Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Social Graces

I sit in the Little League stands, where I have made a four-year career of watching the games, but never engaging too much with the crowd, of cheering for my child, but not so loudly and wildly as to offend. And so it is, when a parent tries to strike up a conversation with me, that I am at a loss. After all, I have, as my established four-year career record shows, come here to watch baseball. My eyes are on the field. My mind is on whether or not my child, or his team, will have a good day.

Yet, after I leave the game, I realize that I have missed an opportunity. My lack of social readiness in that moment could easily be written off to my lack of sleep from an overnight of work. Had I pushed through, however, I might have learned something new, made a new connection, come away with new knowledge.

Once upon a time, when I was a Booth PA bemoaning the fact that my estimate of the show's length didn't match the reality, a wise director told me that the real test of a PA actually had very little to do with estimating time. More important, he said, was whether you were the kind of person with whom people wanted to spend long days in the control room. You didn't have to be the best timer, or even tell the best jokes. But you had to feel and act like part of the group. And have the group feel that way about you.

I've heard it said that in much of life, half the battle is just showing up. Perhaps, then, the other half is in the "social graces"--not the ones having to do with the right fork and with not wearing white shoes after Labor Day, but the ones that make your time in the bleachers about more than just baseball. Lack of sleep aside, I can stand to do a little more with the social graces. Because, in the control room and in the bleachers, doing the job is about more than just getting the job done. It's about being a person with whom people like to share the space. And being that person is useful pretty much anyplace you go.

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