Monday, June 3, 2013

The Emporer's New Suit



In the midst of my rapidly declining career, word came that a local/national advertising agency was looking for a sound engineer. It was an amazing thing that almost never happens, very, very few agencies do any of their own media in house, and fewer yet do audio as for the most part in spite of what I think the reality is, most agency people are visually oriented and think audio is just a necessary evil.

I'd not actually applied for a job in over a decade, my two management positions were essentially handed to me by company presidents that had worked with me while I owned my own business, any "interview" done was symbolic and only meeting the company's routine requirements.

But this was worth applying to, it was a godsend really, a perfect job delivered with perfect timing. There were two interviews to be had and my first went off like a birthday party; my interviewer was wiggling in his seat over the idea that I would be following his orders and making him famous by proxy, he couldn't wait until I'd done my final face to face with the division vice president and had a time card created in my name.

I have this theory that if you put a rhinoceros in a suit, it's still a rhino people see; but as it's the way things are done I slapped on my custom French cuffed shirt, gold tie bar, monogrammed cuff links and fancy schmancy suit, my silvered pony tail and bullhide cowboy boots the only clues that yes indeed, I was not a stuffy bean counter but a fascinating creative type. I am not one to primp, but with a suit I have no choice but to do the best I can with what I've got, so I spent an inordinate amount of time before a mirror clipping every last nose and ear hair into the perfect length, etc.

I was on time for the interview; an unlikely thing as I am the most late man in America, but for some reason, perhaps the constant swearing at myself to get my ass in gear, or the driving like a 16 year old in his first muscle car, I walked in with moments to spare and only a single bead of sweat marking my brow.

The VP had a skinny Al Franken vibe, short, close cropped and perfectly attached black hair, fashionable glasses and a smile that was obvious in its disingenuousness, a stereotypical New Yawk lawyer. He rushed me into his office, checked the clock a half dozen times and then hammered me with questions in an almost accusatory manner.

Without delving into the sad details, let's just say he wanted me to say something I couldn't. He was asking an ogre to dance, and all I could do was tromp; he wanted brash surety, I delivered stammery possibility. He wanted me to assure him I would rock his socks, and in all honesty, I wanted to explain I would do the best I could and more yet, and that my best had been enough to win me quite a few awards over the years. Lastly, he wanted Hollywood, and I gave him practicality.

He cut me off in mid-sentence and said "that's enough" as he stood and ushered me to his door.

I was dumbstruck. This was my one and probably only big chance to keep myself in a business I loved, and while I didn't perform to his cosmetic expectations perhaps, he certainly couldn't deny my credentials; there were very few audio engineers in the Midwest that had my background or anywhere near my varied repertoire. Yet it was absolutely obvious that I'd just been spit out of his list like a watermelon seed; disheartening enough without having to be insulting in addition.

I walked toward the parking garage as fast as I've walked anywhere in my life; I was devastated and just wanted to get on the road and maybe run into a tree or two, or at least get home and drown myself in a root beer float and a few hours of Family Feud reruns. And then as I passed by yet one more Latte shop, I noted my reflection in the freshly polished window glass. My pant zipper was fully distended, my shirttail/underwear combo fully visible and my rapidly creeping full face flush just at that moment making the glass beet red in color.

I said, not only aloud but loudly, Jesus Fucking Christ what a fucking moron as I grabbed the tiny plastic fob and yanked my pants into one piece. Luckily no one close by decided it was a good time to chuckle as I would have committed my first actual murder (as opposed to the thousands I’ve fanaticized throughout my life) without so much as another breath in between.

I had been in this pompous ass' office for a half hour with a window to my nether regions advertising my unfettered incompetence, chit chatting as if I was actually a human being worthy of consideration as a "self starter", when by appearance alone it was clear that I'd likely forget any and all instructions ever given me, as I had forgotten the most basic of instructions...those concerning how to dress myself.

My one big chance to continue a 30 year career was, I presume, foiled over one stupid moment, one unforgivable sin so insignificant to an observer, yet so egregious to the perpetrator as to have put me in a position of self-doubt from that day forward. It was as all things in my life have been, if only for that one last item, I'd have lived up to my billing, I'd have performed as expected, I'd have made the grade.

It's fun telling this story now and then as the usual result is to make my audience roar with laughter, and who doesn't like getting a good laugh for their storytelling efforts. But for me that day was like a self-struck knife through the heart; of all the stupid things I could have done, of all the things I might have done wrong.....

Lucky for me I have the memory of a gnat and even those things that most cripple me vanish as if Kool-aid powder in a windstorm after a short stint as a personal petard; so in this case I can most often blame the fickle and mediocrity loving business for my demise, with its bean counter human resources folk who wouldn’t know incredible talent if it bit them on the ass, rather than my own aversion to networking, my inability to suffer fools without public comment and my general self-loathing stand offishness.

It’s good to be me really. I have the creativity to make a silk purse of a sow’s ear, and enough creative left overs to fill the purse with a few thousand bucks, an I-pad and Heather Locklear’s personal phone number… ya know… for when we need to get together for a picnic and self pity party….

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