21 September 2007

Archive: Bitch!

The show started fifteen minutes ago. I'm sitting in the box office, but we are no longer open for ticket sales because, again, the show started fifteen minutes ago.

A woman walks in. She comes up to the window.

"Can I help?" I say.

"I need to get in," she says.

"Do you have a ticket?"

"No, I need to buy one.""I'm sorry, but the box office is closed for the evening."

"You won't sell me a ticket?""No, I can't. The box office is closed down.""There are empty seats in there?""Yes.""And you won't let me go in?" "Well no, the box office is closed, I cannot sell you a ticket.""Well then I'm just going to go in." She leaves the box office and starts heading toward the door into the house. I hop up and cut her off.

"M'am, you don't have a ticket, you can't go in.""You're being ridiculous. I'm ten minutes late and you won't let me in?""No, m'am, the show started fifteen minutes ago, I can't sell you a ticket and you can't go in without a ticket. We have another show tomorrow, you could come back then." "My children are in there, I'm going in. I can either give you twelve dollars or I can just walk in, those are you options."

'How the fuck did she become the one in the position of power?' I think to myself, 'This is not how it works. You show up fifteen minutes late-- that does not entitle you to a free seat! And I'll be damned if I take your twelve dollars because in your head then I'll have kept the money and I refuse to have you think I'm as much of an asshole as you are!'

"That's not really how it works--" I begin to explain."You're being ridiculous.""Okay, no, I'm not. This is how it works. It's not ridiculous, it's business. We are closed, therefore I can't sell you anything. Everyone else in there showed up on time and paid for their tickets--" "I'm going in."At this point, I wanted to push this five foot nothing woman to the ground and say "NO! GODDAMNIT! YOU ARE NOT IN CHARGE HERE! You are rude and mean and I hope your children hate you! If you had asked nicely, I would have let you in right away and that would have been it, but you fucking DEMANDED it as your fucking RIGHT as a fifteen minute late ASSHOLE to get to see (most of) the show for FREE! If I could, I would slap your parents for teaching you that you are somehow special and entitled to equally special treatment when you arrive late and act rude! Not only are you not special, you are an awful human being and I hope that ill befalls you! And because you are a rude and mean lady, no one will be there for you and your funeral will be more sparsely attended than Willy Lohman's!"

In a desperate struggle to assert some power I say, "Fine, you can go in, but understand that we would not normally allow this." We both know it's a futile gesture, my pretending like I'm the one letting her go in. She walks past me the way I imagine she would drive past a pile of roadkill that she herself ran over a week prior-- she's vaguely disgusted by it, but still proud to have been the killer.

I stood there for a moment, feeling as powerless as a eunuch in a whorehouse. How the hell did that just happen? Who the hell was that woman? And was I being ridiculous? I have often in the past let people into the theatre without tickets after the box office closed WHEN THEY ASKED NICELY. Hell, it didn't even really have to be all that nicely, they just had to ask. This woman told me: "I'm going in and that's that."

Was it ridiculous of me to put up a fight? Well, sure, probably. Was I on a power trip? Yeah . . . I guess. But really: Can you blame me?* I mean, what a bitch!

*Yes, yes you can.**

**But seriously, have you ever heard of anything quite so bitchy before in your life?
I didn't think so.

15 September 2007

Archive: Hear Yee, Hear Yee

A month and a half ago I got a phone call.

"Hi, this is Carrie from Schmirch Fabrics*, Lynne Brown Schmepper** gave me your name as someone who might be interested in an acting job," the voice on the other end says.

"Oh. Okay, sure," I said.

"We're having a picnic and we need some one to dress up and make an announcement. And we'd pay you to do it." Carrie said

Even though I don't understand at all what she's asking me to do, I do understand that she's offering me money so I say: "Alright. When and where?" We set up a time for me to come in a meet the group of people Carrie refers to as "us" (who's us? what us is this? I never really found out).

