Posts Tagged ‘Stress’

I have previously mentioned here on the blog that I have Asperger’s syndrome. It means I have some challenges,but luckily not too many. One challenge though is sensory overload. It happens once in a while, but I’m mostly susceptible when I’m tired, stressed or over-worked. It happened this weekend.

What actually happens? Well imagine all your senses overreacting. Every sound is so loud it seems your head will split, every touch makes your skin burn, every smell completely fills your nose and mouth so you want to gag, colors seem so bright your eyes water. All this and more, all at the same time. My head just can’t process all the information it’s given and that results in it giving up.

When it happened this weekend, I wasn’t at home like I usually am. At home I have a safe-space, at home I can completely control the sensory input, but this was not at home. This was halfway across the country with about 30 other people around. Since I couldn’t control a lot of the things that were setting me off, I decided to try and focus on one task. I would write exactly what was going on. I had never tried that before and I didn’t even know if it was possible, but I gave it a shot. Here follows what is written in shaky letters in my notebook:

I’m sitting on the floor, my legs sticking straight out. The floor is made of wood and it is lacquered. It feels like it’s sticking to my skin.

I don’t like it.

My back is pushed firmly against the wall. It’s cold and smooth. The chill seeps through my shirt into my spine.

I like it.

I’m tucked into the corner as far as I can go. This room is on the top floor so the wall slopes on one side. It means I won’t fit all the way in the corner.

I don’t like it.

My socks are black and feel like they’re strangling my feet.

I don’t like it.

I pull them off with a strangled whimper. I feel air on my toes.

I like it.

Shirt over my head. Pants kicked off.

My phone is playing brown noise as loud as it will go. I feel the sound-waves as they pass through me. If I could only reach out, I could touch them. Bend them.

But I can’t reach out, my hands are busy.

One is drumming away on the floor, my thigh, chest, scalp. An endless war-drum pounding, always syncopated, always on the beat. The other is feverishly writing. Working hard to keep up with my mind, failing. There is no time to stop and fix jumbled letters or spelling errors.

If I stop I break, if I stop I break, if I stop I break, if I stop I break, if I stop I break!

I’m afraid that if I stop writing, I’ll stop thinking, I’ll break down completely, I won’t be able to regain control. So I write, anything I can think of. Anything, everything.

I flail.

NO!

Don’t lose control. Come on, just keep writing! I can feel it slipping. It’s too much.

Too much, too much, too much!

Inaudible words start escaping my mouth. Closer to guttural snarls than actual words. I have no idea what they are. I am going to have to stop writing now.

It didn’t work.

 That is what a breakdown feels like to me. I honestly don’t remember much of it. I never do. All I remember is just that it feels like there is way too much of everything.

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Casual 3 AM update.

Posted: January 6, 2014 in Life-thingies
Tags: , , , , , ,

Hi guys,

It is 3:09 AM here in Scandinavia and I just proofread and formatted my behemoth of an exam paper. I finished it and it is pretty crappy, but luckily I get to defend it in an oral exam and if there is one thing I rock at, it’s oral exams. Talking for 30 minutes nonstop about a specific topic I know a shit-ton about? Son you just activated my trap card!

I just thought, that before I crash face first on to my bed I’d take the time to thank you all. Thank you for commenting and sending me emails to cheer me on, you guys are the best!

I apologize for my sadface post and I promise to get back to my cheerful old self. Hell with this exam out of the way, I am pretty much there already. (It also helps that my mum called to say she’d bought me a brand new saute pan yesterday!)

What other news do I have? 

Oh yes, I have managed to get a part-time job while I finish my studies. I am going to be a tour-guide extraordinaire. It was actually pretty cool, I got an email from one of my teachers who was like “It’s to bad I don’t see you in class to often, you are one of the best students. Anyway I’m heading this new project with guided tours around town, want a job?” Obviously I insta-yessed.

Also I will try to post more of these “life-thingies”. I know what you really want are the delicious rants and bordering-on-homophobic-I-certainly-only-get-away-with-this-because-I-am-gay-myself stereotyping of the Tales from the Gay Bar, but this is my way of getting back in the habit of writing here. (that bordering-on- and so on was a bitch to type out!) 

