Mark Creeger can confirm that I like a proper ending*. When it comes to books, films, plays or even someone’s story about what happened at work the other day, I find it infuriating if the story comes to an abrupt stop or just peters out. It’s worse than being interrupted or waiting for the next episode. (In fairness I’m also rubbish at waiting for the next episode and find season finale cliffhangers fairly traumatic). I don’t mind an ending that leaves you wondering, if it’s been a show that feels like devouring a deliciously filling meal and you’d rather go home wondering what would have been on the dessert menu, but also relieved that you didn’t try to force a wafer thin mint.
For someone with this kind of this kind of closure-disorder, I have undertaken some roles which really preclude the opportunity to see how it all comes out in the end. About 18 years ago, we were respite foster carers for a 12 year old girl whose family was struggling. Once her situation was resolved, she permanently returned to her family and they asked for us to cease contact because we reminded them of such a difficult period in their lives. Something occurred this week that made me think of her for the first time in a long time, and wonder what she’s up to now as a woman of almost 30. This is not the Daily Mail, please don’t start a campaign to find her.
Working in Social Care, as I did for many years, this was a fairly common situation. Families you have been intensively involved with move out of the borough. People you deal with at the point of emergency are referred on to another team and due to confidentiality rules it is often inappropriate to enquire after them once they are no longer your case. You change roles or jobs rarely discover what happened to your clients. For almost 10 years I worked on a crisis helpline where each call ended with uncertainty as there was no way to monitor the outcome, unless the caller decided to make contact again. We had some regulars, a few of whom were what was known as “sex-callers”, people who attempted to use the conversation as a means of titillation.
One of them phoned fairly frequently in different guises, and always brought the conversation around to BDSM. He/She would call pretending to be someone older/younger/different gender etc and with skilful pretence would sometimes take quite a time to get to the BDSM agenda. Make of that what you will. Once we realised who it was on the line, we were often frustrated at having been “caught out”. While understanding that the need to phone into a helpline in order to act out this kind of fantasy was a cry for help in its own right, it could be exhausting for the listener. Ironically, at one point there was a big gap between calls and everyone started to panic about what had happened. It was almost a relief when the next contact was made.
When I changed careers for a life in the theatre (dah-ling) I thought I’d found a job which always allowed for closure in the story as you had a script! Hooray! Even when I am writing my own productions I have a clear idea of the beginning, middle and end before pen touches paper. Or finger touches keyboard. Whatevs. And then I started working with comedians, who are entirely unpredictable. You can rehearse a piece until you’re blue in the face, but if an audience member shouts out something that triggers some old or new material, the script is nowhere to be heard. That’s actually quite exciting (although don’t let the acts I’m directing hear me say that). Writing topical comedy is a really interesting exercise as you pretty much surprise yourself with the ending. And all roads lead to Edinburgh, where thanks to an early accommodation misunderstanding, I still have no idea where I will be staying next week. Cliffhanger!
*(Not with him, no need for the “Are you ok, hun? :( ” thing again).