Monday, December 21, 2009

On Christmas Miracles

For the last four years, I've written a Christmas story in lieu of sending out Christmas cards. Below, please find this year's story.

Christmas Miracles
by Brad Rohrer
Christmas 2009

“Thank you for letting me be here today. I realize, looking out, that I don’t know many of you, and that’s probably to be expected. I can’t claim to be as close to Nicole as some of you, but she has affected my life greatly. In all honesty, her impact on my life has been profound and lasting, and that’s prompted me to be here today.

“I think the right way to start one of these is by talking about the first time she and I met. Okay, here goes: ‘I remember the first time I met Nicole.’ Truthfully, I don’t know that it was the actual first time we met, or the first time we spoke, but for the purposes of this, it will be.

“It was about two weeks before Halloween, three years ago. Leaves were falling, the weather was turning crisp, and I was working as an Assistant Manager at Walgreens at the time - a job I did not enjoy at all. That day, Nicole and two of her friends came in. One of my cashiers came to me and told me she thought the three girls that just came in were stealing makeup. I went over to that aisle to check on them and sure enough, there were three eleven year-old girls, one of whom was tucking some ‘Lip Smackers’ in her purse. I escorted all three of them to the office and my manager – Ms. Walker - started reading them the riot act.

“When she said she would call the police, the two other girls – both of whom had merchandise in their purses, by the way – burst into tears. Nicole kept quiet the entire time. I remember observing them and noticing the differences – the other two girls were both dressed a little ambitiously for their age, and Nicole was wearing jeans and a Chicago Bears T-Shirt (which may have engendered some sympathy from me). The other girls were a little...puffy?....and Nicole was so thin. The expression “all knees and elbows” popped in my head and just stuck there.

“Ms. Walker was talking to them about Responsibility and Civic Duty when the police showed up. I briefly talked with Officer Slamkowski (our designated shoplifting liaison, it seemed) and he asked me what the girls had taken. I explained that the two other girls had each taken makeup, but that it didn’t appear Nicole had anything. He went inside the office and brought the girls out. As they walked past me, Ms. Walker told them she didn’t want to see them in the store unsupervised ever again. It was then – not when they were caught, not when the police were called - it was THEN that she started crying. It seemed odd to me.

“Well, I was scheduled to close that night, so I put it out of my mind. I mean, catching shoplifters wasn’t exactly a rarity in those days. Later that night, I was at the photo counter when Nicole came back in. I recognized the T-shirt, and the knees and elbows, I guess, when she approached me. She handed me a letter and just stood there. I still have that letter, and I’d like to read it to you today, to give you an idea of the kind of girl she was.

“Dear Mr. Stephenson – I should point out that my last name is spelled correctly, which is a huge deal, as it meant she had actually put effort into the letter, and not just guessed – Dear Mr. Stephenson, I am truly sorry for our actions earlier today. It is wrong to steal and we made a bad decision. I am writing to ask that I be allowed to be in the store, because I have to pick up my grandpa’s medication for him sometimes. He lives in the Heisel Retirement Center and can’t get around on his own. I promise I will behave when I am in the store. Signed, Nicole Rumphley

“I didn’t know how to react. To show that kind of maturity said a lot – not only the letter, but also the concern for her grandfather over herself. I had already made up my mind, but pretended to still be considering.

“’Nicole,’ I said, ‘I need you to be one hundred percent honest with me. Did you steal anything?’

“She paused before answering. ‘No,’ she said, in a clear, quiet voice, ‘but my friends did, and I’m supposed to be the responsible one. I should have stopped them.’

“I said ‘Nicole, if I felt I had to take responsibility for all the dumb things my friends have done, I would be the guiltiest person on Earth. You’re allowed to come into the store, but your friends aren’t. Do you understand?’

“When I said that - honestly, it was like watching a Disney flower see the little cartoon sun and just bloom all at once. She thanked me over and over, and then scampered out of the store. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that she hadn’t been worried about getting in trouble. She had been worried about not being able to pick up her grandpa’s medication.

“I saw her from time to time after that, in the store obviously. She would pick up her grandfather’s medication and usually a Snickers bar – I envied her ability to enjoy them, as it’s been years since I’ve been able to sneak a candy bar guilt-free. She always had such energy; some say it was the Snickers bars, but I believe it was more than that. She was so sunny, and just radiated optimism and joy, affecting everyone she met.

