“Mutual decision”: The real story

So it comes to this.

I can’t keep this in my head anymore. This has been bouncing around my skull for almost 2 weeks now. And no matter who gets angry, it’s time to tell my side of the story.

First, my leaving CSz Richmond was a mutual decision in the sense that an execution is a mutual decision. Let’s put it bluntly. I was fired. Now, as you’ll see, I’m not exactly blameless here… and I kind of saw it coming… but the timing was more of a surprise than the event.

To the beginning… it started to end about 6 weeks ago. I put up a post on this blog that was… well… not my best writing. I was trying to say that I appreciated how CSzR was experimenting with what was called the “Circle of Trust” — an operations committee — but also making the point that in any single-proprietor business, it’s the owner who gets the last vote. If the owner wants to share the power, that’s fine… but at some point, you have to recognize that while you’re part of it, you’re not in charge. What I wrote, though, didn’t come out that way. And Christine called me on it. I knew, even if I didn’t want to face it, that it was the beginning of the end when her first words on the phone were “If you don’t like working here, you don’t have to” — or something close to that. I went over to CSzR after work at Anthem, and spent the better part of an hour trying to explain my blog to Christine. I don’t think she ever believed me… I know she stopped trusting me.

So here’s where I did the stupidest thing possible.

I took my blog friends-only without verifying my friends list. Yeah, not too bright, but I had this stupid idea that people who wrote blogs didn’t break the confidentiality of the blog. Especially when the person who took my private blog and made it public owns a private blog. And in this whole fiasco, she’s the only person who really did something beyond wrong. It’s absolutely reprehensible to reveal private information like that — and the person who did it… karma will get her someday. I hope to God I’m there to see it.

So anyway… about 3 weeks after taking the blog friends-only… well, I had written some rather unkind stuff about Christine, and about an event one night at “Empire”. That entry had been, to use a colorful wrestling term, “stooged off”. Within a couple of days, Christine first asked me for the website passwords — which was my hint that the jig was up — and then a week later, she asked for a meeting. When I asked what the meeting was for, I was told it was about “scheduling”. Somewhere in there, I took the suspected snitch out of my blog. But it was too late.

Now don’t get me wrong… what I wrote wasn’t terribly nice. But in my mind, it was in a private blog, where I was locking it up and putting it away so I could function. Basically, I wanted to get through “Empire”, and then I was planning to walk away. I knew Christine didn’t trust me… and I wasn’t too sure I trusted her. It was time to move on. But I made the committment to “Empire”.

I didn’t get to finish it.

So to that meeting. Christine was there — and had John with her. I am convinced that she thought I was going to get violent when she dropped the ziggy on me (somewhere, Dick Vitale is cringing). She starts reading from a prepared script… which started with “We don’t think it’s a good idea for you to continue to volunteer here”. In other words, “YOU’RE FIRED”. She kept reading from the script, and I stopped her. I reminded her that I believed that if she didn’t want me there, I didn’t want to be there. Fine, I was fired. I offered to show Christine and John how the sound for “Empire” was set up, and Christine started to say “about Empire…”. I stopped that. I believed that it’s simple — if you’re firing me, I’m fired. There’s no such thing as “partially fired” just like there’s no such thing as “a little bit pregnant”. She had clearly seen in this blog that I wanted to finish “Empire” — but I knew that there was no way I could maintain the fiction that all was well for four more shows. I hated to walk away… but it would be less disruptive to do it.

When I left CSzR that day, I figured I’d hear from some of the players there soon… you know… “hey, Rob, how are you?” “Hey, Rob, we’ll miss you!” “Hey, Rob, why’d you leave?”

Those calls never came.

And that broke my heart.

Two years as a fan, and 10 months as a co-worker… and it was like I didn’t ever exist. The Kremlin couldn’t erase someone as completely as I feel erased… and what bothers me still is that I left my phone number, Instant Messenger address, and Email address on the CSz internal forum. And (almost) nobody’s used any of it. (An aside to the couple of people who have made contact — thank you, thank you, thank you.)

So last Friday, I went to see Random Acts… I got there at curtain, watched the show, and left during the closing. I didn’t want to be the show… I wanted to see the show. And then leave with my head held high.

I truly believe that’s my last visit to CSzIT anytime soon, if ever. I can’t laugh at CSz anymore. It hurts too much. And knowing that I helped pull the trigger on myself makes it that much worse.

Let’s summarize.

I said what I said. I knew Christine disliked blogs. I knew she wasn’t real good on criticism. I should’ve known better than to leave that one person in my friends list. And I did say things to a few CSz players that — while I trust them not to repeat my words — I wonder if they talked about my feelings. If they did… well, that’s my fault, too, for running my mouth. I did this to myself, in the end. I thought I was smarter than this… I was wrong.

I don’t blame Christine for letting me go, given where she’s coming from. It’s her business, she could’ve fired me for anything or nothing, it’s her right. But I sure made it easy for her, didn’t I?

I do blame the person who leaked my private blog. Thanks. I hope you got some satisfaction out of it.

I don’t blame the CSz ensemble for anything, of course. I am disappointed, though. I thought I meant more than this. I was wrong. But I still wish all of you the best. I love you guys.

Bottom line? I screwed up. This one’s all on me.

And in the end, what I’ve lost here is something I can’t measure. I was finally part of something… and I let my own mistrust and doubts end it. And I have to live with that.

That’s my last word on CSz in this blog. Time to think about the future.


Author: Rob Hoffmann

Occasional blogger, slightly less occasional improv player/ref/tech, full-time computer techie, radio producer (basketball, mostly), generally nice person (if you ask me).

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