We were playing pool. A lazy game, where no one is quite paying attention. We were chatting, taking random shots between bursts. A quiet Tuesday afternoon in the office, swigging beers and idly chewing the fat.
...Which is why it was so disconcerting when someone stood up from a bank of cubicles we'd assumed were abandoned, and declared:
"It's a fact: I have a clinically tight pussy."
This is the story of the worst production assistant ever.
My Department is Small
My department is small, but it was even smaller then. The Vice-President of Getting Shit Done and Lady Producer were both off an maternity leave, and we'd just lost our stalwart Girl Wonder Production Assistant to a competitor. Also, Studio Unit B had been fired for being depressing, leaving us as a very cosy little team indeed.
The newest addition was Bollywood Producer, a hockey playing, beer drinking she-lesbian lifted from a competitor for whom I also used to do some work. Bollywood Producer and I had been thrown into the mix together before, and we liked working with each other. I was happy to have her on board. She called a spade a spade and had an easy, cowboy confidence when jockeying with the testicle set.
She was, however, chagrined to find herself thrown into action without benefit of a production assistant to do all those nasty, tedious little things people of dignity can't be bothered to think about. "I only knew her for a few weeks, but I miss Girl Wonder quite a bit," Bolly told me.
I could sympathize. Since Girl Wonder had gone, I'd been forced to label my own DVDs and fetch my own archives. Worst of all, on one or two occasions I'd actually been put in a position where I had no choice but to place my own telephone calls. "The madness must stop," I agreed.
"We need to hire someone, and fast. I'm going to light a match under the ass of the President of the United States of Paycheques." [ To whom it may concern: This is not a terrorist threat. Sincerely, Cheeseburger Brown. ]
Let There Be Air!
And the President of the United States of Paycheques heard her pleas, and did act unto them. A herald was proclaimed, and the call answered by two. The first to be interviewed was a recently transplanted Frenchman. He was young, affable, articulate and had a few years experience in the European equivalent of our industry (known there by the esoteric and needlessly pretentious term "gestion d'evenements").
I gave him a lift to the bus stop afterward. "Ah," he said, "you have the car European!"
Nice guy. (He didn't get the job.)
The President of the United States of Paycheques announced that our new Production Assistant was so wonderful that the mere title of "production assistant" was not worthy -- and so she would therefore be ennobled as the Production Coordinator.
"What's the difference?" asked Studio Unit A.
"It's a slightly more senior junior position," clarified the President. "To reflect her experience. But it's just a title."
"What's her background?" asked Bollywood Producer.
"No, I mean her professional background."
"She's done some work in film, mostly, but there's crossover there. In terms of skill sets. And she's a writer -- won a bunch of awards and all that, in Saskatoon."
Our Curmudgeonly Technical Director whistled. "Saskatoon, eh? You know what they say: if you can make it there..."
The Technical Coordinator, Tiger, furrowed his swarthy brow. "Where the hell is Saskatoon? Is that in the Northwest Territory or what?"
"It's in Saskatchewan."
"It just sounds really native or something. You know?"
The new Production Coordinator was introduced to us the very next Monday, just in time for one of our baffling, pointless and occasionally argumentative production meetings around the big white table in the big white office. Her name wasn't Airhead, but it will be for our purposes here today. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Airhead," we all said, and the Human Resources Human left her there.
She was very reserved on that first day. Who wouldn't be? She was wearing clothes than were appropriate to professional Toronto attire: conservative colours, smart cut. She looked young but held herself with confidence. Blonde, thick-lipped, dark eyed. Pert.
"Is there anything I should know before the President gets here?" she whispered.
"Yes," I said. I leaned across the conference table, indicating the first line on her production schedule. "Never, ever mention the project known as 'The Magazine.'"
Everyone else nodded solemnly. Airhead looked around, tried a smile. "What's wrong with the magazine? What magazine is it?"
Unit A shook his head curtly. "We don't talk about The Magazine."
Outside, in the parking lot, the lonely call of a crow. Distant thunder rumbled, and the fluorescents guttered. The beer fridge hiccoughed.
We all straightened in our chairs as the President of the United States of Paycheques strode in, dolled up in a brand new sweater-vest knitted by enslaved Siamese orphans (they work twice as fast, so it's really only half the cruelty). It looked as if his facial hair was now being trimmed into a distinctly Tony Stark-like shape. "Hey," he said. "What's going on?"
Everyone gave Airhead a stern look, so she obediently skipped over the forbidden first item and started in with the second. "So, status on Goliath Bank. What do we do here? Go clockwise around the table?"
"Okay. Tiger, right?"
"Clockwise would be over to Curmudgeon."
"I was just checking your name. I was always going to go that way. It doesn't really have anything to do with it. Are you Italian?"
"You look Italian."
"That explains it."
Tiger frowned. "Explains what?"
The President of the United States of Paycheques looked up, having finished decorating his coffee. "So, where are we?"
"Portugal," said Curmudgeon.
The President sipped his coffee and raised a brow. "Awards show?"
"This project is in Portugal?" asked Airhead, blinking at the production schedule. "But it says Jamaica!"
"Jamaica is the name of a resort in Portugal," claimed Curmudgeon with a mischievous wink.
"Okay," said Airhead, making a note.
