Monday, February 27, 2006

Something You Might Not Know About Me

I've long enjoyed Funky B's fun "Me-Me Monday" and thought that I'd slap this post up within that realm. Funky Robin likes to call it an installment of, "Come ON -- tell me the WHOLE story!" otherwise known as "I love to talk about myself", and in a pinch can be called Me-Me Monday.

The object of the game is to refer to your 101 Things About Me list, pick one of your "things" and tell the whole sordid tale. I don't yet have a full 101 Thing About Me list, but do plan on growing one. So when I play Me-Me Monday" I'll add to my list.

A new CTO joined Indigo recently (Michael Serbinis), and held a series of group gatherings within I.T. so we could get to know him and he could get to know us. Walking into the meeting room with a Tim Hortons coffee cup in hand, there was a sense that he was going to have a down to earth and straight forward approach.

After sharing some items about himself, his vision and why he joined Indigo, he then turned the meeting over to the group. But, rather than the standard, tell everyone a bit about you, he added a refreshing twist: “Tell us something that most people likely wouldn’t know about you.:

This was great, because, though I’ve worked for many years with a lot of the people in the room, there were lots of interesting bits and pieces that folks don’t often share. For example, within our group was a stand-up comedian, a ballroom dancer, a bungee-jumper, ex-tennis pro and even my boss revealed that at night he shucks his business suit, puts on his “Disco Stew” garb and is a downtown Toronto night club deejay. Wow.

Since everybody knows I’m a writer (I rarely shut up about this passion), I ended up sharing the fact that I came close to being crushed to death once because of a decision that Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip made.

Let me explain.

While a University student I was working as a security guard at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa. I got to work lots of great football games, concerts, trade shows and other events over the years. One of the best events were the Canada Day concerts.

One year (I think it must have been either 1990 or 1991), during one of the marathon Canada Day events, The Tragically Hip was one of the feature performers. I was working front of stage security and part of about half a dozen guys standing in a four foot gated section between the stage and the crowd

The main activities working front of stage at a large concert are keeping people from rushing the stage, spraying the overheated crowd with a cool water mist and rescuing people out of the crowd to receive medical attention. The constant “pressing forward” of the crowd often results in people passing out or getting squished, suffering heat exhaustion, and things like that. When we spotted someone in need of help (purple face was often an indicator of “can’t breathe”) we’d endeavor to pull them out and radio the St. John’s Ambulance staff that were usually standing by near the side of the stage area.

As often happens in a large crowd, there is a constant pressure against the metal linked security gates that are set up with a locking criss-cross pattern and butted against the stage. About half-way through the Tragically Hip’s set, the Stage Manager dropped into the pit to speak with me (I’d been designated the supervising guard for front of stage, so we’d been introduced before the show started). He pointed out the fact that the risers holding up the front of the stage (and which the security barriers were butted up against), were slipping. We ducked under the stage and he showed me. Four of the six risers were being pushed with such force from the crowd that there were already on a seventy degree angle. If we couldn’t get the crowd pushed back, the front of the stage would very likely collapse.

I had this vision of the front of the stage collapsing to form a steep ramp and the front section of the crowd spilling to the ground in the pit area simultaneously, then the band and all the speakers and equipment sliding down into the pit on top of the guards, and the crowd. I had flash backs to the stadium section collapse that had occurred just a few years earlier in this same place during my first year of University -- it was during Panda, an annual football game between Carleton and Ottawa U. I believe that one person was killed and dozens of people were injured in that collapse.

I immediately radioed for some back-up, explaining the situation to the shift supervisor. He sent six more guys from the various roam teams to help us offer more resistance against the barriers. We braced sets of three guys spread out and engaged in a “push of war” type effort that seemed it would never end.

All we succeeded in doing was keeping the barriers from being pushed as quickly. After an undeterminable amount of time, it was evident that ten guys couldn’t hold back a crowd of thousands. I remember bracing my arms full length against the barriers, my feet planted firmly against the ground, and straining under the pressure, sweat running down in my eyes, and the panic as I could feel my feet almost imperceptibly sliding, losing ground.

