Shake-up at Pick-Staiger

    The stage manager enters the concert hall offices backstage and tells me something’s happened. A man walked up to the first level of choral risers and situated himself between some of the singing children, he says. The staff has the man offstage now. I call the police. Then I go meet Ronnie.

    Ronnie is in his mid-twenties, I guess. He’s thin, gaunt and his hairline recedes. He sits quietly in a chair, eyes deep and unfocused. Not knowing what else to do, I shake his hand.

    “You’re Caleb,” he says. I’m alarmed. Then I realize he’s reading the nametag on my lapel: “Caleb Melby” and then “House Manager.”

    He says he’s looking for his ex-girlfriend.

    “From the stage?”

    “She goes to school here.”

    “But that’s a children’s choir.”

    “She goes to school here.”


    “Do you want to talk about it? Or would you just like to sit here?”



    “Just sit here.”

    The cops show up in force. When they determine that Ronnie isn’t violent, most of them leave. One cop says he doesn’t plan to arrest Ronnie, he’ll just tell him to leave the premises – mostly because he doesn’t have a concert ticket. Entranced, one of the choir volunteers watches Ronnie from a backstage corner.

    As the cops escort Ronnie out, he attempts to re-enter the building. When I see through the lobby windows that they’re putting him in the back of a car, I step outside.

    “He was being a total knucklehead,” a cop says.

    The anger of the parents percolates, and when the show ends, a cadre close in on the rehearsal room. They confirm with one another that the concert staff is to blame for this disaster. They spend the evening in angry disbelief. No one ponders Ronnie or his stunt. He’s just a scary bad guy.

    A cop delivers my court summons before I leave for the night.

    Information about Ronnie trickles in over the next two weeks. His ex-girlfriend attends Northwestern, but has nothing to do with the concert hall or the children’s choir. They dated eight years ago. Hypotheses float around. Was he high? Mentally ill?

    Ronnie stares ahead blankly as he sits with his mother in the courtroom. His lawyer is bald up front and wears a tightly bound ponytail in back. His face is tanned and puffy. He asks me what I want. I say I don’t know what I want.

    “Well, are you going to press charges? I just need to know what I’m looking at here.”

    I’m not even sure he’s supposed to be asking me these questions.

    “I was just working that night. I don’t know what we want.”

    I flag my boss. He doesn’t know what we want either. The police officer shows up. He tells us what we want. A restraining order.

    “So you’re not pressing charges?”

    “No, no. I figure, since he’s a first time offender…” Shrugs.

    “Yeah. He is.”

    The attorneys flit around and spit out deals before they ever stand before the judge, and I can’t keep track of how many cases are on the docket. The judge never spends more than three or four minutes on a case.

    My courtroom fantasy of testifying fades when I learn I will simply stand beside the prosecutor when we all approach the judge. The police officer, prosecutor and I are on the right. Ronnie, his mother and the ponytailed man are on the left. And in the most basic sense, I am at odds with a man I know absolutely nothing about.

    The prosecutor tells the judge what we want. Ronnie’s attorney says that’s cool. A six month probationary restraining order for criminal trespass. That’s what it says on my subpoena. Whether the judge knows what Ronnie did, exactly, I’m not sure. It’s impossible to discern whether or not he’d care. But it’s never mentioned during the time we stand before him – about the same amount of time Ronnie stood in front of a crowd of confused parents.


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