This post is probably pretty messy and slightly unhinged, but I blame 3 days of staring at this screen, too much soda and too little sleep.

Lastly I just want to give a shout-out to Paul who commented on my last post. He is probably the best thing to ever come out of ‘Straya. And to Kathy who saw my pouty post and straight up sent me a cake recipe to cheer me up. (It was friggin’ tasty btw)

It’s 3:30 now, time to go beddy-bye-bye!

They said the first big autumn storm would hit us sometime that afternoon. It was cold and windy and a miserably icy rain was falling in heavy drops. I walked to work in the rain, watching the river trundle and tumble along. I, in turn, was being watched by all the smiling faces with Photoshop-white teeth staring down from every lamppost. It’s that crazy time again. The time where young men in their nicest shirts, ruin their first pair of dress shoes by trotting through puddles to fling flyers at innocent people passing by. The time where men in their fifties try (and fail miserably) to reach out to the younger generation by rapping and using slang that was “hip” 3 years ago. #YOLO! The time where perfectly happy families are torn apart by a tiny little X on a piece of paper. The time where people of questionable intelligence, make YouTube videos with racist and hateful propaganda simply to stand out. The time where people of even MORE questionable intelligence proclaim “I’m not even going, I mean what’s the point anyway?” The time to make a stand, do your duty for queen and country and defy the weather to claim the rights you hold as a citizen of a democratic country. Election time!

I have no idea why I went on a long tirade about that, it’s not even the election for the government; it’s just the local and regional elections. Anyway I walked to work, it was raining, that’s all I meant to say.

Because of the storm warning it had been a very quiet afternoon, only a few people having a beer of cup of coffee on their way home from work. Once the wind really started howling they all hurried home. I had a little paperwork to do and it didn’t seem like there would be a lot of guests, so I sent Laura home early and brought the laptop into the bar.

It was really coming down outside, I had the news up on the TV in the barroom and they were warning people to stay indoors. I was hoping it would blow over soon, not really fancying the prospect of having to sleep in the backroom. News coverage showed trees toppling over, roofing tiles smashing against the streets below, blocked trains, motorways where people got out and walked, scaffolding collapsing, it was a bit scary and I didn’t want to risk going out. Instead I got back to work, for about five minutes, then the TV went black, in fact everything went black.

The power had gone out.

The entire street was covered by a veil of deep darkness and from upstairs came a scream of terror. I ran to the backdoor, tore it open and sprang up the stairs. On the landing of the second floor stood our upstairs neighbor, she was shaking like a leaf, huddled over and clutching her head in her hands. She gave a small yelp of fright as I touched her shoulder. “Veena what’s wrong?” She mumbled something indistinctly in reply. I pulled her up straight and tried to get her to look at me, but she avoided my eyes. I asked her again and this time she said “That voice…It just…That voice…” “What voice, what did it say?” She stopped shaking, her eyes met mine and she, with an almost chilling calmness, said “Come to me”.

She began shaking again and I left her on the landing to go look for whoever had scared her so badly. Her apartment was completely empty. No one was there and I tried to explain that to Veena, but she refused to go back. She was sure whoever had spoken was still there somewhere. I could hardly leave her out on the cold staircase so I brought her down into the bar and gave her something to calm her nerves.

We talked for a while in the now candlelit bar and she seemed to calm down a bit. In the end she convinced herself it was just a silly prank someone had pulled on her and she decided to go back upstairs. I may have helped her with the decision by referring to the mountains of paperwork I had to do. She would just, she said, pop out to use the loo, drink up and be out of my way. “Good” I thought “now if the power would just come back so I don’t have to do the math myself once the laptop battery runs low, that would be perf” and my thoughts were cut off by another of Veena’s screams.

She came running out of the bathroom, eyes wild, soap on her hands, screeching “I heard it again, in the bathroom!” By now I was sure she was the one pulling my leg so I asked “Oh? What’d it say this time then?” She told me that in a strange accent it had said the words “Join me”. It all sounded a bit too much like “we all float down here” to me and I didn’t believe a word she said, I was just about to tell her that when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. A movement in the empty barroom.

I turned around and there was Table, standing in the middle of the floor.

