Friday, September 23, 2016

COLUMN: Rock Band Redux

It's been a bad week to be a Shane.

I'm not a huge fan of change or upheaval. There's comfort in the familiar, safety in the status quo. Change, however, is a question mark of excitement. It could be good, but it's often bad, and I prefer not to take the risk. When push comes to shove, I'd rather not be pushed OR shoved, thanks much. My natural resistance to change will try your very last ounce of patience. If it were up to me, I'd probably still be in my mother's womb, holding onto an ovary for dear life.

But against my will, a small amount of change has been injected into my life this week, and I am NOT acclimating well. Plus I'm a horrible writer, because I'm sure you're now bracing for some kind of big exciting news, and I've got nothing to offer. All I'm dealing with are a handful of mundane changes at the office that anyone with a desk job has likely been though a dozen times. But for me, of course, it's nothing less than my entire world torn asunder.

First off, my boss of umpteen years decided to up and leave the cozy confines of Castle Dispatch/Argus for a new husband and new career. Why ANYONE would leave the cherished job of overseeing the likes of ME is beyond comprehension, but leave she did, and that's a bummer because she's a lovely person. I now have a new boss who seems equally as lovely, but it's all just kind of new and different and exciting and I already need an antacid.

The real punch to the gut, though, was finding out that our entire department was moving to a different part of the office. For the past decade, I've been in the most coveted room on the floor, at a desk with a pristine window view and loads of room for my natural tendency to hoard. The room we're moving to is basically a glorified hallway with nary a window in sight and zero room for needless junk. Of course, it took a co-worker to remind me that a decade ago, I was whining just as hard about moving from our cozy little room into that "horribly large drafty room with all that oppressive natural light."

I just hate change because it's change. If we were moving into the Playboy Mansion where I'd have to work surrounded by half-naked centerfolds, I'd be the guy whining about the humidity from the grotto and the weird old guy wandering around in his pajamas. Truth be told, I'm getting along well with the new boss and I like the vibe of the new work space, but still -- it's change.

So I've spent the past week having a series of small panic attacks, going through boxes, and quite literally throwing away my life's work. Okay, so maybe my life doesn't need to hang on to faxes I sent in 1996, but it's still traumatic. How much junk did I have crammed in my desk? When they went to move it this week, it broke in two if that tells you anything. Now I'm dealing with office change, boss change, and yes, desk change.

My only solace has been coming home to a house blessedly free of change. Since I knew I was facing a week of upheaval and stress, I vowed to spend every NON-working moment indulging in that which makes me the happiest, most level-headed person I can be.

That's right -- I've been in the basement, rediscovering my love for Rock Band.

When I first heard about a video game that required you to push buttons rhythmically on a fake plastic guitar, I thought it sounded ridiculous (and it pretty much is.) But then I played it, and an obsession was born. Try as I might, though, I was pretty bad at fake guitars and fake drums. But one fateful day, sitting at home by myself, I thought it would be a laugh to pick up the microphone and learn just how bad I was at fake vocals.

I can't sing to save my life, but that's not really a prerequisite in video game singing. In Rock Band, you're judged vocally by holding the right note on the microphone. I can't sing, but it turns out I can make an "ooo" sound in roughly the correct pitch when required -- but the only way I can do it with any degree of accuracy is to "ooo" in the most embarassing, shrillest falsetto I can muster. Imagine getting kicked in the groin and then attempting to play the kazoo and you'll be close. It's a horrifying noise. It's a noise that makes cats meow in concern and leave the room. It's a noise that few outside of a VERY small group of forgiving friends and housecats have ever heard. I'm not proud of the noise.

But it's also a noise that scores MASSIVE points in the game. Before I knew it, I was racking up high scores on nearly every song, winning tournaments, and wasting an absurd amount of my time and income going "ooo" in my basement. I might sound like a baby goat in distress, but in the world of Rock Band, I'm Freddie Mercury, people.

But, you know, that was back in my carefree youth -- you know, when I was (cough) thirty-five. A 30-something playing Rock Band is only kinda pathetic, but a 40-something sneaking into his basement to go "ooo" is almost guys-in-white-coats worthy. But in a week where work has left me a stressed-out wreck, it's been the best therapy I can muster. I hadn't played in years, but thanks to this week, I'm currently ranked as the #52 vocalist in the world. I plan on stopping -- just as soon as I out-"ooo" 51 strangers. As mid-life crises go, I could do worse.

When I was cleaning out my desk, I discovered my former boss had left me her tin of spare change. On it, she wrote a simple note: "Change: you can't move forward without it." She's right, and work will soon be awesome again, I'm sure. But it's nice to know that while some things change, some things stay the same, even if that thing is a shrill "ooo" coming from a basement somewhere in Rock Island. I still love my job -- just don't ask why I've been showing up hoarse every morning.

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