Recently I was working as a production assistant at a party attended by a lot of rich Hollywood industry types. The party was in a seriously remote and inconvenient location with very little parking and was so far removed from a main road that the 150+ guests had to park a few miles away and be chauffeured from their cars to the party in a number of 15 passenger vans. This wasn’t too big of an ordeal as people slowly started to arrive, but I could tell right away that this was going to turn into a disaster once the party ended and everyone wanted to leave at the same time but had to wait for vans to truck them away.
Sure enough, it did – once festivities began to wind down, a large mob of wealthy, tuxedoed, drunk people were standing by the loading zone for the 15 passenger vans and creating a very unruly last chopper out of Saigon situation, provided that the helicopters are vans, Saigon is a lavish industry party, the Vietnamese are industry movers and shakers, and I’m the Marines trying to keep them from swamping the helicopter vans in their desperation to get out.
Needless to say, once the number of people waiting for a ride outstripped the ability of the vans to make it to and from the isolated venue in a timely fashion, things got ugly quick.
“This is unacceptable!” A woman in an evening gown screamed, not long after I arrived. “We have been waiting up here for forty-five minutes! You need to get more vans up here, and faster!”
“I’m sorry,” I said, pulling myself away from my walkie talkie long enough to try and keep her from going all 28 Days Later on me. “We’re doing the best we can.”
She snorted and threw up her hands, tears brimming in her eyes. “No you’re not!”
I just looked at her blankly, having never heard such an immature comment from somebody that old and not in Congress. She just glared back at me, defiantly, as if to say I stand by my profoundly retarded statement
An older couple approached some of us PAs a moment later.
“Hello. We were just wondering, is there any way we can get more vans coming up here?”
“I’m sorry,” I said again. “The road is really narrow, so we can only get one van coming up to the location at a time. There isn’t room for two vans to pass one another going opposite directions, and there’s barely enough room for the one van to turn around.”
The wife pursed her lips. “Okay. It’s just, we’ve been waiting for a really long time. You know, we work for [NAME OF MEDIA CONGLOMERATE REDACTED]. We just wanted to see if there was any way we could get more vans running faster.”
I couldn’t think of a way to convey to her that the width of the road was in no way affected by what company she worked for, so I just shook my head apologetically, and she led her husband away, grumbling about what an idiot I was.
Before long, another woman was right up in my face, whispering, voice trembling as she struggled to keep her boundless rage under control.
“Who is your boss.” (Statement, not a question.)
I told her my boss’s first name.
“Good. What’s her last name?”
“I don’t…. I don’t know. I got hired twelve hours ago. I’ve seen my boss two times all day.”
“I want to see her. She and I need to have a discussion about how this event is being run. My husband and I have been waiting nearly an hour for a van.”
“I’m very sorry, ma’am.” I said, for what would not be the last time that night. “But my boss is back at headquarters trying her best to make the vans run faster. So if I bring her out here to talk to you, it’s probably just going to slow things down more.”
That – my tacit suggestion that she act like an adult – was her breaking point.
“This is unacceptable!” She shouted. “You have no right to do this!”
What I wanted more than anything was for Louis C.K. to be there with me, because I get the idea he’d set every one of these assholes straight. Maybe Ron Swanson could be backup. Without them, though, all I could do was think of what I would’ve said if I’d wanted to destroy any chance I had of a Hollywood career.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s take a step back from this situation for a moment. All of you have just attended a fancy party. You ate a free meal, took full advantage of an open bar, and from the smell of things at least a few of you got stoned behind the catering truck. Now, you have to wait longer than you’d like for a chauffeured van to take you back to your cars, so you can drive back to the homes that you own, so you can go to sleep and, on Monday, go to work at the high paying jobs that you have. That’s inconvenient, and again, I’m sorry that it’s inconvenient, but I didn’t pick the location for this party, nor did I tell the Works Progress Administration to build such a narrow road up this hill 80-odd years ago. So until the next van arrives, I’d ask you all to calm down for a moment. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, four women get raped every five minutes. You all have to stay at a lovely garden party for a little longer than you’d like. If this is the low point of your weekend, you’re some of the luckiest people in the whole course of human history.
I’m not suggesting that as Americans we shouldn’t complain about things or be unsatisfied with the degree of luxury we live in, because even White People Problems are still problems that need to be dealt with and bitched about. What I’m saying is that there are very few situations in which it’s okay to be a complete douche to a stranger – go ahead and do it if, say, your life savings are obliterated by corporate greed or when you find out one of your family members was killed in a gang related shooting.
Feel free to complain about having to be patient, but don’t use it as an excuse to go nuclear on the nearest minimum wage earner. It’s not that big a deal.
(In other news, after I clocked off, I found that my Ray Bans had been stolen from the production office and spent the next two days on the verge of a nervous breakdown.)
Truman Capps is still hoping that they might get mailed to him with his paycheck.