About a month later, Carrie calls me again just to make sure I'm still planning on coming in. I tell her "yes," and blow yet another opportunity to find out exactly what it is that I've agreed to do. This happens partly because she called while I was suffering from my massive sinus infection and I, for a period of a week and a half or so, hated life and partly because, as a general rule, I'm bad at stuff.

Last Friday, I went to meet with Carrie. I went to the Schmirch Fabrics office, told the receptionist that I had an appointment with Carrie and then sat down in the holding area, reading all about upcoming events in the September 2005 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. Turns out, I missed what promised to be a totally awesome Aerosmith concert two years ago. How will I find the strength to go on?

Carrie walks into the room to greet me. When I see Carrie, I wonder if Schmirch Fabrics is breaking child labor laws by employing this fourteen year old child. She ushers me into the conference room to meet everyone. "Don't worry," she tells me, "there's only going to be seven of us."

Seven women ranging in age from the fourteen year old Carrie to 50ish. A whole range of shapes and sizes. As diverse a group as you can get from seven Dutch women who work in the office of a fabric and upholstery company.

As I walk into the room I hear titters of "Oooh, he's tall!" and "Oh good the costume will fit!" and "Oh, the beard will work great!" It's weird to be ogled like a piece of meat. It's even weirder to be ogled like a piece of meat that someone wants to put in a funny hat and a pair of fake boots.
So I sit down at the head of the table and say 'hi' to everyone, more confused than ever about what it is they want me to do. It was like a scene from The Office, with the party planning committee interviewing entertainers for the big Christmas party. If only there had been a Pam in the room to share in my embarrassment for everyone else in the room.

"Has Carrie told you what we want you to do?" asked woman 3.

"Uhm, not really," I admitted my cluelessness.

It was then explained to me that what they needed was someone to announce their Renaissance themed office party, so they wanted me to come in in a week, put on some Renaissance garb and read a proclamation to the assembled Schmirch Fabric employees. 'Oookay,' I thought, 'sounds simple enough, if not altogether kind of ridiculous.' "Oh, alright, sure," I said. "Have you ever done anything like this before?" asked woman 5.

"I mean, I've acted before . . . I've never done something like this, exactly, but I've worn purple tights so it's not like I'm unaccustomed to looking silly in front of crowds of strangers." This inspired more giggling.

"Oh, we won't make you wear tights," said woman 2. I was kind of disappointed. Not because I love wearing tights or anything, but because, frankly, my legs look really good in tights. I'm just saying.

Anyway, woman 7 pulled a sheet of paper out of her folder and slid it over to me and then woman 4 said, "We don't want to put you on the spot here, but would you mind, y'know, standing up and giving us a reading, maybe?" Now, in an audition (which this ostensibly was), I generally expect to have to, y'know, audition so asking me to read is not so much 'putting me on the spot' as it is asking me to do the thing that I was asked to come in and do. So, I take the script, I stand up (more titters from woman 5 and 7, who came in late and as such didn't get to marvel at my height earlier) and I look at the script.

Because, of course, it's all Renaissance-y, it's typed in some Renaissance-y font which is good, because if it were in a more readable script, I wouldn't have understood that it was supposed to be Renaissance-y and would have read it wrong. The script begins "Hear Yee, Hear Yee." Yup. "Yee."

So, I start reading the script in my big Renaissance-y voice and the titters begin again "Oooh, my!" "It sounds even better than I thought it would!" I read about half of it and the titters grew to a crescendo so I stopped. "Oh that's great!" "Thank you for doing that!" Clap, clap, clap, applause, applause, applause.

"Alright, great! That's going to be just perfect. Just perfect." says woman 5.

"We've got everything set, the only question is, how much to pay you. I don't want to put you on the spot, but how much would you normally get paid for something like this?"

