Unable to shake the Ass-Magnet following me and Cecilia (my car) up and over the canyon, unable to see his headlights behind us as the hyper driver attempted to jam his hood ornament into our collective tailpipe, and also unable to pull aside on a winding single lane road, Cecilia did as any self-respecting annoyed automobile in Los Angeles would do, and slooowwwed waaayyy dooowwn just to intentionally piss him off.
And angling into the right lane as the canyon became two paths at the red stop light at top of the mountain, I hummed an impromptu little tune that I like to call “Please Don’t Have a Gun in your Glove-Box!”; carefully ignoring the overly-caffeinated, aggressive fist-pumping, clearly-late-for-work, hate-monger in the (likely) bullet-proof SUV to our left.
Sure it was a potentially dangerous and ridiculously childish act of passive/aggressive behavior on Cecilia’s part, for which (in the moment) I had absolutely no explanation. After all, she’s generally a rather forgiving car, respectful and courteous as much as possible, and always more than happy to believe that the Gutter Snake that cut us off in traffic was suffering from an acute bout of ‘karmic’ diarrhea and found him or herself in desperate need of reaching a bathroom. (The Germans call it “Schadenfreude”. I, um, that is, Cecilia calls it “Polite Indiana Upbringing Justification for someone behaving like a Tool”.)
But waiting in heated anticipation for the green light at the Mulholland Raceway down to The Valley, and much like an ankle-nipping Chihuahua convinced that she can out-bite a pit-bull; Cecilia revved her engine menacingly…
Ooh, the moment was intense!
Ooh, the light was forever red!
Ooh, I think I bit a knuckle. (Ow!)
Whilst I don’t recall whistling for him, there he appeared anyway; another High Horse from my stable, a reticent gelding named Temperance, hoof firmly clamped on Cecilia’s brake pedal.
And as the light turned green, Belligerent SUV Guy barreled passed all three of us in a blur; a cramped trio of me, a tiny albeit feisty Toyota with a mind of her own, and one protective pony at the helm. (In hindsight, I was rather glad to find myself clip-clopping down the canyon straddled atop Temperance. After all, the last thing Cecilia needs is more ‘street attitude’ from sporting a bullet hole in one of her door panels like a badge of courage…)
“So the Wardrobe Department ladies were all very nice, but also very specific that I bring formal black pants, a white shirt and not just black shoes, but lace-up dressy black shoes” my fellow Stand-in Brian shared, having been unwittingly recruited to be a Background Performer the next day.
“What are they asking you to do?” my friend Dev and I wondered as we all headed to the parking structure.
“Just cross camera behind the actor in the restaurant when he’s on the phone” Brian shrugged good-naturedly.
“Like they’re even going to SEE your shoes?” I scoffed (a big fat dose of Cecilia’s spunk at standing up for the underdogs apparently having brushed off on me). And just about to hop on the nearest soap box to orate at length my discontent with self-important Tools assuaging their insecurities by taking advantage of ‘the little people’, I felt the gentle nuzzle of Temperance by my side, encouraging me to shut-the-f-up, hop onto the saddle and clip-clop as quietly as possible into the elevator.
(I know – it’s amazing that all of my High Horses can fit into such tiny structures!)
Waiting for the actual shooting scripts to come down to the stage the next morning, I retrieved the previous day’s pages and fumbled for a pencil in my bag.
“Happy Thursday!” one of my pleasant crew members smiled, plopping down in a Directors chair with a plate full of breakfast stuff. “Do you have your notes?” he asked eyeing my script. “What notes do you even take?” he furrowed his brow, shaking his head, seemingly shocked that I do anything more at work in his presence than move from one piece of tape on the floor to another.
And just like that, there I stood; me as Self-Important SUV Guy, me as Self-Important Hollywood Department, and me as Self-Important Almighty Stand-In; all rolled into to One Very Defensive Red-Headed Tool.
“Well, there’s the blocking of course, where my lovely Actress moves on stage” I started slowly, in case the monkey with the banana in his paw was having difficulty keeping up. “Then there are subtle notes – is she throwing one line over her shoulder for example, that affects the Audience Switcher?” I continued gently. "Then there’s the Lighting Department’s concerns as to whether my Actress is being shadowed or shadowing another actor on camera in which case we need to adjust positions or the DP will remind us that “without lighting, it’s radio”” I added respectfully; “and naturally I have specific notes on which props are important camera-wise (and for Network approval), as well as the most significant notes from the Director” I concluded, ending the kindergarten tutorial of why my humble occupation might deserve at least one tiny ounce of respect.
“Huh. Who knew you guys interact with so many departments?” he mused, wandering off for a plate of bacon and some face time with his I-Thing.
But six hours later (on the rarest of rare occasions!), my actress signed out on a camera-blocking day at 2:10pm. And with my AD Diddy’s initials on my voucher releasing me from work I gleefully ordered a pizza to-go from a local Valley eatery.
Smiling at a group of “ladies who lunch” that were laughing and enjoying cups of gelato outside the dessert shop next door to the Italian restaurant, I maneuvered Cecilia to a vacant area half-way on the sidewalk so as not to block in anyone. And darting in to grab the greasy box of cheesy heaven that would likely feed me for the entire weekend, I returned to my car door only to be verbally assaulted by one of the ‘ladies’.
“Excuse me! Excuse me!” she shouted, Botox-lips licking her spoon and moving her enormous Jackie O sunglasses from her face onto her well-coifed head. “I’ve had to wait FIVE minutes for you to move your, your TOYOTA” she yammered disdainfully, “so I can finally get out!” she ranted, pointing furiously at her Lexus. “That’s SERIOUSLY RUDE of you!” she wailed, crocodile tears imminent if I didn’t react quickly.
“I’m so sorry!” I apologized honestly.
“Well…! OK then!” she bellowed (potentially late for a terribly critical mani-pedi at a nearby nail salon???), leaning back against her bumper in a well-rehearsed pout, comforting herself with a couple more spoonfuls of gelato.
I’ve learned some crucial life lessons this week and for that I am most grateful.
#1. The primal human urge to justify our existence in the world is quite powerful; a ‘matter’ of proving our “Matter” in The Universe.
#2. The importance of feeling self-important is illusory – no one else is looking in the same reflective mirror as you.
#3. Toyota is the parent company of Lexus.
Cheers to the underdogs,
~MC (P), aka “The Hammer”