Next Person On Line

“So what are you doing with your life? Where are you going?”

To wit, this question was asked by neither my therapist, nor my parents, nor myself in some self-pitying blog-worthy gesture, but rather by the security guard at my work.

It had gotten to that level, I suppose, where even people relatively uninvolved with my life were trying to figure out what the fuck I was doing with it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have much insight for him, as I played my PSP half-attentively in the subterranean break room of my movie theater.

“Acting?” I suggested, with a question mark. “Auditioning for things? Seeing what sticks?”

“What about school? Are you done with it?”

Again.

“I graduated.” I replied.

“That’s not what I asked.” He said. “Are you done with it?”

“Well, I don’t really see what the point is.” I told him.

“Well why do people go back to graduate schools?”

“Plenty of reasons.” I said. “To be a teacher, if that’s what they like. To write a book, or something. To avoid life.”

“You ever thought about teaching?”

“I’ve taught.”

“Who?”

“High school kids. Summer camp.”

“What you think?”

“The kids are good. It’s energizing. But I don’t think I fit well into that sort of structure. The people above me… that’s why I’m acting, I guess now.”

He nodded.

For my job, all I had to do was put on a polo shirt and some holey black pants I got at K-Mart, but the guard has to put on a suit.

He adjusted his blazer in the long mirror of the break room.

“Well, I think if you’re acting, going in there, you ought to give them what they want.”

“Uh-huh.” I said over PSP.

“If you going to audition in for Superman, don’t be slumping on in there.”

He illustrated with his take on a slumping Superman.

“Lift yourself high and nice, like this.”

“I dunno.” I told him. “What I always heard are most people are the same and so I might as well just be me.”

“Huh.” He replied. “Well, that’s what that is. But at least bring the you that’s right.”

“Here.” He asked, coming over. “Would you mind fixing my collar? I can’t fix it, see the back of it, in the mirror.”

I folded it over with some care, tight around his neck.

“Thank you” he said and waited awhile before leaving the room for work.

***

I found out that day I didn’t get the promotion I wanted at work. A manager told me they had “plans” for me and asked if I was upset.

I wasn’t so much, they picked a good guy who deserved it, though I felt like quite the asshole for trying so hard to be promoted in the first place.

I guess that’s what co-worker Scoops McKenzie (Andy Roehm) had been trying to tell me for a while.

I had also discovered that the best way to deal with customers in the coffee-making portion of my job was to act like they weren’t human beings, a sentiment that I noticed to my alarm, had been turning me into a complete douchebag.

To be fair, as I’d described to managers and co-workers alike, the level of service demanded in the cafe portion of the theater was unlike serving popcorn or taking a ticket. When people go to a movie theater, they expect to be handed a bag or hear the words “theater x” and that’s about it.

When they go to a cafe, they’re pampering themselves with deserts, treats, things to relax. In turn, they also want to be pampered by the cafe-worker, the person who makes their drink to specifics, who heats their quiche, who scoops their ice cream. They expect me to tolerate them hovering not knowing what they want, or changing their minds mid-order. They yell at me like there’s something I can do about the (over)cost of the items I vend.

It took its toll.

I had gotten pissed off when a co-worker filled out a form wrong, I required ticket checks for using the bathroom I had buzzer control over, I even got pissed off at Andy over nothing at all. It scared me and what scared me more was that I’d have to do it again.

Was there some middle ground between the abused-Jekyll and the abusive-Hyde of a cafe worker?

Unclear.

At least Eva commiserated, whom I remembered vividly back in her barista days coming over with a coffee-brown swirl of customer-gripes to unload about her job and her co-workers.

At the time, that long ago, I can remember feeling powerless, just trying to accept what she said, without really understanding it and wondering what in her could be so hurt.

Fool, I was.

Now when I saw Eva, even the warmth she instilled in me wasn’t enough to innocuate me through my shift.

I guess we’ll see if I get number, or at least more able to cope.

***

I was in the Meatpacking district when I found this.

I was there twice actually, once for an audition and once for a callback and you could say the slice was my lucky charm.

I was cocky when I went in the first time and thought I’d get a callback, when I unbuttoned my shirt by three buttons during an improv scene and tried to make the woman playing a middle-aged mother touch my nipple without asking her.

I did and I even got a “first reject” which, believe it or not, is apparently a good thing.

However, I think I got too dark in the call-back when asked to improv a slideshow, I started describing the different stains on my bed. (“The least commercial thing possible.” Eva later commented.)

“Can you be a little less… creepy?” The director asked me, after calling me in a second time.

This time, I just danced to music in my head.

But that’s neither here nor there and certainly not the slice’s fault.

The slice was some blessed combination of chicken, big slabs of fresh mozz and crushed tomatoes, with some fresh basil here and there.

The chicken was piled high in cutlet-nuggets and though I thought I could eat a second one, I never even finished it really, which is why it ended up as a good-luck charm in my first audition.

More remarkable still was the placement of the pizzeria, across the street from the Apple Store and adjoining a bar my father once described as “looking like a bordello”.

Still, the slice was 4 dollars, which was actually reasonable for the amount of food. And the slice itself, as mentioned, contained unexpected quality.

Though I shroud myself nowadays as a purveyor of exotic trucks and carts and market-ables, I’m still a sucker for a good decently-costed slice of chicken pizza.

“How much for a diet coke?” I asked. When I sought a drink to go with my slice.

“2 dollars. The pizza man replied.

“Really?” I asked incredulous. And then caught myself.

“I’m sorry.” I told him. “I’m sorry. I’m not that person. I work in a cafe. I hate those people.”

So I paid for my coke. And I tipped him.

And I ate the rest of my slice.

At least as much as I could get in before the audition.

***

GASLIGHT PIZZERIA

Chicken Slice (w/Fresh Mozz, Basil, Crushed Tomatoes)- $4

9th Avenue bet. Little West 12th St and 14th St.

ACEL to 14th St-8th Ave.

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4 Responses to Next Person On Line

  1. clome says:

    They ripped you off on that slice, sucker.

  2. Lisa says:

    I don’t know, clome. That slice looks pretty good to me.

  3. Lisa says:

    I don’t know, clome. That slice looked pretty good to me.

  4. Clome says:

    Yeah it does

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