I radioed the shift supervisor again to tell him we were making no progress, and to send more guys if he could spare them. Also to ensure that St. John’s Ambulance sent a few more people to our vicinity. He ended up sending four more guys.

When the new guys got there, I ducked my head under the stage again to check the status. It seemed to be getting worse. The stage braces, while still standing on a funny angle, had slid back almost another inch.

I then signaled the Stage Manager and he dropped back down into the pit. I explained to him that there was no way we were going to be able to hold the gates back until the end of the concert, and asked if he could get the performers, between songs, to make a quick announcement along the lines of “take one step back” -- he begrudgingly agreed.

I then got back to helping the rest of the guys hold back the gates and crowd, occasionally bracing my back against the gates and digging in with my heels, both to give my arms a rest and also to be able to communicate via the radio with my supervisor and keep an eye on the Stage Manager.

After several songs, the Stage Manager finally got Gord Downie’s (the band’s lead singer) attention. Downie paused and headed over to the side where they briefly exchanged a few words.

I felt a huge wave of relief start to fill me, and smiled when Downie walked back to center stage and said: “I’ve been told to make an announcement.”

And this moment, I’ll never forget, because Downie paused, looked down at us in the pit and smiled. Then he said: “But I don’t see any problem, here. Let’s keeping rocking.” No, those weren’t his exact words, but his statement was to that effect. I remember the crowd going nuts in response, the band starting their next song and seeing red and glaring at him, trying to get eye contact with the man who was very likely going to be responsible for me and a lot of other people being seriously injured and possibly crushed to death.

The next half dozen songs or so that the Tragically Hip performed seemed to be the longest songs of my life. My colleagues and I continued to struggle with the pressing crowd wall, and the stage managed to not collapse.

And in answer to any questions about if I like the Tragically Hip or not -- I think that they are a brilliant rock band, have produced some magnificent and timeless hits and some of my favourite songs. As for Gord Downie: Though I think he can be a conceited and selfish jerk, he is an extremely talented musician and writer, and I’d love the opportunity to sit down and have a beer with him some day.

But not just because I admire his creativity. The main reason is because when he isn’t looking, I’d spit in his beer then enjoy a silent chuckle watching him drink it down.

Bottom’s up, Gordie, old pal.


lime said...

i'd do more than spit in his beer. i'd piss in it. gees. how can someone be so callous to such danger? scary story.

Sheri said...

this story freaked me out because I could picture the panic portrayed. All I could think was What an Asshole! the lead singer was for not giving the annoucement and how lucky you all were that nothing bad happened and no one was seriously hurt.

Sheri said...

ps - I meant to say that we had that discussion at work one time too. Everyone wrote on a piece of paper something that no one would know about them, we put them in a hat and drew them out one by one. We had a great fun time guessing who was who by what they had wrote and learned neat stuff about each other.

212degreedesigns said...


for the story and the words

BTExpress said...

Spitting in his beer is the least I would do. What an ass! Great story though.

Unknown said...

I didn't need another reason to hate The Tragically Hip, but thank you for providing one.

Anonymous said...

Sheesh - I was so tense reading that story. I could almost hear the crowd and feel the panic. How nice you could draw your audience in with tales of pushing the audience away.

Anonymous said...

Sheesh - I was so tense reading that story. I could almost hear the crowd and feel the panic. How nice you could draw your audience in with tales of pushing the audience away.

Anonymous said...

an aquiantance of mine (actually a fellow Chapter's employee at one point) was so into the Tragically Hip that when she got tickets to their concert excitedly related to me that she would be so close to the stage that Gord Downie would be able to sweat on her.

that's a fan for you.

I too like the Tragically Hip (maybe not as much as my aforementioned colleague) but, I think, after reading your story, I'd want to spit in his beer too.

Anonymous said...

Why ruin a perfectly good beer? Steal it and drink it yourself!

Anonymous said...

Mark that is a great story, and thank you for writing and sharing it with us. So much happens that we do not see. I totally wish you could have shut down the show.