"No, it isn't," said Bolly, arriving late, dropping her motorcycle helmet on the table. "Where are you getting this from, Curmudgeon?"
"I hate it when two place names have the same place names," Airhead tried to explain. "Help me get this straight," she asked me. "Is Jamaica in Portugal or is Portugal in Jamaica?"
"Fact one: Tiger is Portugese --" I began.
"I know!" she hissed. "That's why he's so argumentative!"
"No I'm not!" said Tiger.
Curmudgeon snorted coffee out his nose. The President waved his hands at us vaguely, now engrossed in conservation with Bolly. "Can we have a little decorum?" he mumbled. Curmudgeon dabbed at the table with a tissue.
I wondered why Unit A wasn't saying much, but it turned out he was wearing an iPod.
Help Me Less
Being a Production Assistant is not glamourous. Sometimes you format proposals, sometimes you fetch lunch, sometimes you log hours and hours of videotape containing banking executives giving lectures to one another about the relative soundness of different sorts of imaginary investments. You scan. You catalogue. You sit on hold to negotiate image licensing rights. You clear music tracks, and confirm reservations. You call to ask about technical subjects you know nothing about, and then catch hell for not having the proper follow-up questions preanswered.
It's the bottom of the heap. We've all been there.
"Do you know what the President just asked me to do?" Airhead demanded, hovering at Bolly's elbow.
Bolly slowly turned from her screen.
"He asked me to make new coffee!"
Bolly blinked. "Uh-huh?"
"Is that like normal? Does he ever ask you to make coffee?"
"Well...no. But I'm a producer. You're a production assistant."
Bolly gave her a tight little smile, but did not comment. She turned back to her screen.
"Yeah," persisted Airhead, "but I don't even know how to do that. I've never even made coffee in my life. Is this seriously part of my job? I mean, I'm thirty."
Bolly slowly turned from her screen again. "Uh-huh...?"
"I just thought by the time I was thirty years old I wouldn't be doing, you know, like joe jobs or anything. This is like a career for me, you know?"
"You gotta start someplace," philosophized Bolly, turning away once more.
Airhead sighed, then whined to the office at large: "Will somebody please show me how to turn the coffee machine on and stuff? God."
Studio Unit A obligingly went to demonstrate the machine's operation, but returned with a frown. He said every time he'd tried to teach her something she had accused him of treating her as if she were stupid. He reported, "She said, 'Yeah I want help -- just less of it, because I'm not an idiot.'"
In the coming days we all learned about Airhead's need for just the right amount of help. It turned out that, despite her glowing resume, she had never been exposed to basic clerical skills and therefore required painfully specific instructions on how to do things like finding files, reconciling invoices with budgets, and dialing out on the telephone.
"Hello? I'm trying to reach Superior Print Solutions...?"
"You're on the paging intercom again, Airhead."
The most challenging part of offering the assistance she was so constantly demanding was the same hurdle Unit A had come up against: one dared not offer even the slightest bit more information than Airhead was after, or she'd become immediately indignant. After asking people to help her figure out the obvious, she more often than not concluded the conversation by crying out, "I'm not an idiot!"
"Methinks she doth protest too much," suggested Curmudgeon.
"Oh, come on," said Unit A, ever compassionate. "The President said she interviewed really well. She must have some hidden talents she just hasn't had a chance to show us yet."
We took her out to lunch. After complaining voluminously about the menu she settled, grudgingly, on her order. When it arrived she declared both her meal and drink unfit for human consumption. She kept pushing her drink into everyone's face, insisting they tell her whether or not it smelled like urine.
"Seems fine to me," said Unit A. "I'll drink it if you're not going to."
"No," she said, snatching the drink back. "I want the waitress to see that I didn't drink any of it, so she has to bring me a new one. One that nobody pissed in."
"I really don't think anyone pissed in your drink, Airhead. This is a repeat-business kind of place."
"It's probably because I'm from Saskatoon. Toronto people hate Saskatoon."
She really did tell the waitress her drink had pee in it, and the waitress brought her a fresh one which Airhead declared borderline passable. After getting some of it in her she began to loosen up a bit. "Did you guys ever see that documentary, Our Saskatoon?"
We all shook our heads.
"Seriously? It was totally big at the film festival. Anyway, I was like a screenwriter on that movie."
Curmudgeon shifted in his seat. "You were a screenwriter for a documentary?"
"Well, just for some parts. It was filmed in my apartment, after all. You should go see it. You can probably rent it. Then you can all see my apartment in Saskatoon. It was a wicked place, with this wicked view. Really upscale."
"How did you land that?" asked Tiger.
"Oh," she replied without missing a beat, "I was banging the director."
There was an awkward pause. I swirled the last bits of beer around in the bottom of my glass. "That's funny," I told her, swigging it back, "because that's exactly how I got my start with this company."
She blinked. "Seriously? You slept with the President?" She sips her drink, brow furrowed in thought. "I didn't even know you were gay. Like I don't have a problem with that -- I'm just saying. We have gay people in Saskatoon and everything."
"I'm not gay."
"Then who did you sleep with?"
"I was joking."
She laughed shrilly. "You're hilarious! And, like, okay -- phew! Now at least I know we can make queer jokes and nobody'll get all pissy, right?"
