Working Through Pain

Once again, I would like to start this off with a disclaimer:

This is about what I do and what works for me. This will definitely not be the case for everyone, nor do I encourage people to work past what they are physically capable of. I will admit, I have done some sketchy things when it comes to working through pain levels. No one condoned this, I’m merely stubborn. Also, this article is not a justification merely an explanation. Now that I’ve stated all of that, let’s get to it.

Without trying to be too obvious, this industry is dangerous. Flight cases, metal truss, entire sets of furniture, band equipment, it doesn’t matter what you’re working with or on. You’re more than likely going to get hurt at some point. Ask any rigger on the fly rail what the worst injury they’ve gotten is and they will go into gruesome details and tell you horror stories. I wouldn’t recommend asking them if you’ve just eaten. What do we as technicians risk in comparison to that? Well… let me take a look at just the past 12 months.

We start off with a festival I was working at last year during the summer. I was resetting for a show in the morning when a ridiculously tall ladder wasn’t footed correctly and fell off the stage. I caught it one-handed (was wrapping cables at the time so my other hand was busy holding the massive coil) and dislocated my shoulder. Why did I catch it? Why not do the sensible thing and move out of the damn way? Those are both questions I have gotten asked many times and here’s the answer: As a team, we were told if anything in the venue breaks it would be coming out of our paychecks. The ladder could fall off the stage and break part of the venue and the seating as it wasn’t far from the balcony or I could catch it and keep my job and pay for the remainder of the festival. Not great reasoning to catch something falling towards you, but at least it’s an answer.


We move forward about a month or two and I’m on tour. One of the stagehands at the venue we were visiting didn’t run a bunch of snakes correctly so I’m crawling under the stage trying to find everything and put them where they’re supposed to be. This is how we find out we have a live wire. I’m shocked with a few volts of electricity, and for the record, if you haven’t had it happen to you yet, it’s not fun.

We don’t have too far to move forward to as the following incident happens when our tour leaves that same venue. As is typical, the stagehands are helping load the truck. One of them is impatient and closes a flight case before it’s fully packed, and my fingers are still on the edge of it. Thanks for that. Luckily I saw what they were doing so I managed to mostly move them out of the way but still had bloody fingertips, nails, and knuckles.


This time we do have to move forward by about 4 months. Still on tour, we’re unloading into a venue in the morning before anyone has had their coffee or apparently the forethought to put on some damn steel toes. Before we can even unload the cases, the ramp is somehow put on a pothole (how no one noticed this is still beyond me and this will come into play shortly). The very first flight case we unloaded ran over one of our technician’s feet and he broke three toes. That’s why we wear steel-toed boots, kids. The next incident of the day doesn’t happen until we start moving the meat racks down the ramp. Someone trips on the pothole, sprains their ankle, and bashes their head against the rack falling to the ground with a concussion and bleeding forehead. Looking back now, it is almost comical how all of that happened. My injuries haven’t even happened yet and already it looks like we have rocked up to the venue with the world’s most inexperienced crew (I swear we were all professionals). We get through the show by some miracle and start to de-rig everything. I hate one-night stops. This is when the universe decides it’s my turn.

One of the guys thinks it would be hilarious for him to drop his end of a truss while I’m undoing the PA cables. It lands on my shoulder dislodging it, again… We’re loading the last of the flight cases when the same guy thinks he needs to be hilarious again and releases his flight case heading right towards me on the truck. Except my back is turned so I don’t see it coming. As I’m turning around I feel the flight case hit me hard and I’m later informed by the physio I have a sprained ankle and a fracture in my foot. This is why we wear steel-toed boots, kids.


We fast forward once again about another 3 months. Still on tour and no longer working with the guy who needed to be hilarious, I’m helping roll the dance floor. If you know what a fun task that is, you likely know where this is going. The stagehand on the downstage part of the mostly rolled dance floor decides this is the opportune moment to lift it and get everything perfectly straight. He doesn’t tell you that is his plan. He drops it just as quickly as he lifts it just a few inches off the ground. But a few inches is all it takes when something like a dance floor is dropped down on your fingers. I have 2 fingers dislocated and 2 more swelling and badly bruised at the palm.

Not moving too far into the future we come full circle to the same festival as last year, now working for a different company. I have miraculously made it all through the festival without any injuries. But then we got to the de-rig and that’s where the universe once again decided it was my turn. On the very first day of the de-rig and a steel deck drops on my foot. Luckily I was wearing steel-toed boots. Unluckily, the steel deck was thick and made it just barely past the steel part of my boots. I was informed later that I had a fractured big toe. Damn it, almost made it this time.

The next day we’re carrying out parts of larger sets from the shows and one of the technicians doesn’t look where he is going and bumps into a railing behind him, pushing the set piece into the other person at the opposite end. She now has an open bleeding lip and chipped tooth to clean up. Only a few hours later, the same guy is helping me carry a piece of wall with a door attached to it. Why didn’t we take it apart? It came as one set piece and we were told not to. We quickly decide it is too heavy for just 2 people to lift and that is when he thinks to himself “Okay let me drop this thing we just decided was too heavy for 2 people without informing the other person I’m dropping it.” I got another dislocated finger from that.

These are just the injuries that stood out to me for one reason or another. These do not include the many bruises each of us gets daily. I worked through all of it. I continued to work through the injuries, came into work the next day, and did it all again fully prepared that the possibility of getting hurt might occur. I don’t take painkillers for unrelated reasons. This is not me trying to be a badass and prove how much pain I can work through. If I wanted to do that, I would be a rigger. I have worked hard my entire life. I have worked through injuries from either sports or work my entire life. For me to continue is simply natural, just as it is natural for a dancer to continue to dance through certain injuries. This is not widely accepted, and as I stated in my disclaimer I do not encourage people to work through what they are physically capable of. So, why do I work past fractures, electrical shocks, dislocations, and countless bruises? Because I know what I am physically capable of I work through the pain.

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