Last night, I had a dream where I was being interviewed for a position. When I woke up, all I could remember was one question that the interviewer had asked me: “Can you describe a job experience that required a sense of humor?”
Oh, where to begin.
During my first six months in New York, I paid the bills with a variety of freelance jobs. After that, I was fortunate enough to obtain steadier work in theatre and film. Looking back, I can see that all of those experiences enriched my skill sets in some way. They were all important for my professional development.
Also, though, looking back, I can’t help but laugh, because some of those experiences were extremely weird, laughable, or simply fell into the category of, “In college, I never predicted that I’d end up in this kind of situation one day.” The professional working world is full of wonders.
To illustrate my point, I’ve listed out a series of situations I’ve experienced since leaping into the New York job pool. I hope you get a kick out of them; I certainly did.
Boss: Everything all right?
Me: Everything’s fine. Two boxes of machetes just fell on me.
*Cut to me standing in a pile of sharp objects*
Me: *laying on floor in the middle of the performance space* 4 a.m. and still no people.
Coworker: *sitting cross-legged on the same floor* I mean, when we signed up for this [all-night theatrical scavenger hunt], we knew there was a possibility of this happening, but–
Stage manager: *enters room* Okay, two of the groups figured out the previous puzzle. They should be here soon.
All of us: *stare at him*
SM: *blinks* Also, coffee’s on the way.
All of us: *cheer and deliriously roll around on the floor*
Coworker: Have you ever tied up a corset before?
Me: No, but I’m a quick study.
Me: You ready to help me move some bodies?
*Cut to us tossing several mannequins onto a gurney and wrapping them up in packaging material*
Me: *double-checking items on the prop cart before rehearsal begins* Basket, hand mirror, flowers, letter, envelope, silverware–
Director: *approaches me* How’s everything looking, Emme?
Me: Pretty great. Your timing’s impeccable; I wanted to ask you about this silverware —
Director: Yeah, that’s all pretty rusty, isn’t it? I brought polish to fix that.
Me: *not realizing the inevitable* Great!
*Cut to a montage of me cleaning and polishing a massive set of silverware over the next two hours*
Boss: I think I just saw something very strange.
Me: What’s that?
Boss: I think…I think someone brought a small dog into the theatre.
Boss: Like, a little puppy?
Me: …Go on.
Boss: This woman in the audience was leaning over to reach into her purse, and when I moved over a bit, I think I saw a tiny head pop out.
Me: Are you sure?
Boss: I don’t KNOW.
Me: …What do we do in a situation like this?
Boss: I don’t know! Because I’m not 100% sure, and the show’s almost over, and neither of us saw it beforehand…
*Later on, as audience members were exiting the theatre, I saw a woman pull a puppy the size of my hand out of her purse*
*On a TV set, halfway through the shooting schedule for the day*
Me: This A.D. seems…tough on you guys.
P.A.: Yeah. I’m so stressed right now that if you shoved a lump of coal up my ass, you’d have a diamond.
Audience member: *enters lobby* Hi, I’m here to see the show.
Me: Hi. Unfortunately, the show’s started and the doors are closed.
AM: But I’m here to see it.
Me: …Okay. The show’s coordinator has specifically expressed that we not admit latecomers, as it serves as a distraction to fellow audience members.
AM: But I’m not even late!
Me: …Ma’am, the show started over an hour ago.
AM: That’s ridiculous. The invite said 6:30. I have the email, let me find it.
Me: If you’d like, I’d be happy to fetch box office to coordinate this with you.
AM: But you’re box office!
Me: I actually work for the space, not this particular show. So I’m contractually not allowed to touch the money —
AM: This is ridiculous.
Me: *gives up, grabs walkie talkie, and asks fellow coworker to go fetch the box office employees*
Audience member: *enters lobby* Hi, is this [show]?
Me: It is, but unfortunately it’s almost over.
AM: What? Daaaaamn. How long is the show?!
Me: 1 hour, 50 minutes. It started at 7:00.
AM: *glances at clock, which clearly says 8:45* So it’s basically over.
Me: …Yes, sir.
Me: *balancing on a stool as I use an ellipsoidal light as a spotlight for the unfolding scene*
Stage manager, over headset: Emme?
Me, also on headset: Yeah?
SM: [The lead actor] called from backstage. One of the lights is starting to smoke.
SM: Yeah, please go stop that from happening.
Me: ‘Kay. …This is really close to the quick change. I’m taking the wings with me.
*Cue me hopping down from the stool, snatching up the angel wing costume hanging on the wall, and carefully carrying it as I speed-walk through the darkened theater to the “backstage” area — a small space directly on stage, hidden behind one of the show’s fake walls*
Me: *whispers* Here.
Lead actor: *Nods as he continues to strip out of his costume from the previous scene*
Me: *pulls out the piece of black cinefoil that had fallen into the light, creating the fire hazard, then quickly helps the lead actor into the angel wing rig*
Lead actor: *whispers* Thank you.
Me, now on backstage headset: Fire problem averted.
SM: Thank you.
Me: Okay, so you’re gonna sit on top of the coffin.
Me: And I’m going to push you through this narrow hallway.
Me: And we’re gonna get out there before the scene change is complete, like [the director] wants.
Actress: Three for three.
Me: Awesome, let’s go.
*At a small apartment in Brooklyn*
Boss: All that’s left is Beatrice and we’re done with the heavy lifting!
*It takes all five of us to haul Beatrice — a large, lady marble statue — up the apartment’s front stoop*
Neighbor walking by: *confused look*
Me: *still holding statue up by the waist* Hi!
Neighbor: *keeps walking*
Stage manager, over headset: Wind standby.
Me: *Grabs the nearby piece of cardboard* Wind standing by.
Me: *vigorously shakes the cardboard at the window’s curtains, making them billow back and forth*
Lead actor: *dramatically enters scene through the open window*
*In a small mail room on the upper floor of a building in Tribeca*
Boss: Great, you found us! You’re the temp worker for today?
Me: Yes, I’m Emme.
Boss: Great, let’s just get you set up over here…
Me: *carefully edges my way around the room, which is packed floor-to-ceiling with cardboard, bubble wrap, and other shipping materials*
Boss: So just consult this list and wrap up the gifts. Here’s your tape. Any questions, ask me or [fellow coworker].
*Cut to me spending the remainder of my work day wrapping up Paddington dolls and jars of marmalade, and putting them in boxes, over and over and over and over*
*the next day, I’m sent to a completely different building to fill in for their receptionist*
Boss: Your desk is there, and you’ll find the training booklet in that top drawer.
Me: *trying not to stare at the giant cutout of Paddington on the wall* Understood.
Boss: Any questions?
Me: …So this company produced Paddington?
Me: Okay. Just wondering.
*Paddington stares down at me from the wall, mocking me*
Me: OW. Dammit.
Boss: Everything okay?
Me: Fine, I just sat on a sword.
Me: Need your help with something, boss.
Boss: *looks up, promptly starts staring*
Me: *arms above my head, holding up a bandolier that’s firmly tangled in my hair*
Me: I can explain.
In summation, it’s been quite a ride.
Thanks for reading,