Bolly cleared her throat. "I might. A little."
Airhead cocked her head, lashes batting. "Why? Are you like a fag hag or something -- all your friends are queer?"
Airhead then got a savvy look on her face as she nodded. "I get it -- you're joking, too! You guys are hilarious."
"No, Airhead. It's because I'm gay."
Airhead's eyes widened. "Oooh, sorry! I just didn't even think of that. I don't think we have dykes in Saskatoon, or if we do they're like seriously still in the closet or something because it's not like you ever hear about them. But honestly you should understand why people would be confused, because it's usually just men that are gay, right? I mean, the word -- we use that word for men mostly."
Bolly shrugged. "Nope. I'm gay. And a woman. It happens."
"And you call yourself gay and everything?"
"If the situation warrants it."
"Do your parents know?"
"That's a bit personal."
"Is that like really hard for you and stuff?"
"I have no basis for comparison."
"What do you mean?"
"I've never been not-gay before. I don't know what it's like."
In this same spirit of open exchange, when we returned to the office Airhead told us all about how she loved to spend her free time doing yoga. And, before anyone could comment, she declared, "Look what I can do!" and turned upsidown, simultaneously folding and spreading herself into a new and surprising configuration.
Tiger and I shared a look over the barely concealed twin swelling of her labia majora, showcased between her artfully spread legs as she balanced on her shoulders, face turning pink. In many circumstances such a look between men might have expressed a shared understanding of titillation, but not this time. The look on poor Tiger's face was more appropriate to being confronted with something surprising, unwelcome and faintly horrifying -- like watching open heart surgery on The Learning Channel.
The Portugese womanizer looked away, blushing. I looked at my shoes.
Airhead resurfaced triumphantly. "Wanna see another one?" Without waiting for a reply she performed another obscene physical manipulation.
I elbowed Unit A. "I got your hidden talent right here, buddy."
Unit A was pale, eyes darting as he kept them glued to more trivial things. "I'm not your buddy, guy," he murmured weakly.
"I'm not your guy, friend," finished Curmudgeon. "Do we have an emergency eyewash station somewhere around here?"
I handed him a sharpened pencil. "Go nuts."
Airhead Loves Doogie Howser Loves Airhead
At crack o'clock in the morning Airhead and I headed out to the regional headquarters of Japenese Luxury Car Concern of Canada in order to digitize vehicles for an upcoming animated video treatment. For years I'd been doing this gig with Girl Wonder, and I was wondering how helpful Airhead would turn out to be.
"Hey, we both drives Mini Coopers! Except yours is yellow is mine is awesome baby blue. That's so cute -- we're like brain twins!"
I smiled meekly. "Yeah. Brain twins. Listen, have you gotten in touch with the detailer yet?"
"It was on the list I gave you yesterday, Production Coordinator."
"Yeah, I saw it -- I'm not an idiot. But I didn't know it was my job to call him."
"It is. It's an aspect of the production. Please coordinate it."
The sun was just up and the shadows were long. We were admitted into the photography bay just as a gang of workers drove in the vehicles. I introduced her to the client contact, the photographer, and the photographer's assistant, and then we all stood around and waited for the truckload of gear to arrive. "Man," commented Airhead. "I could totally use a coffee. I'm just going to pop out to Tim's, okay?"
"Double double," I said.
"I'll take mine double double. Photographer? You're one sugar, right? And dude there takes it black?" I turned back to Airhead. "You might want to write this down."
"I don't understand," said Airhead, brow furrowed.
"The coffee orders."
"Oh -- I'm getting coffee for everyone?" She looked quite distressed. "But how am I supposed to carry it all?"
"Ask for a tray," I suggested.
"But what if it doesn't fit all in one tray? Then what am I supposed to do?"
"Ask for two."
While she was gone the detailer finally arrived. Detailing is auto-industry jargon for a rag-wipe, though they are a highly specialized kind of rag-wipe armed with a flotilla of different cleansers appropriate to the various finishes found on automobiles -- one chemical for tires, another for chrome, and so on.
Our detailer was a squat, hairy, oily young man in what appeared to be ill-fitting pajamas. He blinked blearily through slitted eyes as he began his task at an agonizingly slow pace. "Hey," I said. "What's your guess for how long this'll take? We were supposed to get digitizing half an hour ago."
He slowly turned to face me. "...What?"
"How long, yes? How long until we're good to go?"
"Nobody called me until like an hour ago. It's not my fault."
"Super. Meanwhile, the question I'm asking is: how long will it take, do you figure?"
He looked placidly back and forth between his rag and the luxury car. "Uh, not long. Sorry, eh? I'm really tired."
Indeed. The rag-wipe seemed barely conscious -- that is, until Airhead returned. At that point his eyes lit up like little diamonds, tracing swooping analysis trajectories up and down her slim body. He stopped what he was doing to wander over to her, helping himself to the photographer's coffee. "Hi," he said. "I'm Doogie. I'm in med school."
"Hi," said Airhead. "Med school? That's so cool. What's it like?"
"Tiring. I've been awake for twenty-three hours, and then they call me for this job. This isn't my real job, right? This is just for extra money. You know, this -- this isn't really me. This is just menial crap."
