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@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
“Tell us about yourself.”
It’s my first day at the new job. We’re in a conference room. White. Modern. Pristine. It’s me, my boss, and two other guys who work for the company.
“I’m a writer and a comedian.”
And then I sat there, with an awkward grin. Trying not to squirm in my own skin. It’s a real challenge for me. Why am I so uncomfortable in my own skin? Especially since its’ so soft. The three continued to stare at me, expecting me to expand. Even in my head, I’m thinking, “that’s it? That’s your description of yourself? Geez. Lame. Write something in your head, quick! (it doesn’t work like that).” The fuck else am I supposed to say? I’m a psychedelic surf hippie who’s prone to being really, really sad because despite my autistic inability to hold eye contact, I’m a heavily guarded sensitive human underneath my brooding cynicism?
“Where are you from.”
“I’m from Long Island. I live in Queens now.”
Think of something else to say, jackass. They watch me, once again, thinking I’m going to speak further, but that’s all I got. Tell us about yourself: I’m a writer and a comedian from Long Island. That’s it. That’s all I am. That’s all I want to be.
Half way through the day, someone asks me how I like it here. It’s a hard question to answer considering I’d only been there less than four hours. I say, “good,” but the most truthful answer would be, “I like it because I don’t have to talk to anyone except my boss.” People never expect to a comedian to be shy and have horrible social anxiety, but if I never had to pick up a ringing phone ever again with the exception of my family and a small group of friends/comedians, I’d be very happy. The only person I wish would call me more is my writing manager. She never calls though.
My cubicle buddy and I introduce ourselves. Should I tell her I talk to myself now? Or just let her figure it out later?
“What do you talk about in your comedy?”
“Life stuff. Self deprecating. Dark and dry but not dirty. You’ll see my sarcastic side when I get more comfortable.” That’s half a lie. I’ve worked plenty of jobs where I never got comfortable and barely spoke, let alone joked around. We’ll see. In my experience, there’s usually at least one other sarcastic cynic who appreciates my mumbling comments. If they exist in this office, fate and poor attitude will bring us together.
“How was your first day?” A friend inquires.
“Everyone hates me. I can tell.”
“I’m sure no one hates you.”
“They hate me,” as a rule, whenever I go anywhere, I assume I’m hated.
“They don’t hate you. They’re gonna love you once they realize you’re not an idiot.”
That’s probably true enough. After being forced out of my old job because of scheduling conflicts, they called me less than a month later to see if I’d come back. I laughed my fucking ass off. I laughed and laughed and laughed. Honestly, I expected that might happen, but not within three weeks of leaving there.
It’s funny because in my brief unemployment/full time freelancing, I was riddled with anxiety about finances. Comedy slacks in the summertime, so I’m not pulling in much income from that part of my life. The last time I was in this position, I was literally sick with anxiety, unable to eat because my stomach hurt all the time. And then I was offered three jobs at the same time and got my pick. After two weeks of unemployment this time around, I’d already turned down two jobs that seemed terrible and then got this new one. Life is like that you know.
In the interim, I was never fully unemployed. Of course there’s stand-up, writing comedy bits for radio, the occasional babysitting and background work. I was the busiest unemployed person you’ve ever met.
The week before the holiday, I did some background (as an extra in movies) work back to back days. The first day was a film shoot, an overnight shoot to be exact. Call time was 7pm, and we’d end up shooting until 3:30am. I was in a bit of a panic because we were filming in Chelsea and I had a 7am call time for another movie all the way downtown. But I had to go home first for wardrobe changes, which means I was looking at an hour commute home, and then an hour commute back downtown. No sleep for Lori.
The movie shoot was kind of a cool one, only because at one point, I’m just standing there daydreaming about selling one of my own script babies one day, and I turn my head and Bill Murray is standing right next to me. It’s not often I’m starstruck but my mouth went agape. Wow. Bill fucking Murray. He’s still one of the coolest people on the planet. I almost wanted to reach out and touch his arm just so I could say, “I touched Bill Murray’s arm once.”
Anyways. That shoot wrapped at 3:30am and I have to rush home to change. Hour commute home. Fortunately, the N train didn’t keep me waiting on the subway platform long. A part of me wanted to nap on the subway, but another part of me feared not waking up. Though I have the benefit of living off the last stop, so usually someone will wake you if you’re passed out.
Two stops before mine, the subway stalls. About 10 minutes go by and the conductor announces we will be moving shortly. Another 10 minutes go by and the lights and the AC go off.
Great, I’m thinking. Just great. It’s 4:30am and I’m stuck in a train car with five dudes. Great. The conductor announces that someone on the train is hurt.
Great, I’m thinking. Just great. I have to be home within the hour so I can leave and get to my next job. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the next film shoot I was about to work would be almost a 14 hour day. I’d go 36 hours without sleep save for the occasional nod off.
The conductor makes an announcement that the train is being evacuated and we all have to come to the front train to get off the train and onto the platform.
Great, I’m thinking. Just fucking great. I’m about to walk 2 miles home right before sunrise. Great.
We walk through the train cars and get off the train. The neon yellow edge of the platform is spattered with a pool of crimson blood. Enough blood that I had to step over it.
Curiosity takes hold, and I go to look over the last train car where the trail of blood led when I hear a man’s voice say, “don’t look at it.”
I turned to him. He took a drag of his cigarette, and just as I was about to pivot my body to look, he shoot his head in the most serious, stern, not to be fucked with tone, “don’t.”
I didn’t. When I returned to the subway less than an hour later to get to my next job, the entire subway line was closed. Firetrucks, ambulances, cop cars flashing their red and blue lights. Later I’d find out someone was struck by that subway. I’m not sure if it was an accident or a suicide.
Shuttle buses substituted for the subway which is always a hassle. It basically doubles the commute. People bitched and moaned on the shuttle bus. Miserable on their way to work.
A part of me wanted to tell them, “someone’s dead. Someone died. Shut your goddamn mouth and continue to your shitty, meaningless job.” But then there was another voice in my head that said, “don’t.“