“The crux of the story comes on Christmas Eve, three years ago. At Walgreens, Christmas Eve is the busiest day of the year, and one of my favorites. Everyone works, all of the employees bring in a dish to share, and we all actually have fun working. I had to open the store, getting there extra early, because I knew the day would be hectic. Shortly after I arrived, the phone rang. The assistant manager who was supposed to come in and work from noon to 8:30 was calling to say that there had been a last-second cancellation, and his local band had a chance to open up for a huge national band that night. The opportunity was too big for them to miss, he said. I was happy for him, of course, but very disappointed for myself. I knew I would have to work later, and my plans to watch ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ by myself that night were pushed back.

“In a surprisingly out-of-character move, Ms. Walker said she would stay later, and that I could still go home at five o’clock. I was delighted. I remember saying ‘It’s a Christmas miracle’ to my camera clerk in the stockroom, and we both laughed like idiots. The day continued, until just after noon, just after I had eaten a great deal of the potluck dinner. As I was coming back from my break, Nicole came in the store. She was wearing a reindeer antler headband that would have looked ridiculous on anyone not smiling as much as she was. She greeted me and I asked her what her Christmas plans were.

“’Do you really want to know?’ she said.

“I told her I absolutely wanted to know, and she leaned in close. ‘I’m going to find a Christmas miracle tonight.’

“’Really?’ I said, ‘Seems like a pretty big goal.’

“’Tonight there’s going to be a Christmas miracle! I had a dream!’

“I had to admire her spirit, if nothing else. ‘I could use a miracle,’ I told her, ‘when and where is this dramatic event taking place?’

“’You don’t believe me,’ she said, frowning, ‘but I’m going to be at Staton Hills Park tonight, and I’m going to find my Christmas miracle!’

“’I’m think I’ve had my miracle of the day,” I told her, thinking about Ms. Walker staying late, ‘but I hope you find yours. In case you don’t, though, let me buy you your Snickers bar today.’

“She left the store, waving to the clerks as she did. I remember chuckling at that, as much for my appreciation of her belief than anything. At that time, I did need a miracle. I dreaded coming to work every day, I felt like I was wasting my life in a job that brought me zero joy. My personal life was a mess; I had no faith and interest in any kind of...well, any kind of anything. I was quick to be cynical and make a snarky joke about others - I was generally a miserable person. In that particular Christmas season, I think I out-Grinched the Grinch. At least on the inside.

“Shortly after that, Ms. Walker called me into the office, saying she wasn’t feeling well. I asked her what was wrong, and she said she hadn’t eaten much, just the Christmas tamales one of the pharmacy techs had brought in. She got incredibly sick and ended up going home for the day and, in fact, missing several days of work. And yes, I was concerned for her, but I was also disappointed that I would, in fact, be staying until 8:30 that night. I was silently grateful for my bland diet, which led to me skipping the tamales.

“I made it through the rest of my work day, surviving on the four different types of brownies my employees had brought in. I left the store just before 8:30, intent on going home after a fourteen-and-a-half hour day.

“As I was leaving, one of my neighbors came in and said that a pipe had burst on one of the main roads, and that I would need to take a different route home. He ran a carpet-cleaning business, and so had been called in for an emergency basement cleaning in one of the affected houses. He had also talked with one of the city guys working on the pipe fix and they said they had no idea what had caused the pipe to burst, as the weather was cold, but not THAT cold. I thanked my neighbor and headed home. At that point, I just wanted to not be around people at all.

“I drove away from work that night, and my mood got worse and worse. What else could go wrong for me? From an exhausting day of work to people not showing up to my boss getting sick to this stupid detour on my way Christmas Eve plans, no Christmas cards from old friends, no mistletoe kisses, no family to celebrate Christmas morning with...what was so special about Christmas anyway? Just a holiday where you spend money you don’t have on people you don’t like for gifts they don’t want.

“I was so mired in my self-pity and anti-Christmas sentiments I hadn’t been paying attention to much else. And sure enough, as I was a little over halfway home, my car ran out of gas. Once I figured out what had happened, I got so angry at myself for letting it happen. My plan had been to buy gas and a lottery ticket on the way home, because I figured a story where a down-and-out loser won the lottery on Christmas would make for a good TV movie some time in the future. With the freak pipe burst and detour, I had forgotten all about it.

“I was about as low as I could get at that point. My head dropped against the steering wheel and I thought about everything that had gone wrong over the past few weeks – even years. I have never felt so low, never felt so alone. I prayed out loud for the first time I could remember at that moment, begging God for help, begging for a miracle. I actually said it out loud. I actually asked for a miracle.