I leaned in. "Say, would you mind finishing off your menial crap, Doogie, so we can get this show on the road?"
Doogie did so, but then he didn't leave. While I directed the shoot I was forced to take my own notes because I quickly became tired of interrupting the six-hour-long conversation between Doogie and Airhead. After she'd fetched lunch and Doogie had gone to use the washroom, she pulled me aside and whispered urgently, "Why do you keep leaving me with that -- thing?"
"You mean that little troll man you're flirting with?"
"He's odious! And I'm not flirting with him. Are you insane?"
"So why do you keep chatting him up and laughing at his failed jokes?"
"I'm just being nice."
"Well, since we stopped paying him five hours ago maybe it would be nice if you reminded him to fuck off once and for all. But you can use friendlier language if you want. It's up to you. You're the one being pestered."
"I don't want to be the one to have to tell him to go away. That's so mean. He's such a pathetic, ugly little monkey."
"It's your job. Control the set. Purge the riff-raff."
"I just totally didn't think that was my responsibility."
"Now you know better."
I felt a bit guilty for being so sharp with her, but I had bigger fish to fry that day than protecting her witto feelings. I felt less guilty, however, when Doogie ended up hanging out on set all afternoon long, lounging in a fabric chair behind the lights with Airhead, talking her ear off. "Oh yeah, I do like twenty-five push-ups between shifts, you know, minimum. You might not be able to tell now, but I used to be in swank shape. I mean swank. But now, with med school, and so much driving around in my Corvette, I just haven't had the time..."
She nodded sympathetically. "I'm so totally into yoga," she said. "Wanna see? Look what I can do!"
I averted my eyes.
At the end of the day, when Doogie had finally gone home to catch some sleep before his next stint in the emergency room, I sat on a riser and drank a Coca-Cola while the photography crew packed up their gear. Airhead, in a mood to gab, continued monologuing about herself as if Doogie's departure was entirely inconsequential to her half of the conversation.
"I don't sleep, like ever," she told me. "I just narc myself out with sleeping pills every night. I have to or I'd be dead. I was on these pills before, this like brain pills my doctor gave me, but -- honestly -- I just couldn't orgasm when I was on them."
"I know some girls are totally shy and they'd never say that out loud, but I don't care and, like, whatever, because everybody has orgasms anyway. Or wants them. Like that little monkey man, Doogie. He was so horny. And so gross!"
"Why didn't you fend him off?"
"Why didn't you fend him off for me? You're a man -- you could've."
"I imagine you have far more experience fending off unwanted advances that I do. It's your business what you want to tolerate."
"I didn't want to risk offending him, offending the client, whatever."
"Offending the client? Airhead, he's the rag-wipe boy. I'm pretty sure the client doesn't even know his name."
"Yeah, but he's in med school. He's totally not stupid."
I blinked, confused. "Touche."
"I gave him my number, though."
"Well, he asked. I didn't want to be an asshole. Well -- whatever. If he calls I'll just make my boyfriend answer it."
"Did you mention to Doogie that you've got a boyfriend?"
She shook her head, blonde hair flipping like a shampoo commercial. "Nah," she said carelessly. "The subject didn't really come up."
You're My Friend, Right?
Clearly, Airhead was addicted to attention. Doogie Howser the rag-wipe was neither the first nor the last source of wanted-yet-unwanted affectation. She complained about sexual harassment but seemed drawn to it like a moth to a flame. "That staging crew guy at the Goliath Bank show said some totally unprofessional things to me," she reported dutifully, "right after I was showing him my tattoos."
"You have tattoos?" asked Bolly.
"Yeah, totally. They're just hard to see, because most of them are in kind of naked places."
One morning while the two of us were alone in the office, she stood up abruptly from her little cubicle hole and said, "Cheeseburger Brown, you're my friend, right?"
I looked up from my computer where I was busy writing pulp science-fiction about robots and spaceships. "Um, sure..." I mumbled vaguely.
She scampered over to me, drawing up a chair conspiratorially close. "Can I ask you something?"
"I'm just asking you because I think you're the only one in the office who isn't mean to me."
"That's not true -- I'm mean to you all the time. But I can be witty sometimes, so maybe it just goes over your head."
I cleared my throat.
"Okay," she gushed ahead, "so listen to this: Bolly asked me to turn the meeting notes from our conference call into a video outline, right? And I did it, and I did a really good job -- naturally, right, because that's really what I am: a writer. Anyways, so you know what she did?"
"She rewrote my outline into a second draft, and then went it presented it to the client -- even though it's pretty much what I wrote in the first place -- and I didn't even get any credit."
She paused dramatically. I shifted in my seat. "What do you mean by 'credit'?"
"She didn't even acknowledge to the client that I was the one who wrote it, and when the President was asking her about it -- another opportunity to come clean, right? -- she totally just kept quiet about everything I'd done." She sat up straighter, her eyes aflame with righteousness. "And I haven't even gotten to the worst part."
"What's the worst part?"
"You know my first draft? It was saved on the server. And do you know what she did when she rewrote it? She totally deleted my copy from the server. I mean, can you imagine?"
I hesitated, unsure how to respond to such surreal and childish complaints. "I fail to see the problem," I ventured eventually. "What would you want to keep a copy of an unapproved corporate video draft?"