Because I'm Dutch and because I've been poor all my life, and because my family ever only talked about money as a problem, I'm really bad about talking about money. It makes me very uncomfortable. Especially when it comes to evaluating my value. 'How much would I normally get for something like this?' Something like this has, to my knowledge, never really been done by anyone ever. It's like asking "How many people are usually killed in a Martian attack?"
I yammered out some "ye--err--idunn--uhm" and, sensing my continued cluelessness and discomfort, young little Carrie came to my rescue and said "How about $50 dollars?" Honestly? I was hoping for more. Not that I deserved it, but I've gotten used to getting paid $100 an hour for gigs and I thought maybe these people were just clueless enough to over-estimate my worth. And they did, just not as much as I would like them to. Realizing that $50 for three minutes of work was probably more than fair, I took the offer.

Yesterday, at 9am, I drove down to Schmirch Fabrics. I met Carrie and was scuttled off into the conference room yet again. She quickly drew all of the curtains and, motioning to a series of plastic bags and a box formerly used for stationary, she says "There's your costume stuff. I'll give you ten minutes or so to put it on. I'll knock before I come back in." I start pulling things out of the bags, fearful that without having taken a single measurement from me, or even asking what size I wear, a costume has been picked out for me. I was fairly certain that this was going to fit about as well as the infamous Cap'n Crunch outfit I wore for Schmeritage Theatre Groups '02 production of Hamlet.

I needn't have worried, though. These women are used to upholstering large pieces of furniture, so finding the right amount of fabric to cover my orangutan-like physique was no problem. The costume fit fine. And while I had been expecting something Renaissance-y, it turns out their idea of Renaissance-y is much more in keeping with my idea of Pirate-y. The inside label of the shirt actually called it a "Buccaneer" shirt. Granted, it wasn't a very tough looking pirate, but a nancy pirate is still a pirate.

Once I was all pirated up, I opened up the stationary box (by which I mean both that it was once used to hold and transport paper products and that it was itself immobile) and pulled out the hat contained therein. This supposed Renaissance-y hat looked like an Indian Jones hat with three ostrich feathers attached to it. It was neither Renaissance-y nor particularly Pirate-y, but it was most definitely big pimpin'.

I was coached by woman 5 on exactly how to conduct myself, then Carrie came back and taught me how to do a page (they wanted to have me do it so that no one would recognize the voice) to tell everyone to gather in the warehouse by the time clock in five minutes. While we waited for the right time to do the page, Carrie went and got Steve. I don't know why she got Steve, as his only purpose seemed to be joining Carrie and I in the conference room, gawking and making me feel very uncomfortable. I'm awkward enough meeting new people, but meeting new people while hiding in a fabric company conference room and wearing a pirate costume and Indian Jones' pimped out hat is about as 'awkward turtle' as you can get. He didn't even have any questions for me. And of course, the only question I had for him was "Why the hell are you here? Can't a guy dress up like a pirate in peace for five minutes?!"

So, time came to make the page. I successfully managed to work the type of multi-line phone that I send five hours a day operating, impressing young Carrie once again with my mad skills. Then, she lead me to the back hall way and up a metal staircase to a grated floor where I was to wait for her signal and then head out to the balcony and begin to read my proclamation.

As I stood there, fully exposed to members of my awaiting audience (probably the thing that makes me most uncomfortable as a performer is having audience members see me in costume when I'm not supposed to be seen. It even makes me uncomfortable when other actors are seen by the audience before it's time. I'm talking to you, John Schmoley.) I heard the people below speculating on what was going on. "Maybe it's someone dressed as Santa" one already drunk employee suggested. Apparently, she had seen my boots, or maybe the red pirate vest I was wearing, or perhaps even my beard or my girth and decided that, in fact, I was not a pimpin' pirate, but Jolly Ol' St. Nick. "Come on out, Santa, and get it over with!" Sweet Jeebus, I was being heckled before I even started!

Then, from below me, I hear Carrie whisper calling to me "Dave, go. Go." So, I stroll out to the balcony and twelve feet below me are all twenty employees of Schmirch Fabrics. And Steve and women 's 1-7 had already seen me. 'Well, dozen Schmirch Fabric employees,' I thought to myself, 'prepare to be amazed!'