“It was then that I remembered Nicole’s words, that a Christmas miracle would happen that night. I looked out my car window and realized that I was just one street over from Staton Hills Park. I tried to start my car, hoping against hope that ‘a car starting with no gas’ would be the miracle she had talked about. No such luck.

“I thought that maybe I could borrow Nicole’s phone to call for a ride. I locked my car and walked down the street, thinking about how ridiculous this was – trying to borrow an eleven year-old’s cell phone on Christmas Eve IF she had even been allowed out of the house for her supposed ‘miracle.’ It’s a ridiculous concept, I’ll grant you that.

“There wasn’t much to see from the street, so I went down the hill into the park. As I got nearer to the lake, I heard people talking, so I headed toward them. As you may have guessed by now, Nicole was one of those people. She was with her grandfather, Mason, who was bundled up in a wheelchair, and someone else. Nicole saw me approaching and fair to flew toward me.

“’Mr. Stephenson! You came!’ The joy on her face was a real thing. It was unguarded, unbelievable, really. ‘We’re waiting by the water for our miracle!’

“She dragged me by the arm to the other two people. I had seen her grandfather in the store a few times over the years and he greeted me as only grandfathers can. Then Nicole introduced me to the other person; her name was Mary, and she was the most beautiful woman I had ever met. I stumbled through my greeting and tried to figure out who she was in the scheme of things. Nicole saved me at that point and said that she was ‘Grandpa’s Replacement Nurse.’

“As Nicole and Mason headed closer to the water, I struck up a conversation with Mary. I learned she had moved to town a month before and just started her job. She said she was surprised that she had gotten a job as a home care nurse so quickly, claiming it as – and I’m not making this up – a miracle.

“Well, people get jobs all the time, so I didn’t really consider it an actual miracle. Then she told me she hadn’t been assigned to work that day, but got called in when Mason’s regular nurse got sick from eating some bad tamales.

“That seemed odd to me, but coincidences happen. I’m sure there are people who couldn’t be here today who don’t know each other who got sick because of similar things. It happens, right? I asked her what she had been planning on doing that night and her eyes – beautiful eyes, by the way – watered. She told me her family was still ‘back at home’ and that she was planning on calling them and watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ while on the phone with them after her shift ended with Mason.

“For those of you keeping track, that’s her having this particular job, on this particular night, for this particular reason, and we shared similar plans for the evening (minus the phone call on my end). I stayed at work much later than intended because of a rock concert and unexplained illness – then, because of an unexplainable pipe burst, I had to take a different route home, running out of gas one street away from a park where I knew people would be. This could all be dismissed as coincidence. Improbable, yes...but not impossible.

“What happened next, though...a man was walking through the park, singing ‘All I Want for Christmas is You.’ I remember because one of my friends has her cell phone ringtone set as that all year. He was carrying something, although we couldn’t tell what. He came up to us and said that he had been at Starbucks and they had messed up his order, giving him hot chocolates when we wanted something much fancier. He asked us if the four of us would like cups of hot chocolate for Christmas. We gratefully accepted – the man, whose name I never learned – mentioned that one of the hot chocolates was sugar-free, which was perfect for Mason’s diabetes. So...four free cups of hot chocolate, for four people, on Christmas Eve.

“As we sipped our hot chocolate – the perfect kind, mit schlag – Mary and I talked while Mason and Nicole looked for Christmas stars. And we continued to talk. When Nicole was practically asleep on Mason’s lap, we decided to go. Nicole apologized to me for not seeing a miracle and I didn’t say anything. Just as we got ready to leave, fireworks burst into the air over the lake. Some kids on the other side were trying to light up the sky to find Santa, I’m told, but for a moment, as those red and green bursts of light filled the sky, I felt it was the perfect moment in a life filled largely with imperfect moments. Nicole’s face lit up just as bright as those fireworks, and Mason called out that it was a Christmas miracle! We all hugged one another and I can’t begin to describe how right everything felt.

“Yes, there certainly was a miracle in the works that night. Not the fireworks or hot chocolate, no. As some of you have probably guessed, Mary and I started seeing one another shortly after that. We were married before the next Christmas. I’ve never met a woman like her, and I owe it all to Nicole’s belief in Christmas miracles. To her faith, which was such a large part of the events that led me to that park that night. Now, Mary couldn’t be here today, as she’s home taking care of our little twin miracles, but I know she sends her prayers to family members and close friends.

“When I got the news of Nicole’s passing, I was stunned. To think that one so young, so bright, with her entire future before her could be gone just like that...