How had it got from the backroom and out here? Ever heard the phrase “Don’t ask if you don’t want to know”? I shouldn’t have asked. Table started sliding around the floor in a slow circle. The other tables soon joined him, then the chairs as well. The glasses on the bar lifted themselves into the air and slowly floated towards us. The chairs and tables now closed in on us as well. The paintings tore themselves from the walls, magazines came off the racks. A bottle opener pushed it’s way through the mass to the front of The Army of Inventory. It hung in the air, glittering silently, everything was quiet, every thing seemed calm.

Then the bottle opener launched itself and only an uncoordinated and slightly embarrassing scurry to the right saved us from the hurtling piece of metal that came at our heads. The rest of the army followed, glass splintered against the walls, chairs were falling over each other to get to us and all we could do was jump and duck and vault ourselves through the battlefield. As we were nearing the door Table jumped out from the fray and blocked it. His tabletop was shaking and the screws holding the legs in place were oozing a dark red liquid. Blood?

I didn’t even think, I just put my shoulder down and ran. I went straight for Table’s bad leg. The sound of wood splitting told me what had happened. I didn’t take the time to look back. I merely yanked the door open and pulled Veena outside with me. We ran up the street. Nothing seemed to be following us out of the bar as we rushed towards the police station.

The storm was at it’s worst. With rain pelting our heads and winds that would sweep you off your feet, we struggled on. A row of roofing tiles slid down and crashed to the ground to our right as garden furniture rushed past us on the left. An old bicycle, wheels bent and broken by the storm came rushing towards us and we fell to the ground.

As we got back up, soaked and shivering, an election poster, hanging on for dear life, screamed at us from a lamppost. Blood came rushing out of it’s eyes as it, with an accent I couldn’t quite place boomed “WE WILL BE ONE!”Posters on every lamppost joined in “JOIN US, COME TO US, YOU WILL BECOME ONE OF US” they screamed with blood spurting from their mouths.

Veena could take no more. She ran. I cried out to her, but the storm took my voice. A mighty gust of wind lifted her off her feet and slammed her against a wall. As she was flying she screamed, at the moment of impact she became silent. I ran to her. Blood was trickling from her right ear as I lifted her head into my lap. I shook her shoulder gently, afraid to hurt her further. She came too and slowly opened her eyes. She spoke, it was no longer her voice, it had taken on that strange accent and as a single bloody tear ran down her face she said “Join us Neo, become one of us”.

“NOOOOO VEENA!”

I backed away, scurrying on my hands and feet as she rose, slowly. “You know you want to, it’s so easy, just give in, be one of us.” A quivering orange glow surrounded her whole body. She flowed towards me, her feet no longer touching the ground. The orange glow seemingly suspending her in mid air.

“Wh-who are you? What have you done to Veena?”

She came ever closer; her hands reaching out to grab me and as she spoke I finally recognized the accent. “Veena is no more, instead say Hallo to Ween!”

The orange glow leaped at me, lifted me up and filled my mind with pumpkins and monsters. I closed my eyes and my sense of nationality slipped away. Bald eagles flew, star-spangled banners waved, I saw Wal-marts and Wendy’s, Soccer moms in gas guzzling SUVs and fat CEOs waving cash from limousines, I saw the statue of liberty high-fiving Donald Trump and Oprah riding a rollercoaster at Disneyworld. In God I trusted and everything was American.

I awoke with a start.

I was sitting at the bar, my head resting on the laptop keyboard and the rising sun was shining through the windows. The tempest had passed and the Americanization of my nation had merely been a horrible nightmare.

And then I saw it, in the window across the street, a carved pumpkin grinning at me!

Previously at The Gay Bar: I, the manager of a fabulous gay bar somewhere in Scandinavia, had to fire a shift manager for simply not doing his job.

After I fired Harry I needed a new shift manager. I have always been a big fan of promoting someone from the regular staff. That way I know them and how they work. And they feel like they have accomplished something which makes them more likely to stay longer. It also tends to boost morale among the other bartenders, they get a sense of “Here I can work my way up the ladder”. And they can. But after I fired Harry I needed a new shift manager and it had to be someone new. I had only just promoted Laura and I had no other bartenders that were ready or skilled enough to become shift managers. For the first time since I became manager of the bar, I had to hire a shift manager with whom I had no experience.