"That's not the point. She point is she just assumed I wouldn't want it, and deleted it without asking me as if I'm not already mad enough!"
"...Because you got no credit?"
"Yeah! So, Cheeseburger, tell me: am I being insane here? I'm not, am I? You'd be mad, too."
I shrugged. "Sorry, Airhead, but you are insane. There's no issue here. Nobody gets 'credit' in this industry except the boss. That's the way it works. Our jobs exist in order to deliver on the promises he makes. There are no credits for anybody -- not for me, not for Curmudgeon, for for Bolly. This isn't the film industry. Credit, at least the way you're thinking of it, does not exist here."
"So that must make you really mad, right? When the President steals your ideas?"
"No. Why would I care? He pays me to supply him with ideas. And -- I'm sorry, but it's true -- nobody ever keeps first drafts of corporate video scripts. It wasn't anything personal from Bolly -- it simply never would have occured to her that you might want it."
"It's because she hates me because I'm a girly-girl and she's a bull-dyke."
"Respectfully, I think you might need a little more time to acclimatize to the way we do things here before you go off half-cocked. It might hurt your feelings, but I'm being candid with you about this: Bolly doesn't care about you enough to hate you. She's just trying to get her shit done."
"She hates me, I know it. I'm really intuitive. I just sense things about people. Like the way I can totally tell that you're a vegetarian."
"I'm not a vegetarian."
"But you used to be, right?"
"That's so weird, because you totally seem that way. I bet your wife is a skinny vegetarian, what with her homeschooling and everything."
"No, she's curvy and she eats meat."
"Does that bum you out?"
"No, I like girls with figures."
"See? That's another thing! Gay guys like girls with figures. That's why I totally got that gay vibe from you."
"I think you're thinking of black guys. Black guys like girls with figures. And, before you ask, no."
"No, I'm not black."
She rolled her eyes. "I'm not an idiot."
Despite it being a busy season, Airhead never seemed to have anything to do. We helpfully pointed out several production task that required coordination, but she would either stop work at the first barrier without making any attempts at problem solving ("So how the hell am I supposed to know how to do that?"), or find a reason why she considered the work "beneath her."
"I need you to organize my archives, Airhead."
"Okay. What do I do?"
"Each backup disc needs to be labelled with the docket number, date and contents, and then filed into the appropriate client bin."
"But how am I supposed to know what's on the discs?"
"Put them in your computer and look at what's there."
"What if I don't understand it?"
"But I'm asking you about it now."
"No, I mean you ask someone a specific question."
"Oh my God, that sounds so tedious."
"Well...yeah. Thanks very much."
Despite being assigned these sorts of tasks, very little progress was ever made on them -- at least not without Airhead harassing someone with foolish questions to the point where they just ended up doing the work on her behalf rather than endure the annoyance of being told how she wasn't an idiot over again. Even the President of the United States of Paycheques, who had seemed so impressed with the way she interviewed (or the skirt she wore to the interview, maybe), was now asking us quietly whether Airhead was a useless as she appeared.
We said, "Apparently, yes."
One day I was playing pool. Bollywood Producer was my opponent while Curmudgeon was a spectator, the three of us chatting and drinking as we took random shots, taking turns putting our iTunes playlists through the speaker system.
"I'm snookered," said Bollywood Producer, chalking her stick.
I nodded. "Now everything is proceeding according to my design. It's been my cunning plan all along to leave so many of my balls on the table that you'll have no hope of a clear shot. Suck it, Bolly."
Curmudgeon laughed. Conversation turned, somehow, to the fact that my sister-in-law was expecting a child. She had been asking her physician about the possibility of foregoing the whole vaginal birth option from the start, and scheduling a caesarian now. "Really?" said Bolly, lining up her next shot. "She'd prefer that?"
We were startled as a voice called out from the cubicles: "Oh, that's totally what I'm doing, too."
We looked over as Airhead's head and shoulders popped up over the cubicle wall. "It's a fact," she continued, "I have a clinically tight pussy."
Curmudgeon choked on his beer, sputtering toward the sink. Bolly looked up slowly from aiming along her cue, expression incredulous. I blinked. "I'm sorry?"
"It's true," said Airhead proudly. "My doctor can like barely get his fingers in there. I'm not boasting or anything -- it's just the way it is: I was born with a super-tight pussy -- like medically tight -- so there's no way I'm pushing a baby through there."
Bolly coughed. "Well...Airhead -- um, thanks for sharing that...with us...here today...in the middle of the office."
"I know," she agreed emphatically. "Some girls are too shy to talk about their pussies, but I'm not like that. I'm like: whatever!"
Curmudgeon whistled. "Whatever indeed."
"I learned a new pose at yoga last night. Look what I can do!"
Bitch Gotta Go
During our morning commute I confessed to Studio Unit A that I was feeling badly for having such a hard time liking Airhead. I explained that while she didn't cause me much in the way of specific frustrations, I found myself annoyed by her day to day obnoxiousness. I framed my complaints gently, as Unit A is a warm-hearted fellow who is forgiving and always slow to judge. Unit A would stick up for anybody, anytime.
"Every time she opens her mouth," he replied, "I want to kick the back of her throat."
