A Stress Test

 Thursday May 17th, 2012 – Mansfield, OH/Bird In Hand, PA

   There’s nothing like an all you can eat buffet of stress to make one think of changing careers in a hurry, and today was it. I don’t think I could pry my ass cheeks apart with a crow bar right now as they’ve been clenched together in terror the entire day. This kind of stress causes heart attacks.

I had a 413 mile hell ride from Mansfield, OH to Bird In Hand, PA that was a lot more difficult than it needed to be. The weather was beautiful, and I expected to have a leisurely ride to my gig as I made notes about anything creative that popped into my head. I started out in a cheery mood, but by the end of the night I was ready for shock treatment and a sedative. This isn’t what I need.

As can happen at any time in comedy, today suddenly morphed into a one man NASCAR race against the clock. I needed to be in Bird In Hand by 6:30pm for a scheduled performance time of 6:45. That’s a little early for the typical show, but it’s their event so they can have it whenever.

I chose to take US 30 to avoid tolls, knowing it might take a little longer. I allowed myself time in case of delays, but it wasn’t enough. I got stuck in a nasty traffic jam in Pittsburgh, and I don’t know why. It was about 1:30pm, and it’s not like it was rush hour. Whatever the reason, I had no escape. I was caught in it and couldn’t move. The longer I waited, the higher my stress level got.

I knew I’d be in for a race against time, and those are never fun. The distance that needed to be covered was what it was, and there are no shortcuts. I could only do one thing – keep driving and hope I would get there on time. I knew I’d be cutting it dangerously close and needed to keep my wits about me. Any more long delays of any kind would have caused me to miss the gig entirely.

The entire state of Pennsylvania’s highway system seems to be under construction, and I had to go 40 miles an hour for much of the rest of the trip. I was trapped behind lines of other frustrated drivers who were trapped behind truckers who made it impossible to pass. I couldn’t go faster if I wanted to, and I totally wanted to. I could feel my heart lodge in my throat as time slipped away.

I put the gas pedal to the floor and sped dangerously through construction zones and wherever else I could to just get there. I couldn’t afford to not get paid, and I had to risk death or a ticket to make it to Bird In Hand. They were on a time schedule, and only had the hall rented until 8pm.

I finally made it with less than two minutes to spare, and I sprinted from my car to the room to discover that the motorcycle group members were all over 60. I wasn’t expecting that, so I had to adjust on the fly and go from there. The person who was to introduce me was out of the room, so I had to start cold as they were growing impatient. On a difficulty scale of 1 to 10, this was a 74.

Still, I managed to pull an extremely solid show out of this situation. It took every last ounce of the quarter century of experience I have to do it, but I did. I slowed down and gave them my very best, and they loved it. They were great laughers, but had no idea how hard this show really was.

I could have easily missed this one, and that would have been devastating financially. I was an absolute wreck afterward, but at least I’d made it. Barely. I don’t want to be living my life on this kind of a shoestring, but sometimes it happens. This is not a business for the weak or squeamish.

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