“That couldn’t have been too difficult” you might say and you are very right. Hiring someone isn’t difficult at all, but finding someone who will do the work properly is apparently very, very difficult.

I was behind the bar a few days after I had returned from my holidays. Everything was starting to fall back into normal pace and most of the hell Harry had left behind was sorted. A guy walked in and went straight for the bar. He was about 25, dark haired, wore thick rimmed glasses and tight pants. He had a messenger bag slung over the left shoulder and he tugged on it as he addressed the male bartender next to me “Who’s the boss here?” The bartender nodded at me and the hipster threw out his hand “pleased to meet you, my name is Caspar with a C”. All I could think was “Does he introduce himself like this every time?”

Caspar with a C: I was wondering if you’re hiring?
Neo with an N: We are actually. Do you have any experience?
Caspar with a C: Yeah I’ve worked as a barista for a few years and recently managed a bar in Copenhagen.
Neo: Sounds good. Why’d you move?
Caspar with a C: I moved to start an education, but I dropped out.
Neo: Fair enough. Do you have any references?
Caspar with a C: All here on my resumé.

I took the resumé and I asked him to write an application with focus on how he had worked while managing the bar in Copenhagen. He said he would drop by the next day with it. Over the weekend I sat down to look through the application and call his references. I could only get a hold of the owner of the bar, but I figured that would be enough since he seemed to be genuinely sad that Caspar had left them and praised him for his skills, both as a bartender and a manager.

I called Caspar Saturday night and asked him how he would feel about downgrading to just shift manager since I wasn’t looking to replace myself. He sounded a bit disappointed at first, but he quickly came around. I told him it was very important that he understood that he had his duties and I had mine, I would not have him interfere with my work however well meant it was. He completely agreed, he would keep to his own yard work and not cut my grass.

He came in the following Monday to sign papers and be briefed on what his duties would be. He asked a lot of questions which is a good sign, it meant he was paying attention, he cared and he wasn’t afraid to learn. So far so good. Then he started making suggestions. I nodded curtly at the first few ideas, but he didn’t seem to get the point, in fact it only spurred him on. In the end I had to tell him to focus on his job and I would do mine.

We got him a work-schedule and a shirt with our logo and he was ready. Fully briefed, completely equipped to handle whatever the bar would throw at him. I had confidence I had found someone who not only could do the job, but would also fit in well with the rest of the crew.

It has always been very important to me that my employees have a good relationship. They don’t have to love each other, but they at least have to like the person they’re working with for 8 hours straight. A strong team means I have something to fall back on when things go wrong. (Things like a shift manager on long-term leave and another fired). Finding someone who fits in to an already tight group of co-workers can be tricky, but I was certain Caspar would do just fine.

After Caspar’s first few shifts I took him into the office for a chat. How did he like working here? Any troubles? Everyone treating him well? All seemed to be cake and ice cream. He liked it here and all the others had been really nice and helped him whenever he had a question. Easy peasy boobie sqeezy! (Side note: I judged a “Who’s got the best boobs” contest last night, it was awesome :D)

A week and a half later I was looking over the economics for July. We’d fared pretty okay considering it was, traditionally, the slowest month of the year. But after looking a bit closer I found some weird numbers. We’ve never had problems with the till not balancing, but this month there were both minuses and plusses far beyond what I would call a normal transaction mistake.

I checked the dates and the work schedule. What do you know, it’s new guy’s shifts, all of them. He was working that night and I called him into the office.

Neo: Hey, how’s everything out there?
Caspar with a C: Lookin’ good. Gonna be a good night I think.
Neo: Good, good. How are you getting along with the register? I know you said it’s different from the one you know.
Caspar with a C: Yeah, no, I think I’m doing all right. A few mistakes maybe, but nothing bad.
Neo: Seems you’ve been having some trouble balancing it?
Caspar with a C: Yeah but I’m getting the hang of it.
Neo: Let’s just go out and have a look at it again, just to make sure. Oh and everything over 50 kr. over or under when you count it out you should leave me a note, mkay?
Caspar with a C: Sure thing!

