Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ghost Ride [Miley Cyrus Tour Bus Crash]

You can get the details from a reputable news source, but, essentially, one tour bus transporting part of the Miley Cyrus concert crew went off the road and flipped, killing the driver. The reports I've looked at have indicated that neither speed nor weather were factors. The investigation is ongoing, but my first reaction is that the accident was likely due to fatigue.

The concert business is rife with long hours. Very often times a tightly routed tour schedule will entail an 8:00 PM concert concluding at 11:00 PM, strike and load-out until 2:00 AM, and then travel immediately to the next stop on the tour for an 8:00 AM load-in. Depending on the clout of and demand for the act, and, of course, demographic and logistical factors, a tour schedule may vary widely from this, but two to three days like this followed by one day off is pretty normal. Touring production pays per diems to and for lodging for every crew member for every day of the tour, so more time between stops increases cost without generating any additional revenue.

At my venue, exhaustion is a constant concern. While a number of us enjoy a Monster energy drink before a load-out, if I pick one up for my Union Steward, he usually will save it for his ride home, a 90 mile commute from Northwest DC to Winchester, Virginia. In cases of back-to-back shows (or recently back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back shows) the practical option is to stay at the venue, if for no other reason, just to accomodate more sleep hours.

I received a call about a week ago from an associate from a local performing arts high school. He was inquiring as to policies in place here, at my professional venue, in regard to scheduling events and time off for working personnel. His organization's management was in the process of reviewing their own policies after a colleague died in a single car crash on his way home during an extremely busy period at their own venue. Unfortunately, the answers I had for him boiled down to money. Stagehands want to make as much money as possible (this is a business after all) and this is often accomplished by working long and odd hours subject to lucrative overtime rates and penalties, as well as working on consecutive gigs, especially compensating for slow periods when there is little work. On my side of things as a house guy, my ability to schedule staff is limited by the size of my team. With six people, and only three of whom are intimately familiar with the operational details of an event, there is little flexibility to allow for mandatory rest periods. Though, in all honesty, my own driving while fatigued is mostly due to greed, or an unwillingness to compromise.

Back when I was still a young Killa, I had the unfortunate chance of waking up with an airbag hitting me in the face. I was not seriously harmed, and neither were the occupants of the vehicle I struck, but it was an alarming experience.

Currently, I tend to become drowsy very easily behind the wheel. I pay special attention to make sure I have coffee or an energy drink with me if this may be the case, both to stimulate my nervous system, but also to have the action of imbibing break up the monotony of highway driving. Is a steady stream of caffeine a real solution? No. But is the business going to suddenly change, cutting profits in the interest of better rested, safer travel? Very unlikely.

I don't have any real point to make here, I'm just talking about it. Between aggressive driving, drunk driving, texting while driving, and straight up bad driving, adding tired driving to the mix makes me wonder how anyone ever gets anywhere...

Magic School Bus my ass


Sarah said...

I think in your case, instead of feeding your body power drinks and coffee and staying up 'til the wee hours of the night playing video games, you just need to get some solid shut eye.

Killa said...

Never compromise.