“I’m not going to pretend to understand why Nicole had to be taken from us. If I could borrow from Kermit the Frog (with an assist from Charles Dickens), ‘Life is full of meetings and partings; that is the way of it. I am sure we shall never forget Nicole, or this first parting that there was among us.’

“I firmly believe that Nicole is heaven, probably assisting with Christmas miracles for other people, and we’ll meet again sometime, and I can thank her for the miracle that changed my life.

“Some of you may be scoffing at my talk of miracles, citing the fact that each of the individual circumstances can be easily explained. This is true; everything that happened had a rational reason behind it. All of the things that led to my meeting Mary were improbable, not impossible. But I ask you this: how many improbable events have to line up for something to be impossible, for something to be miraculous? I look at all the little events that led me to Staton Hills Park that night, and I am amazed at how many different things had to be in place in order for each of us to be there at that time. And then, once we met, the hot chocolate, the fireworks...

“The temptation to be cynical is present, I’m sure. Faith is often mocked by people who fancy themselves educated, and I understand that. I’m not asking any of you to share the belief in the miracle. I am, however, asking you to be on the lookout for your own Christmas miracle. Maybe it won’t be a big thing, perhaps something as simple as finding a stamp for your last Christmas card when you think you’ve run out, or finding an ornament you thought the dog ate, or even just realizing how lucky you are to spend Christmas with your loved ones.

“I’ll also encourage you to be a miracle for someone else – even something as simple as letting someone else have that parking spot closest to the mall entrance, or donating clothes and food to those in need. There are many, many ways that you can do something wonderful this winter. I truly hope you can be a part of a miracle yourself this year.

“Thank you for your time, and Merry Christmas.”

Friday, October 30, 2009


I used to love Halloween, with the exception of the time I wrote about last year. Getting older, however, has sucked much of the fun out of it for me.

SPOOKY STUFF - I've never been a spooky kind of guy. As a kid, I was absolutely TERRIFIED of "Large Marge" in the movie Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, so I never graduated to the Friday the 13ths, the Nightmare on Elm Streets, or the, uh, Halloweens. I can handle It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but that's about it. [Yet I love Stephen King's books. Weird.]

CANDY - Let me get this out in the open: I would eat nothing but candy if I could. I just stared at the keyboard for fifteen minutes trying to figure out what my favorite candy bar is, and I couldn't come to a solution. So naturally, as candy was a large part of the Halloween experience, you'd think I'd still be all for it. Nope. I know that I have an appetite that has trouble limiting eating one candy bar often leads to eating MANY candy bars, which leads to weight gain, guilt gain, and diabetes gain. So I've cut the candy out of Halloween. I hate getting old.

COSTUMES - I have also never been a big dress-up kind of Halloweener. As a kid, my costumes weren't excessively elaborate - I just threw on a Joe Montana jersey and called myself a football player. In middle school, I threw on a hockey jersey (despite my lack of hockey-related skill or experience...or ice skating know-how, for that matter) and called that a costume. So the dressing-up part of Halloween doesn't appeal to me. And yes, I enjoy the prospect of attractive women dressing up in revealing clothing as much as (or more than) the next guy, but working with college students makes me feel very parental to many of them. It's to the point where I want to stop them before they leave the building and make them go put on a jacket or something.

EVIL - Well, I'll still have a devil's seance ouija party in the cemetery and summon some Lovecraftian monstrosity tomorrow. It is Halloween, after all.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I had a topic I was going to write about today ("On Making Moves,") but chickened out, as I know family members read this occasionally. I guess I live in a world where I don't want my mom reading how the new Weezer single impacts my move-making strategy.

It's a challenge for me, balancing honesty (which is important) with appropriateness (which I evaluate as "appropriate for my family"). For example, our Mexico City Standoff Video, filmed in the spring, has two F-bombs in it. I don't say them, I didn't write them, but still felt very odd showing the video to my parents. In the new video (due next week!), my character has a few off-color lines. I don't want my family seeing that, either.

As I was waiting for the director and DP to show up yesterday, I realized how my life is basically somewhere between the character Bradley Stevenson (featured in LAST summer's video, as well as the one that's due next week) and the stage name of Brad Roar! (exclamation point not my idea) Truthfully, I'm not 100% the conservative fun-hating always-for-decency person that Bradley Stevenson is. I'm also not the up-for-anything-on-stage performer that Brad Roar! is supposed to be (During any of our "Naughty Bits" shows, I was just as R-Rated as anyone, if not more so). Speaking of performing, I was always very nervous about my parents seeing me perform in Chicago, as I had no control over the topics the group explored. Working in a PG-13 group has relaxed my anxieties on that front.