We went through it and he seemed to have the hang of it. Him stealing money seemed unlikely since there were both too little and too much money in the till after his shifts. I hoped it was just beginner trouble, but I checked after all his shifts after that. He kept his promise, he left me a note when the till was 50 kr. off-balance, but he might as well not have. It was almost always that much.

I talked with him again and went through the register again. No change. I needed him to learn this! Then the reports from the bartenders started streaming in. They had kept it to themselves, but now they decided enough was enough. Five of them came into my office, sat down and started with something akin to “We don’t want to tattle, but…” And then it started this avalanche of fuck. Caspar couldn’t mix a drink if his life depended on it, he couldn’t remember what guests had ordered, he was a slob behind the bar, he spent all his time talking about how to make the bar better and more effective and ignored customers, he couldn’t even brew a pot of coffee and the guy used to be a friggin’ barista!

I couldn’t understand. He had such an impressive resume and his former boss had showered him in praise. I decided I would try to get a hold of one of the bartenders from the bar he had managed. I googled the name. Didn’t find anything. I tried several other sites (national registries where one would most certainly be able to look up a bar), no dice. In the end I had to face it. There was no such bar.

I called up Caspar’s former “boss” and yelled at him until he confessed that it was all a lie. They had set it up so Caspar could get a job as a bartender. He had wanted that for so long, but no one would keep him because he either didn’t fit in or couldn’t learn the routines. I had never experienced anything like it.

The problem with bartending is that some people view it as a glamorous profession. A glamorous profession in which you hardly need any skill. It is true that anyone can call themselves bartender, but you do need to learn a little to be successful. And it’s not glamorous at all. It’s long nights, dealing with jerks and douches and mopping up vomit. It’s moving 100 crates of beer, wiping off tables and emptying the urinal with a pitcher because the pipes are blocked. It’s watching someone get over a breakup by taking out their liver, taking out the trash and taking out the drunks before they get in a fight. It’s sore backs, flat feet and cuts all over your hands.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but people who think it’s all fun and games quickly learn that for every ton of fun there’s around 60 tons of hard work. (That’s 2205 and 132277 pounds respectively for the winners of the space-race, and 313 and 18750 cloves respectively for the British sheep shearers from the medieval period).

Back to Caspar with a C. All that was left to do now was fire him, but I wanted to make sure he never pulled a stunt like this on anybody else. I called him and asked him to meet me at the bar. I put on my game face; I’ve been told that it’s quite scary; it’s just completely void of emotion, no hint of anything, just blank and cold. We sat down and he started out saying his friend had called and he knew I was about to fire him. I asked how he ever thought this would work, that I wouldn’t find out? He had no answer. I told him I had called every bar manager I knew in town and if I ever heard of him doing anything similar it would have dire consequences. He was very quiet, what was he supposed to say anyway? Nothing he could say would make any of this okay. I continued, telling him how disappointed I was, how he’d betrayed my trust, wasted my time, wasted the bars money and been an all round idiot. He started crying.

I told him to stop. I didn’t care if he cried; I didn’t care about his feelings. I just wanted him to understand that what he had done was completely unacceptable. I’m sure if I’d bothered there was some law he had broken, but there was no reason spending any more money on this fool.

Just because I was angry and disappointed I kicked him while he was already down. I told him that if he had been honest I might’ve even have taken him in on a trial period as a regular bartender, but he would be lucky to even get a busboy job in town after this. Yeah that’s right, you fuck with me I fuck with you!

So now I’m still down by two shift-managers, but for now I’m just gonna work some extra hours and focus on training some of the bartenders for the job. I have a few who with some extra practice might work out. Oh and Laura’s being a frigging champ! She’s been working her cute little ass off while all this has been going on.

Me, I am a planner. I plan things. Preferably as early and with as much detail as possible. I don’t freak out when things don’t go as planned. I adjust. This is partly why I plan. So that when something goes wrong I don’t have to make things up at a moment’s notice. Instead I have an idea of what is possible and what might work.

Now some people say I plan too much and being prepared for any thinkable (and some unthinkable) scenarios is complete overkill. I say there is no such thing as too much when it comes to planning and all the prep work has paid of more than once. These past two weeks, I find I have, once again, been proven right.

