind.
I was asked to go to Braehead to do a get-out, and although it wasn’t ideal – being short notice – I agreed. Braehead is a local arena, and while there was no lift available it was agreed that I’d get a taxi out there and be reimbursed for it. Being an arena, and being told which artist had played the previous night, I turned up wearing my usual attire of jeans, t-shirt, and hooded top, expecting to pack a truck. It was only upon arrival that I discovered that the artist had played on a temporary outdoor stage set up in the car park, and being a cold March morning there was no way that this gig would be a pleasant one.
While waiting for the day’s crew chief to arrive with everyone else, the site manager took me round explaining the job – the truss and staging all had to come down, and she told me where it was to go. There were crowd barriers to be moved, and a perimeter fence to be dismantled and piled up. Half an hour past the start time, I was still the only crew person on site, and my calls to the crew boss went unanswered, as did my texts trying to establish who was in charge. When the car eventually pulled up, it turned out he was taking responsibility. It became apparent that our job solely involved the removal of the perimeter fence, which was fine except that I was entirely unprepared to be outside for the duration. It was a freezing day – well, I say that but it must have been just above freezing because we got rain and not snow. Rain, for all six hours of the shift. Rain that rapidly saturated my inadequate clothing, soaking me to the skin and making me thoroughly miserable. The fence, too, was steel and held together with bolts, and between that and the weather my hands became so cold that I couldn’t feel them – just pain.
Had the venue been in the city centre, where I could have easily got home, I’d have walked off the job – that was how miserable the experience was and how disgruntled I was working for this company. I’ve never walked off a job in my life. The only reason I stayed was because of my outlay – in double figures – for the taxi. At the end of the shift, in an extremely rare change to the norm, we were paid cash in hand and I was given extra to cover the expense. Completely drenched, I just wanted to get home, get a warm shower, get the circulation back in my hands, and put some dry clothes on. It was at this point that the issue of transport arose – one car, already packed. That meant a second taxi home, and as he didn’t have any extra to cover that I was told to meet him in a pub near his office when I got to the town. To get a cab, me and one other guy (an idiot in the truest sense of that word) had to traipse, squelching, half a mile to the nearest supermarket, and then wait forty minutes for a private hire to show up. I didn’t even get to go straight home, doing one drop-off and then heading to the pub to pick up ten quid prior to sloshing back to my flat on foot. That whole experience remains, after six years, the benchmark of misery – I’ve never had another job so wholly demoralising.
Another prime example of this guy’s working practices was a gig we did in Haddington, East Lothian. Two cars went through from Glasgow, one prior to the show because the boss wanted to watch it. I was on the latter trip, and the show over-ran by about an hour. Eventually, when the crowd cleared, we started dismantling the staging. It wasn’t long before the boss decided he’d had enough and was going home, leaving it in our capable hands to finish. This posed a transport problem as he would be driving one of the two cars back to Glasgow, and the rest of the crew couldn’t fit into the remaining one. He was made fully aware of this by the crew chief, yet decided that was what he was doing.
When we completed the task, at about 3am, one driver had to take half the crew to Glasgow, drop us off in the city centre, and then return to the venue to ferry the other guys home too. So this boss, like I said, wasn’t much fun to work for – that was a 140-mile round-trip, and he made this poor bastard drive it twice to get to his work and then to get everyone back home afterwards.
Eventually, I was owed the better part of £150 for work done, and I was avoided so often and for so long – calls, texts, and personal visits to the office – that I gave up in the end. I couldn’t afford the hit, but part of me finally decided it was worth that sum to never see or work for this prick again.
Last night, I met my friend in the pub. She introduced me to her pal, and there he stood. This bastard who stole my wages. I said nothing, since I wrote it off and that was ultimately my choice, but I was interested to see if he remembered me or what he might say. Prior to my arrival, he had told my friend that he would come with us to the gig we were going to. Instead, he finished his drink in just two goes, made some excuse about suddenly not feeling well, and left the bar pretty fucking sharpish.
Like I told her afterwards, I knew exactly who he was as soon as I saw him. On the other hand, he has a hundred and fifty reasons to forget who I am…