As instructed, I walked up, blew the dollar store trumpet I had been given, set it on the ground next to me, then removed my hat and gave a big bow to the citizen of the Schmirch realm below. I pulled the scroll out of my belt and, as a juxtaposition to the pimpin' pirate look, I read out the scroll in my big Renaissance-y voice. Then, I bowed again, turned and left. Never have I left a crowd quite so dumbfounded/ put out to have had their precious fabric related work time interrupted for something so ridiculous.

Back in the conference room, Carrie informed me that "Everyone is so excited now! They can't believe they have to wait a week for the picnic!" "Well, great," I said. "Sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun," I lied. She tossed me $50, which, of course I will be reporting to the IRS as earned income, and asked if I needed to see her for anything before I left. I told her I didn't think so, thanked her, offered up my services should she ever need another bearded pirate, to which she smiled politely but offered no kind of empty affirmation that she might, in fact, call again and then she left me to change back into my street clothes.

'Do other actors do shit like this?' I thought to myself as I boxed up Indy's plumed hat. 'Hell, does anyone do shit like this?' I kind of figured they probably don't. But, hey, I got fifty bucks for dressing up like a pirate, when was the last time any of you schmucks did that?
Yeah, that's what I thought.

*the names have been changed to protect myself from liable charges.

**Thanks, by the way, Lynne.

08 September 2007

Archive: Braces?!

When I went to see my would-be oral surgeon, first we addressed the issue of my wisdom teeth (decision: take the bastards out) and then he discussed what to do about my vestigial baby tooth (see Impacted Wisdom).

There are three possible solutions:

1) Leave it, let it be and pray* it doesn't lead to pain, misery and loss of other teeth further down the road; 2) while I'm under having my wisdom teeth out, he can take that one out too and then eventually when the baby tooth rots away we can stick a fake one in its place; or 3) I can see an ortho, have the baby tooth removed and then pull the correct tooth into place with braces. Yes, braces.

The latter, Doc explains, is the best solution for my teeth. The best solution?! See, I have a hard time seeing that because (and I'm about to reveal one of those universally known but seldom voiced truths): Adults with braces are the saddest, most hated minority on the planet**. Adults without teeth are less embarrassing to look at.

And while I'm not judging any of you out there that, as adults, have had braces, I will say this: I hate you.


Let me try that again: being around you makes me uncomfortable. And it's not just me, it's everyone who has any ounce of self-respect. If you are over the age of 18 and you have braces, every other person you encounter feels sorry for you and wishes not to be near you. I didn't want to have to say it, but if I didn't, who would? I know it hurts to hear, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Perhaps my hatred of adults with braces stems from the fact that when I was younger my dad's mistress (in her early 20's) got braces. And of course, I had to see her every week in church with those ridiculous metal scaffolds in her mouth. Perhaps that's the root of all this venom, but I don't think so. I think that just allowed me to tap into this, perhaps, single universal truth: Adults with braces are to be hated and scorned, pitied and possibly even shipped off to special colonies for as long as they have braces so as not to expose any regular people like you and me to the horror.

I tell you, if an adult with braces were a circus freak, I would actually be so repulsed that I'd skip their cage and spend twice as long looking at the more dignified freaks. Like Lobster Boy or the Human Torso.

The idea that I might have to be that pariah walking around with metal on his teeth who's unable to eat Peanut M&M's for a year has me reeling. I would sooner vote for President Bill O'Reilly, Vice President James Dobson and their Chief of Staff Toby Keith than get braces.

Part of that may be my vanity. Despite the fact that I'm a bizarre looking man with the physique of an orangutan who lacks the ability to properly dress himself, I'm still a very vain person. I can handle knowing that I'll never have any sort of muscle tone or even sleeves that fit right but the idea that I might have to have braces is just too much for me.

Seriously. Braces?! There is no god.

* I wanted to interrupt him and say "Thank you sir, but I am not a praying man," but the way he kind of sneered when he said it made me sort of love this man. Ironically, of course, this is the course of action I ultimately chose.
**and I say that being a member of at least one other hated minority.