I was going to call this post ‘Scaring People’ because that’s really what I do. Except it’s not. Not exactly.
‘Scaring people’ sounds like I am doing something deliberate and decidedly awful and I’m not. I swear, I’m really not.
What I tend to do is that I unwittingly alarm people.
And it’s difficult to know how to stop.
And it’s not always unwitting either. The very worst times are when I know I am about to alarm someone. When I am completely ‘witting’, if you will. At those times, there’s a desperate feeling of inevitability and a overriding sense of helplessness, as if the die is already cast and nothing now can be done. Yes, they are the very worst times.
Let me explain it all a bit better.
Most of the ‘alarming of people’ that I do happens in one single place. The theatre. The Linenhall theatre, in Castlebar, to be precise. I spend some time in there, working on plays, working on other non-play things and generally hanging around.
It’s the nature of the place, the people in it, and the work that they do that lends itself to people being almost constantly alarmed or startled or even scared-shitless. It’s almost a part of the job-description.
You see, when the theatre hasn’t got anything on, like during the day or late in the evening, it’s a corridor-ey, echo-ey kind of a place. Couple this with the fact that the few people who inhabit these spaces at these times are almost invariably concentrating very hard on whatever it is they are doing. They are on their own, focused, not expecting company…
And then I turn up and alarm them.
They tend to jump, clutch the part of their chest where they believe their heart resides, and shout something like, “Jesus, don’t do that, Ken!”
Do what? What did I do? All I did was turn up. How can I not do that?
Once you start alarming people in this way, it’s very hard to stop. You would probably expect that a basic sort of self awareness would set in and a series of logical counter-measures would be rehearsed so that, the next time it happens, you would know what to do so that the poor person will not be alarmed.
All well and good but I ask again, what can I do?
When you come around a corner, in the empty, quite darkish, theatre and there’s a person right there in front of you, all alone, with their back to you, concentrating furiously on something or other, what can you do?
If you clear your throat to let them know you are there, guess what, they jump and clutch their chest and exhort you to desist.
If you ease up in front of them and present yourself silently until they naturally notice you are there, the same bloody thing happens. It’s no different.
I’ve even tried sending a text along the lines of “I’m behind you” but that ends up being downright creepy and possibly the cause of lasting damage.
I’ve taken a new approach recently and it seems to be reasonably effective in not startling people if utterly useless for everything else.
I devised this new method when I wandered into the theatre space one quiet morning and came upon a person up a very tall ladder adjusting the stage lighting. In this circumstance, my customary alarming of the person might clearly have proved fatal so, straight away, I developed this brand new approach which I feel I might continue to use into the future.
Yes, I ran away.
Like a panther (in my mind) or a big floppy dog, (in likely reality) I ran silently out of the building and all the way home and I went back the next day when the person was no longer up the ladder.
Unorthodox but at east effective.
Story of my life.