A week before I left to go on holiday, John, who was supposed to manage the bar while I was away, called me. His mum had gotten very ill and he would need to take a leave of absence to be with her. I had to find someone else.

In my mind I was already on the flight, flirting with scantily clad women, drinking mojitos by the pool, buying groceries from withered old women with missing teeth in crowded markets, that had that very specific sweet smell that always seems to frequent picturesque towns in southern Europe on market days, but I had to snap out of it. My options for a sub were limited. Severely limited. Out of five shift managers, three were away (one of them was John, keep up you guys). The two I had left were Laura and Harry.

Laura is sweet and kind and new. She’s quiet and I promoted her to shift manager to build her confidence because, someday, when I find her inner bad-ass, she is going to make an amazing shift manager and I might even consider having her as an area manager at the parties. For now though, she remains quiet and lacking in the bad-assery department. Thus, not the optimal choice to lead the troops for three weeks while the wicked witch of the gay bar was away.

Harry bears a striking resemblance to his namesake from the British royal house. He is tall, ginger, and always seems to stir up trouble. He is also, unlike his namesake, not a big fan of mine. (Prince Harry and I go waaaay back).

Harry (the one from my bar) was a shift manager when I was hired back in 2008. He was actually the very shift manager I wrote about in the Tale of Christina and The Steak. He was very opposed to me being promoted, every time I was promoted. And he was very verbal about my shortcomings (in his opinion there were many). Not really my first pick to sub for me either.

Given the choices it unfortunately had to be Harry.

I informed him of the situation and already I could see the power getting to his head. He wasn’t paying attention at all. He was busying his mind with visions of my speedy demise and his subsequent rise to manager. I’m pretty sure he pictured himself in a toga, wearing a laurel wreath and raising his arm in a salute to his adoring subjects. Ave Harry.

While this pleasant scenario played in his mind I was desperately trying to point his attention in the direction of the very detailed list I had made. This list contained emergency phone numbers, “what do dos” in different situations and also general “what must be done on which days” schedules. Things such as “roll out the bins on Tuesday because Wednesday is trash day” or “on Sunday make sure to check there is enough beer for the following week, if not Monday is the last day to order to have it before the weekend” or “On Thursdays make sure the timer is changed on the ice machine because of earlier opening hours on the weekend”.

Simple things he ought to know after 7 years at the bar, but I made the list anyway to make sure I would not return from my holiday, to a disaster area in dire need of 50 Red Cross volunteers to sort through the rubble.

I was supposed to return to work the 29th of July 2013 (07/29/2013 for the descendants of the pilgrims or 21 Ramadan 1434 for the Muslims). Three days earlier, on Friday, my phone rang.

(Ominous music).

It was Laura, she sounded like she was about a nasty comment away from crying. “I’m so sorry to call you on your holiday, but everything here is a mess! We have no more cokes, we’ve sold completely out of our normal beer and a couple others are running low. The timer on the ice machine wasn’t changed so I have no ice, the refrigerators were turned off when I got here and I open in an hour.”

I managed to calm her down a little. I got her to call Ray and have him empty a supermarket for what stock was missing. I told her I would be there as fast as I could and to keep me posted. I had been house-sitting for my parents after I had returned from my trip so at least I wasn’t in another country. Still it did take me some hours to pack up and get back home.

Lucky for me during these hours both Ray and Laura stepped up way higher than would seem possible. We’re talking light-years! Not only had they remedied the stock situation and gotten everything up and running so the bar could run as usual, they had also found the time to keep me updated on everything they found that was out of sorts.

The messages I got resulted in me calling the brewery at 5 till closing, calling the renovation company and begging for an emergency trash pickup (only managing to get them to come because one of the guys there is a regular of ours and he did it off the books if I promised to put a couple of beers next to the trash) and calling in a favor with an old friend who is an electrician who also happened to know a good plumber. All this while receiving, at first passive aggressive, then just straight up aggressive, messages from my mum (My parents were coming home that day and had a big family dinner planned).

I didn’t go home to drop off my bags. Instead I went straight to the bar to assess the situation. It was a mess. The backroom and the office were both overrun with piles of stuff. The stockroom was completely trashed; with empty bottles overflowing their bins, and liquor bottles just left in random spots like dolls forgotten on the bus.