In any event, I always feel like I'm holding back with one side of my personality or the other. I use very conservative terminology (or skip stories entirely) in my weekly update so as not to offend my Arkansas friends or make them think less of me (the reaction when I described a girl as "cute...but possibly a stripper" was much stronger than I thought it would be). Conversely, I am loath to speak to my less-conservative friends about ways in which their lives could be less...controversial (although I'm honestly having a hard time thinking of examples right now, as my less-conservative friends are typically more live-and-let-live - I guess I did get a fair amount of grief when I decided not to date a girl because of differing religious views [among other things]).

The truth is that I'm somewhere between Bradley Stevenson and Brad Roar! As I strive to live with more congruity between thoughts and actions (and words), I know there's going to be moments of discomfort as I try and figure out how to express myself in a manner that is both honest and appropriate and, every once in a while, actually entertaining. Also, that Weezer song is great.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Today is officially my three-year anniversary at work. Why, it seems like just yesterday I spent the morning filling out forms with HR, then half of the afternoon reading the RD manual, then the rest of the day looking up funny videos on Youtube. (If I were a lesser man, I would make a smarmy joke here - something along the lines of "Oh wait - that WAS yesterday!" and the laugh track would kick in.) As it turns out, due to union rules, I received tenure today.

I'm not entirely sure what tenure is/does. I'm told that if I'm going to be fired, I have to be fired for cause (for example, the school can't just decide to not renew my contract). As I've gotten good evaluations each year I've been here, I wasn't worried about my contract not being renewed. I figure if I get fired for cause, it's going to be "for cause." I'm going to earn that firing.

I was actually unsure about working here in the first place. They said it was a one-year contract, and at the time I was still set on getting into a doctorate program after a year. I took the job and started looking for new ones almost immediately (about a week after I started here, a job opened up at UC-Santa Barbara, which seems VERY appealing when the weather turns cold). And despite my efforts to find another job, nothing has worked out just yet.

Not that it's been all doom and gloom. I've met some great people, both within the position and outside of it. Obviously, none of that would have happened had I bolted after one year. There would be no Bradley Stevenson jokes, the best man speech at Wes and Retha's wedding would have been a little different, and who knows what would have happened with improv stuff?

Aside from what-ifs, I never thought I would be tenured in an entry-level job. I had four years of management experience coming into the position, and saw it as a transitory thing, a brief stopping point before moving into a mid-level job. I'm ready to move on, as I wrote about a month ago, but today is a day of realization for me - that three years and one week ago, the Bears beat the Cardinals on a Devin Hester punt return.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


As you may have heard, President Barack Obama recently was announced as the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. This caused some consternation, as many people felt he hadn't done enough to warrant the award. I made an offhand joke about me winning the "Nobel Pizza Prize" on my Facebook page. While it's not a good joke per se, people know I love pizza, and several people clicked that they "liked" it. For reasons beyond my ken, I simply BASKED in those likes. I was like Demi Moore's character in the movie Indecent Proposal, just rolling around in "likes." All this, and only FOUR people actually liked it. The feedback meant that much to me. (My other analogy was comparing myself to a puppy having its belly rubbed. For some reason, the Demi Moore one just seems more appropriate).

Several months ago, a friend cautioned me against being "needy." My complaint that I put a lot of work in writing an update and didn't get much back prompted her caution. I respect her opinion, and have been trying to NOT be needy, and just accept that not everyone either likes what I do or has time to provide feedback. That's okay. I get that.

Still, part of me thrives on people liking what I do. I love having big audiences for improv shows and making them laugh. I'm okay with having small audiences, as long as they laugh. I'm always pleasantly surprised when someone I don't know says they enjoy the podcast or the Bradley Stevenson character from my work with Senior Discount (new video coming soon!). And feedback from my best man speeches - to have a stranger come up to me and say how much they enjoyed it - that meant a LOT to me. (I expected my friends to laugh. They are comfortable with my sense of humor, and are generally more supportive).