Once in the office we gathered in a little corner with Curmudgeon, Tiger and Bolly to share our feelings. "There's something not quite right with that girl," opined Tiger. "It's like she should be hot -- all the parts are there -- but she's somehow utterly repellant. It's creepy. How does she do that, you know?"
I said, "I'm less concerned with her non-hotness and more concerned with her excess of bimbonic radiation. How the hell did she manage to convince the President she's even remotely competent?"
"I keep thinking there's got to be a way to break her in, to get her to see the light," said Bolly hopefully. "She's here, and whenever she leaves isn't our decision, so we've got to find a way to make it work."
Just then Airhead strode in from the corridor leading to the washroom. Her wardrobe had been becoming increasingly...casual of late, and she now resembled a stripper on a lazy Sunday afternoon more than anything else -- she was a blur of tits and cleft and cotton. "Hi guys!" she enthused, fishing for something in her purse. She then whipped out a tampon. "Sorry about the washroom. I tried to clean up, but..."
Unit A frowned. "Huh?"
She waved the tampon around. "I'm just saying I'm crotch-gushing, so if you find any blood on the toilet seat I'm sorry -- it probably came from my woman-hole."
She breezed out.
We turned to face one another again. Bolly shook her head. "Okay," she decided, her voice quiet but firm. "Bitch gotta go."
Curmudgeon was standing as if stunned, his mouth working but no sound coming out. He blinked rapidly, wiped his hand down his face, then dully repeated: "...'My woman-hole'?"
"Why is this girl so hellbent on discussing her vagina with us?" I asked. "What did we do that she mistook for encouragement? Was she raised by wolves? How would you guys feel if I took every excuse to turn the conservation to my yang? I mean, Jesus."
"Your clinically wide yang, no less," supplied Tiger.
Bolly sighed. "Well, the President said he wanted to give her one more chance. He wants to assign her an independent task, and then her performance on that will help him decide what to do once her probation is over."
"Her clinically tight probation."
"Yes, thank you, Tiger. You want to know what I'm thinking?" Bolly waved us closer. "I have the perfect project for her." She paused, letting the anticipation build. "We give her...The Magazine."
It was cruel -- but perfect!
Years ago, the President of the United States of Paycheques conceived of a fake magazine as a promotional vehicle for our company's umbrella of services. Each quarterly issue would feature faux-articles that very subtly highlighted our abilities, utterly disguising the fact that this apparent trade publication was, in fact, a full-colour glossy 24-page brochure. The covers would be at the same time artistic and high concept and yet speak to current concerns in the conference and event planning businessphere.
The President's wishes for this magazine were so broad, so contradictory, so needlessly pretentious, so ambitious and so transparently crass that nobody ever wanted to work on it, because there was no way to succeed. Every step forward on the practical aspects of the magazine set it two steps back in terms of conception, as it inspired yet more self-annihilating ideas in the mind of our illustrious cheque signer.
The project had been revived and killed more times than I could count, even in my short tenure with the firm.
Airhead was positively delighted to be assigned the task of managing the magazine. Finally, she was given something suited to her especial talents as a writing ninja and fashionista. The rest of us, meanwhile, thrilled at the thought of her being out of our collective hair for once...
We were wrong.
"What's a layout?"
"What does kerning mean?"
"Is Adobe InDesign the same thing as Photoshop?"
"How do I install stuff on my computer?"
"What's a resolution -- and what the hell is 'cyan'?"
Bolly slammed her fists down on her desk, swivelling violently in her chair. "Listen, Airhead, you're just going to have to figure some of this stuff out for yourself. There's a computer -- go to Google. There's a bookshelf stuffed full of graphic design textbooks -- read some of them. This is a problem solving exercise for God's sake! Solve some problems."
Airhead rolled her eyes. "I know there's Google in the computer," she said with a dramatic tone of exasperation. "Despite what you might think, I'm not an idiot, Bolly."
Airhead quickly gave up on roughing out layouts, and switched to writing articles. She took the notes Unit A and I had previously gathered from the other departments and spent many hours staring at them on her screen between bouts of updating her Facebook profile or instant messaging her boyfriend. One day, she started to write. Ten minutes later she arrived at my desk with a print out. "Wanna see what I did?"
"I'm kind of busy right now, actually, Airhead," I said, rapidly switching between two computers as I attempted to reboot the render farm.
"Just read this for me, and let me know what you think."
She left the paper. When I was done I picked it up and started scanning it. It was, perhaps, the worst prose I had ever been unfortunate enough to read: choc-a-bloc run-on sentences stuffed with every high-falootin' word Oxford's loneliest linguists ever conceived. Within seconds of seeing me with the paper in hand, Airhead was back at my desk. "So...?"
"Well," I said heavily, "first, a few words on vocabulary..."
"What about it?"
"Most of it is inappropriate. MBAs don't use words like 'verisimilitude.' In fact, I'm pretty sure using verisimilitude outside of the context of art criticism is generally held to be on par with eating babies. It's just plain wrong."
"Okay, so that's too smart for them. Fine. What else?"
"While you're at it, also strike consanguinous, plethora, juxtaposition, metacontextualization, zephyrous and lugubrium. These words aren't business-appropriate. The object here is communication, and nobody's going to know what these words mean."