I was upset to say the least.

My bar. My perfectly organized little corner of the world. My oasis. Lay in ruins.

It was Sodom and Gomorrah and I was forced to turn around and look back at it. As I’m standing in the rubble formerly known as my stockroom, slowly turning to stone, Ray calls me from the office. See it turns out that the fire and brimstone of biblical proportions, that had hit and left only debris in their wake, was not enough.

As I entered the office, Ray was starring at the computer screen with a very distinct expression. An expression I have seen a few times. An expression that says two things: 1. We’re fucked. And 2. Neo’s about to have a meltdown.

No, Sodom and Gomorrah wasn’t enough. For in this expression I now heard the sirens of the London blitz wailing all around me.

Ray had discovered that Harry had not been at the bar since the day after I left (not surprising given the conditions it was in), but worse even; he had not scheduled ANYONE for the next two weeks.

Bombs were falling; Ray was running for the bomb shelter, I repeatedly stubbed my toe against the wall while screaming bloody murder. Luckily the sirens were still wailing so no one could hear the choice words that came out of my mouth, but let’s just say my mum would have been horrified.

Once I had calmed down and they had sounded the all-clear, I picked up my phone. I called that sorry excuse for a shift manager and I proceeded to tear him a new one. The moment he got a word in he didn’t even use the opportunity to come up with a terrible excuse. No, instead he called me a bitch who had no idea how to run a bar.

I was done.

I fired him on the spot. Goodbye Harry, you will not be missed!

In late 2011 I had been running the parties for about 8 months, at the same time I managed the bar and had been doing so for about a year. I had seen some shit.

You know how your veteran buddies that have been deployed come home with empty eyes, and hands that sometimes seem to grip their no longer issued rifles before they remember where they are? Burning out, for me, was like that, only it was a walkie, not a rifle.

I had nightmares that left me shaking and paranoid for hours. Nightmares of what would happen if we had someone come in to the party and start shooting. Of people dropping from heart failure in the middle of the dancefloor. Of my close friends and coworkers being hurt by terrible accidents. Of ODs, rapes and fires. Horrifying  things!

The part that always woke me up screaming, and it was the same in every dream, was me, standing in the center of this catastrophe, a thousand nameless faces all screaming at me “NEO, WHAT DO WE DO?” And I would grab my walkie to start giving orders. But the battery would be dead.

(Jeez I’m gonna need a beer for this one. INTERMISSION. Okay, I’m back, trusty Tuborg by my side)

Some of my nightmares were based on real events I had already lived through once, some have come true since. This is the Tale of how one of my nightmares came true and how that would cure me.

It was December. The snow had been falling heavy all week and showed no sign of slowing down. The streets were crammed with busy people doing their Christmas shopping and trying their best to erase any hint of their body shape under woolen underwear, hats, scarves, earmuffs, boots, gloves, and overcoats. Really the amount of layers of clothes one can wear to keep out the cold of a Scandinavian winter is quite extraordinary!

In preparation for all the extra pressure there would be on the cloakroom at the evenings party, I was sitting at the old wooden table in the backroom of the bar, desperately calling everyone and anyone I knew. I was having about as much luck as a junkie chasing the dragon. In the end I forsook my fruitless endeavor. The two girls already on duty would just have to run fast. Sucks, but what can you do. Sucked for me too; I’d have to break the bad news.

At 18.00 we started setting up (that’s 6 PM for the English speakers and 2 and a half hours after sundown, two weeks before winter solstice for the Vikings). The setup ran smooth, too smooth. Here, in my country, we have a saying: “Generalprøven skal gå galt” (The final rehearsal must go wrong). The meaning of this is, that if, during the final rehearsal, something is amiss, there is time to fix it.

I am a big fan of things going wrong during the setup. And oh boy do things go wrong! People not showing up for their shifts, power failures, fridges on the fritz. Hell I’ve even been stuck in an elevator with five hysterical dragqueens. Two of which were having a feud at the time. I had just put my walkie on the bar downstairs, there was no cell reception, the party would start in 20 minutes and I tend to get claustrophobic. (Needless to say, this was one of my returning nightmares)

As long as these things happen during the setup, well, then there’s time to find a solution. So nothing at all going wrong gets me on my toes. Good thing too. I would need to be in that state for what was to come.

