Thursday, June 10, 2004

Today, I had a brief conversation with one of the big bosses in the bathroom.

I rarely talk to him. Every now and then I'll have to do some work for a client of his, and he'll bark instructions that are utterly vague or completely illogical. If I ask for clarification, he gets snippy. "I don't wanna have a discussion - just do it!" Then I have to make an executive decision, which will invariably be wrong and we start all over again. I've been assured not to worry - he has this kind of relationship with everybody at the company. And since I don't engage in these Abbott & Costello routines with him often, it's no big deal.

But today, as I was standing at the urinal, doing my business, I see he's at the one next to me. I politely acknowledge him using the proper men's room etiquette: You stay facing forward, but nod and say "Hey." If you're so inclined, you can throw in a "What's happenin'?" or "How's it goin'?" (Do not say, "How's it hangin'?")

But the boss must've gone to a different finishing school. "Michael," he said to me, "what is it you do?"

Huh? Did he mean like, right now? What, was he having trouble? Did he want, like, instructions or something? Should I tell him: Just picture a waterfall, dude, it'll all be fine...

Then I thought, maybe he meant what is it I do at the office, as if I'm not doing my job. Hey, when I'm not working on my own writing, checking my e-mail, surfing the web or posting to this blog... I get plenty of work done, pal.

But before I started defending myself, I asked what he meant, dreading that he may come back with, "I don't wanna have a discussion - just do it!"

He said, "I mean what do you do when you're not at work? What's your 'gig'?"

Oh, he was just trying to get to know me. That was nice, especially since he wasn't assuming that it was my life's ambition to be a lobotomized paper-pusher. "I'm a writer," I said.

He nodded, and I quickly zipped up, washed my hands and got outta there. Friendly conversation or not, I'd rather not have it in the loo. Actually, no matter the location, I didn't really want it to go any further. He might ask me what kind of writing do I do? Have I had success? Could I he read something I wrote? Maybe he could help me sell something...?

I know - if he were to say that - it would seem like a good thing. But I don't want his help. I've been in this situation before.

I once worked at a company that produced and distributed TV shows and feature films. They sold a lot of stuff to foreign territories. I know this because I was working the international TV sales department. You'd be amazed and what kind of crapola they could distribute to the world. I can only assume they were starved for entertainment in places like Slovakia and Myanmar.

Well, hey, I had just written and produced an independent feature with my friends. For a low-budget film, it turned out pretty good. We got some nibbles but no bites from the domestic distributors. Maybe we could sell it overseas.

I took a meeting with the president of the department, a super-extroverted guy in a fancy suit with the suspenders and power tie. I think the man sold used cars prior to having this job, as he flashed his Cheshire-Cat grin and said he looked forward to viewing the tape of our movie.

Months went by and I never heard anything. I'd occasionally pass him the hallway, hearing him talk about his upcoming golf weekend in Pebble Beach or ski trip at Jackson Hole. Once or twice I politely asked if he watched the film yet (it's only 89 minutes), and he'd wink, fire his finger-guns at me and say, "Don't worry, I haven't forgotten 'boutcha."

I figured he'd forgotten 'boutme. But then one day, as I was drying my hands in the men's room, the Prez walked in. "Hey, I saw your movie the other day," he said.

"Great." I figured we'd discuss it outside, but he just kept talking.

"Yeah, it was funny," and he headed straight to the urinal and continued. "But the production value seemed kinda low. How much was the budget?"

"Uh, well, um..." Normally I'd have no problem answering. But I just couldn't talk to the guy. Not like this. He had his back to me the whole time. And I didn't want to try to look him in the eye, anyway, not while he had his dick in his hands.

Do you remember what I said about men's room etiquette? Do you remember what Seinfeld said? You keep your distance from someone at the ATM or at the urinal. Basically, when a man's taking valuables out of his pants, you just stay away.

So why do these head honchos feel a need to powwow in the crapper?

It was so uncomfortable, hovering in the foyer of the men's room, listening to this jerk blab on and on about how there wasn't that much international potential for a dialogue-intense feature that might not translate blah blah blah...

In this business, you have to face a lot of rejection. Comes with the territory, and you learn to develop a thick skin. So I didn't mind that he passed on the movie. Just wish he hadn't pissed on it, too.

The company, by the way, lost tons of money, and had to downsize, so Prez got laid off. Not sure if he went back to huckstering for Hyundai or what. I had already quit.

I took a job where I made more money - a different place than I'm at now - but the head of the company was more or less the same as the boss here. Every month he'd go on the rag, bitching at all the employees because the billing wasn't done, when it was always the cheapo computer system that caused the problem.

I will say this for the guy - he didn't talk to me in the men's room. Whenever I ran into him there, he was usually staring in the mirror, adjusting that raccoon of a rug he wore on his head. The man was in his 50s or 60s, but had the hairline of a teenager. I figured there had to be a correlation between his wig and him wigging out.

I stole the title "Hell Toupee" from an episode of the Simpsons. I think they stole it from the anthology series Amazing Stories. Feel free to steal it yourself.


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