"Educated people do."
"Maybe, but we're talking about MBAs. They're borderline retarded."
"Okay, so 'consanguinous' means --"
"Airhead, I know what consanguinous means. That isn't the point. These articles aren't for me; they're for our customers."
"So we should just lower ourselves down to their level? Isn't that degrading our standards for no good reason? What's the point of that? Making ourselves look dumb?"
"The point of the text is to persuade our customers. They are the point."
She snapped up her paper in a huff. "Well, just because you're a fellow writer and obviously jealous of my abilities doesn't mean you have to go out of your way to pick apart my hard work."
After that encounter she gave up on writing articles, too. Apparently with Airhead the only digestible response was to be impressed and shower her with praise -- anything less was an insult. She began to complain endlessly about how bored she was, and how there was never anything to do at work.
"You're a writer, aren't ya?" said Curmudgeon. "Why don't you write a novel?"
"Ha, ha," she responded darkly.
"I'm serious. That's what Brown does all day."
I doffed an imaginary hat to acknowledge this. "You've got to use time, or time uses you."
Trapped in a World She Did Not Make
Airhead was becoming quite depressed, and her problems were piling up. When the Ministry of Transportation informed her, via fine, that she was obliged to have provincial license plates and insurance, she cried on the telephone and explained that in Socialist Saskatchewan the sole insurance provider is the ministry, so it had never occured to her to apply for insurance in Ontario. Then her car broke down. She was baffled. Curmudgeon and Bolly took a look, and informed her that every warning light possible was illuminated on her dashboard.
"I know," she wailed, "but I don't know what any of them mean!"
"Did you try looking them up in the driver's manual?"
"No. I'm not really 'into' cars."
"When was the last time you changed the oil?"
"Change the what? It's a car, not a deep-fryer."
She borrowed her boyfriend's car to get to work the next day, and promptly crashed it into a telephone pole. She complained that she didn't care for his vehicle as it "didn't handle well."
Yes, and she had medical woes, too. One day she asked, in the least discrete voice imaginable, whether or not Bollywood Producer, "as a woman" thought it was "normal" that she had been "bleeding from my vaj" for six weeks non-stop.
Bolly did not turn away from her computer. Her shoulders visibly tightened. "Uh, no. No, Airhead. That's not normal at all."
"Yeah, I thought it was kind of weird."
"You might...want to think about asking a doctor about that."
"But I don't have a doctor in Ontario!"
"Walk-in clinic, then."
"No way, the wait is always so long!"
Bolly shrugged. "Suit yourself."
And she was fighting with her boyfriend because she had been caught flirting with her yoga instructor and he didn't want her to go yoga class anymore, and then she became positively beside herself with the news that she was being sent on site, to an actual show, in order to support the crew. Her indignance knew no bounds when she discovered she would be rising at five AM and lucky to get into bed before two the next morning. "That's what we do," explained Unit A. Gently, he added, "Didn't you -- you know -- research things at all before you got into this industry?"
She glowered. "This is so beneath me. I'm being wasted doing that kind of shit. I mean, I'm not an idiot!"
"No," said Unit A drily. "I guess I'm the idiot, since I've made a career of doing things that are beneath you."
"I didn't mean it like that. It's fine for you and shit, but I'm university educated."
"So am I."
"No, I mean I had a real major -- not communications."
"Oh," said Unit A, turning away from her. "I thought you were being somehow offensive by belittling my field. My mistake, clearly."
"That's okay. I'm not mad at you."
She was sent to Chicago. Nobody wanted to sit beside her on the flight because she whined too much. Once there, she interrupted the CEO of a major corporation during his last-minute rehearsal in order to suggest he turn a phrase a slightly different way. He squinted down at her from the podium, then turned to the multimedia operator on his right. Quoth the CEO, "Who the hell is that?"
"I'm a writer," she piped up from the orchestra pit.
"Great," said the CEO. "Why don't you go back to your suite and do some writing?"
"Get her out of the room, please. Someone? Pip-pip."
Airhead was furious and humiliated. Bolly tried to explain how her comments were inappropriate, but Airhead considered this point of view irrelevant since it was clearly coloured by Bolly's insensible hatred for her. "This industry makes no sense -- the smart people have to shut up while hockey-playing apes get respect they're not nice enough to deserve!"
On the way home she found herself booked on a flight all alone.
The Winds of Change
Upon her return she announced to the President that she wanted to file a sexual harassment complaint against the head of the staging company we had worked with in Chicago. She told her sad tale: she'd chatted him up back stage, allowed him to buy her dinner and drinks, then gone dancing at a night-club. "And then what happened?" asked the President.
"He invited me back to his room. Like, as if! He's totally old and gross! What a letch!"
"He's one of my closest friends."
"Well, somebody needs to have a talk with that guy. I mean, seriously. I'm a woman -- I don't have to put up with that."
The President walked out of that meeting and straight over to the studio. Bolly, Unit A, Tiger, Curmudgeon and I looked up from our screens. The President asked where we were with the magazine. "Any articles finished? Any layouts roughed in?"
Bolly shook her head.
Airhead breezed through to pick up her purse. "I'm off to the walk-in clinic, to have somebody spelunk my snatch!"
