Working as a p.a. (production assistant) on a TV show, your main task is to order and pick up lunch for the staff. Like so many things in life, it’s a job that everyone takes for granted until you screw it up. Then you get some attention, albeit in the form of –
Staff member: “Josh? Oh yeah, he the p.a. who screwed up my couscous.”
* * *
The animated show I worked on employed about 20 writers, 30 artists, and 15 miscellaneous people in H.R., accounting, etc. Usually, I just dealt with the writers — and believe me, keeping track of 20 lunch orders was difficult enough — but on my last day at the job, two weeks after I had put in my two weeks notice, all 65 people wanted lunch.
I don’t remember how the burger restaurant, the vegan restaurant, the Coffee Bean, and I made it happen. I only remember a few scattered details –
- Crying every time I got in the car to drive to the next restaurant
- Getting yelled at by the owner of the burger restaurant, who told me about eight different times, “This is insane! I can’t make this many burgers this quickly!”
- Having more bags of food and coffee than my car could fit, which required me to hold a bag outside of the driver’s side window with my left hand and steer with my right until I reached the office
- Hitting my head against the steering wheel, yelling to no one in particular –
Josh: “Is this really my fucking life right now?!”
– and seeing an elderly woman in a Volvo beside me freeze as though I was a maniac about to get out of my car and beat her with eleven full bags of coffee, hamburger, and soy cheese.
* * *
After I dropped off the food — on time, by the way — I decided to spend my lunch break in a nearby park in order to decompress. I didn’t have a lunch myself — there were so many people on the list, my boss said I wasn’t allowed one that day; so, I just stared off into space like a movie character who just defeated the bad guy in the climax of an action film. I had been through a battle, but I had won.
A few minutes into my break, my phone buzzed. I had received an e-mail from my boss –
Boss: “Dude. What the fuck? [Name of writer on the show] had a giant tomato in his burger.”
I wrote back –
Josh: “Is he allergic?”
Boss: “No, he just doesn’t like tomatoes. He had to pick it out.”
I exhaled, about to write a perfunctory “I’m sorry,” but he continued –
Boss: “Not fucking acceptable, man. We’re a big show. You can’t make mistakes like that here.”
I paused, reminding myself that it was my last day. As I had done for the last several months, I needed to control my rage. Just six more hours of work, I thought. Just gotta hang in there to end on a good note and get that letter of recommendation.
Then the elderly woman in the Volvo drove by. Our eyes met, and even though we didn’t say anything to one another, I knew what to do. I stood up, gathered my things, and drove home — but not before sending my boss this song to express my feelings about the “giant tomato” –