Ultimately, I know that I can't rely on other people's feedback to tell me what I'm doing is good or bad. It's an internal thing, and I need to keep plugging along, doing work (comedically or otherwise) that I think is good, and let the universe sort out its quality on its own. But still, every once in a while, like everyone else (I imagine), I like to hear I'm doing a good job.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


It is always a tiny surprise to me that music can evoke such powerful memories. Flash back with me, if you will, to Christmas break of 1998-99. I had received the three "Lord of the Rings" books for Christmas. I had also purchased two CD's from the punk rock label "Fat Wreck Chords," one of which was Tilt's "'Til It Kills." I read all three of the books while home over break WHILE listening to the CD's. And some of the lyrics went well with the books - the song "Acathisia," for example, has a line that reads "I got these shoes for nothing/And they have lasted me forever/Searching up and down the lost highway."

To this day, I hear that song and can't help but think of Frodo and his friends - this was before the movies, so I call on my own image of what the characters looked like. (Truthfully, they look a little more cartoony in my mind.)

It doesn't end with music and fictional characters, though. Whenever I hear the Bush song "Glycerine," I think of my friend Bob. We worked together at a pizza place as teenagers and would joke about Glycerine being "our song," and we would faux-slow-dance around the kitchen when it came on the radio. Bob died in a car accident in 2000, so hearing that song unexpectedly always makes me think of him and smile (one of my favorite Bob jokes was the classic "If your parents got divorced, would they still be considered brother and sister?") It makes perfect sense that that particular song would evoke memories of that specific person.

Recently, however, the music-mind link seems to be getting out of control. The band The Airborne Toxic Event has a song called "Sometime Around Midnight." The theme of the song seems to be that the protagonist (the song is written in second-person) loved a woman who has gotten away, then he sees her at a bar, so he gets drunk and acts foolish (I'm oversimplifying). I shouldn't relate to much of the song - I don't drink, for one.

When the song comes on, though, I get a very clear image of a friend of mine in Los Angeles. I don't know why I think of her - don't get me wrong, she's worthy of pining over, she's certainly as enchanting as the unnamed girl in the song - but this particular song has no connection to us at all. I've spent no time with her when this song was playing, so it's not like it's a special part of our friendship. Lyrically, she's never left a bar with another guy when I was there, I've never made a drunken scene about her leaving said bar, we were never romantically involved at all (though I've always thought she was beautiful). So there is absolutely no rational reason for her to pop into my mind when I hear the song (and as the song is on my playlist at the creatively-named, it's fairly often).

Nevertheless, the song evokes her pretty completely in my mind - and I don't understand why. The only rationale - honestly, the only one - is that the song starts with "And it starts/Sometime around midnight," and my LA friend is the only person I know cool enough to start her social life around midnight. That's it - that's the only reason. Is it a weak and possibly specious link? Probably. Am I impressed with my use of "specious?" You'd better believe it. Did I just look up "specious" to make sure I used it mostly correctly? Absolutely.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I've been thinking a lot about group formation lately. Two aspects of my life come to mind - work and improv.

In both situations, I am blessed to be working with people who have strengths different from my own. At work, there are people who are strong in terms of programming, or developing relationships with their RA's. In improv, perhaps people are better singers (there are no worse singers in our group than me) or people can be counted on to be more "out there" in terms of developing characters, always making unconventional choices.

At work, the leadership is obviously directed for us. We know who reports to whom. In some situations, however, someone has to step up and run the show, so to speak. We just had an interview with a candidate in which only the RD's participated. I happened to be sitting nearest the candidate and so started things off. As the candidate delivered one of his answers, I found myself wondering if the rest of the room resented me for running the interview. It's not an intentional thing on my part - I just wanted it to get done. No one said anything to me, but maybe I'll wait to see how tomorrow's interview goes before asking everyone how they feel. It's just that I've been here the second-longest (tenured on Friday) and think that with great seniority comes great responsibility...just like Spider-Man Senior said.

Improv is different. While our rehearsals are run by our director, everyone else kind of chips in for the rest of what we need to do. We all try to book shows, we all work on publicity, we all try to support the group. The only problem is that when something falls through the cracks, no one notices. It's a frustrating thing, and certainly one we all have to work on, but it's the nature of a communal approach. And certainly from the business side (as opposed to the creative side) of the group, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. I created most of the press kit for the group, as well as a program that we have apparently not given out in a while. Hmmm.

I don't know that I have any huge, glaring weaknesses in either aspect of my life. Lest you think me vain, I don't have any huge glaring strengths either. Let me put it another way: in the game "Mario Kart" for the Super Nintendo, different drivers were good at certain things and less good at other things (for example, Donkey Kong had a high top speed but low acceleration). The Mario character was balanced - not exceptional, but also not deficient in anything. If life is the SNES Mario Kart, I'm Mario.