We watched her go. The President had a sour and surprised expression on his face. "Did she just say --?"
We collectively nodded. "She's...very casual," said Unit A.
"Clinically casual," added Tiger.
"But --" stammered the President, "isn't she supposed to get those banners to the printer today?"
"Oh shit, yes!" cried Bolly, running out the door. She returned a few seconds later, having missed Airhead. She jogged straight over to the cubicle where Airhead's computer sat, noting the forgotten BlackBerry. "We'll have to get the contact from her e-mail -- President, can we get IT down here to access her mail?"
And so we all sat around Airhead's computer with the IT nerd and scrolled through her mailbox in search of the printer's contact information. We found it -- but not before we'd found a bunch of other stuff, too. Curmudgeon smacked himself in the face, then slowly dragged down his hand. "Who on God's green Earth would be stupid enough to send this kind of e-mail through a corporate account with zero expectation of privacy? Ta-ber-nac!"
"...I'm like totally bored here and my boss just looks at my tits all day. Everybody loves to look at my tits instead of doing their jobs. I think he's probably a closet letch. Maybe I could cash in on a harassment thingy if he crosses the line? Cha-ching!"
"...This job is beneath me, but I'm still doing amazing work. Always a perfectionist, I guess. Attached are some examples of recent magazine covers I have designed." [Attachment: PNG previews of complex digital illustrations by Cheeseburger Brown completed six months before she joined the company.]
"...This is the set I designed, and the staging crew told me it was the most fun they had ever had building a set because it was so creative and fresh!" [Attachment: Photorealistic 3D rendering of a set design by Cheeseburger Brown, credited as art director and artist in the lower right.]
"...For your consideration I have attached my resumey, which highlights my many experiences in fields closely related to your business. I have worked with the CEOs of global corporations and have extensive experience writing their speeches for them to present at conferences. I am currently the editor-in-chief of a newish trade publication full colour magazine focused on fashion, state of the art technology and emerging trends in business. I am so sure I would be a valuable member of the Walmart management team at Walmart."
We looked at one another, stunned.
"Her designs?" I coughed.
"'Worked with the CEOs of global corporations'?" laughed Bolly.
"A letch?" sputtered the President.
Tiger and Curmudgeon began humming a funeral dirge as a vein in the President's forehead started to twitch.
Letting Me Go Where?
I was late for work. As I pulled into the lot of our quaint and picturesque commercial park I was cut off by a baby blue Mini Cooper as it blasted across the pavement, hopping the curb and hitting the road with a squeal of rubber. Staring after it, I released the brake and resumed by parking job.
"So I guess you've heard," said Bolly as I walked in.
I fumbled with my BlackBerry. It said I had forty-seven unread messages. "No, actually," I said. "I always forget to check this damn thing." I scrolled through my mailbox. SUBJECT: IF YOU HATE SOMETHING, SET IT FREE...
"Airhead's fired," finished Bolly.
"The cherry on top is that she interrupted the President in the middle of his debriefing her suckitude so she could inform him that she'd be taking vacation next week."
I did a double-take. "...Do people still in their probationary period even get vacation time?"
"No, of course not!" cried Bolly. "That just how insane she is! So she starts going off on the President about how unfair it is, and how hard she works, and how everyone else gets vacation time after a major show. He had to shout over her."
"The President -- our President -- actually shouted?"
She nodded. "I heard him from out here. He said, 'That's all academic, because we're letting you go.'"
"What did she say?"
"I can't be sure, it was pretty muffled. But I think what she said was -- wait for it -- what she said was, 'Letting me go where?'"
I laughed so hard I thought I might hyperventilate or loose bladder control. Bolly helped me back to my feet, tears streaming down her cocoa cheeks. Apparently seconds after that exchange Airhead had burst out of the President's office, scooped up her purse, and fled in a tearful rage (just in time to try to run me off the road outside). She was evidently shocked -- simply shocked -- at being so unceremoniously set free.
"Maybe they do things differently in Saskatoon," I reasoned.
"Yeah," said Bolly, "or maybe they ran her out of town."
"With pitchforks," added Curmudgeon. "And torches."
"Clinically hot torches," said Tiger, grinning.
POSITION AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY AT MID-SIZED EVENT MANAGEMENT COMPANY BASED IN TORONTO, CANADA. CANDIDATE MUST HAVE EXCELLENT WRITTEN AND VERBAL COMMUNICATIONS SKILLS AND AT LEAST SOME EXPERIENCE IN EVENT MANAGEMENT OR RELATED FIELD. DUTIES INCLUDE LIGHT CLERICAL WORK, SUPPLIER AND ON-SITE COORDINATION, GENERAL PRODUCTION SUPPORT.
PRETERNATURALLY FLEXIBLE NARCISSISTIC RUBES WITH HIGHLY DEVELOPED FEELINGS OF ENTITLEMENT NEED NOT APPLY.
The 25 Day Loaf | Schoolhouse Rock | Lipgloss Gypsy | My Cat's Girlfriend
||IF YOU HAVE ENJOYED READING THIS STORY, PLEASE CONSIDER LEAVING A SMALL TIP. A PAYPAL ACCOUNT IS NOT REQUIRED. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. YOURS TRULY, C. BROWN.