Despite the freezing temperatures; -5 degrees Celsius with a windchill factor of -20 (23 and -4 degrees Fahrenheit for our friends across the pond, 4.9 and -3 degrees Rømer for the fans of Danish astronomers). Them gays came a-flocking to our doors. As predicted, the girls in the cloakroom were trapped under a soft mountain of coats, scarves and gloves.

The evening seemed to shift into gear (hey I might be a lesbian, but I still know how to drive stick) and take off down the road to Partytown. It cruised comfortably past Jägerbomb Plaza, turned right on Make-out Avenue and passed Gaga Boulevard without any trouble. But at the intersection of Single Ladies Street and Tequila Shot Road it ran a red light.

Suddenly: Flashing blue lights came on!

Actual flashing lights, not in the metaphor, we have officially left the metaphor. We are back in the real world, back at the party. More specifically we are in the entrance where blue lights are flashing through the windows and 10 big men, dressed all in black, wearing black ski-masks and utility belts with guns, come storming through the door.

All my brain can manage is: Yippee ki-yay Motherfucker?

Let’s recap: Scary men with guns, wearing black ski-masks have entered a party filled with drunken gays and I’m standing there, walkie half-way to my mouth and I am lost for words. I am without words even, mute, it’s as if words have never existed and now is the first time in my life I need them.

My mouth might be mute, but my brain is spinning at a million cycles a second. “Extremists here to kill us all for our sins against god”, but blue lights? “Bank robbers here to hold us all hostage, blue lights are police, we are surrounded” Bank robbery at 2 in the morning? “Okay then they’re escaped convicts” In matching uniforms? “You know what, you’re not helping!”

And my words come tumbling back so fast a few spill out before I can stop them. “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?” I immediately clamp my hand over my mouth to stop further spills.

The last of the 10 men in black skid to a halt. He turns to me and, muffled through the mask he goes:

MIB#10: “Who’re you?”
Neomety: (Without even thinking) “I’m running this fucking party, who the fuck are you?”
MIB#10: “Security”
Neomety: “Whadda’ya mean security, what kinda security wears masks and carries guns?”
MIB#10: “Fire department”
Neomety: “What? There’s no fire! I am in charge here, we do not allow fires” (I know, who does, but remember; my mouth had only just regained the power of speech)
MIB#10: (Finally decides he might as well explain) “We’re the fire departments security unit, we handle this buildings security system. An alarm went off in a part of the building with the highest security rating. This is our standard response.”
Neomety: “Well all right, but next time you might wanna give a girl some information. You scared the shit outta me, and my guests”
MIB#10: “Sorry about that, they’re only stun guns you know”

The rest of the 10 joined their buddy. There was nothing, a false alarm. All that for a 0 in the system that should have been a 1. MIB#10 exchanged some words with one of the others and he stepped forward and apologized for the way they barged in. Apparently he was in charge. They left and the party was broken.

Broken is the only term I can think of that applies. The mood was weird. People didn’t leave because there was too much excitement to discuss. But they didn’t party either. I was mentally calculating the losses the bars would take after this incident, and whether or not we would make it up next time with all the extra guests the gossip would draw. When suddenly the blue lights were back! What now?

Well this is what, and I would not believe it if I hadn’t been there to see it myself. Through the door walked the 10 MIBs again, but this time carrying something. Their leader raised his voice and said “We’re real sorry for rushing in on you before, please accept our apology” And the MIBs put down what they were carrying: 5 cases of beer. And I, not a very huggy person, grabbed the nearest MIB and hugged like I have never hugged before.

The party was cured. I was cured. 300 gay men tried to convince the MIBs to stay for a beer, I was hugged and kissed (and fondled) by 100 lesbians and the party was one of the best I can recall. But most importantly, I was cured. My nightmares went away and they have not returned since.

So if any of you suffer from stress-related nightmares. Just go out and find yourself in the exact situation you dreamed off, 1 out of 1 people have found this solution saved their life!