CHAPTER 18 -- THE WORKING WORLD
Paul gets a job as a tape librarian at a video editing facility called Premier Video. His job description is listed on a piece of paper stuck to the wall:
To all Premier Video Tape Libarians (yes, this is how they spell it)
1) No food or drink in the tape libary (yes, the librarian misspelled the word library).
2) Label incoming client tapes with bar code stickers and register them into the computer. Place Bar code stickers on both the box and the tape!
NOTE: Hank must approve you BEFORE you start working with the computer.
If Hank has not approved you, do not touch the computer!
3) Check the schedule sheet when you come in and see which client project is in which
room. Check the computer and find the tape logs and make sure all the tapes on the log
are on the shelves. Again, if Hank has not approved you, do not touch the computer!
4) Fifteen minutes before each session load all the client tapes for the project on a cart.
5) Place that cart in the edit room listed on the schedule sheet.
6) After each session, take the cart back to the libary and put the tapes back on the shelves.
3) All outgoing client tapes must be registered out after their project is completed. Scan the bar codes on both the box and the tape. Make sure the right tape is in the right box.
Again, if Hank has not approved you, do not touch the computer!
When Paul first read the rules, he hoped he’d never have to meet Hank or touch his computer, but he wasn’t so lucky. Hank is the post production coordinator for Premier Video and is five feet three inches tall, bald and very angry. He gives Paul a brief lesson on the computer, decides that Paul is an idiot and tells him not to touch the computer until his second lesson next week. He then tells Paul to do whatever the Zigster and Manuel command him to do.
Paul is the newest of three tape librarians (the Zigster and Manuel being the other two) and therefore he is the low man on the totem pole, earning ten dollars an hour to work ten hours a day in a sealed vault with no windows, under fluorescent lighting. Manuel, a student at Cal State Northridge, has already passed all portions of Hank’s computer test and is on a fast track to move into the dubbing room. The Zigster is a part-time student at the Rock and Roll Music School in Hollywood and has plans to be a rock guitar God. There is a suction fan in the vault that helps keep the room clean from dust and debris, and whenever work is slow The Zigster will stand next to the air uptake, light a joint and smoke out. Hank never smells it.
Hank sometimes gives them other work as well, like unloading the boxes off the truck, loading the refrigerator with drinks and snacks for the clients, or cleaning the bathroom. Manuel and the Zigster take the first two jobs, while Paul gets the last one.
Paul worked in the tape vault for two weeks and took home $900 after taxes. He used $200 to pay for groceries and he paid $700 towards his $22,000 credit card debt. That should be enough to make the creditors stop calling. But he still owes Maggie for this month’s rent, plus he hasn’t paid any past due car payments yet. The boys in the Cutlass now trail him to work, screaming obscenities at him while he waits at the bus stop.
“You’re a loser, Franti! Fuck you! You work in a tape vault!”
“I’ll have the money for you in a week,” he pleads.
“Suck my dick, faggot! You can’t even afford a car!”
They tried harassing Maggie once as she left the apartment, but she called the police. A squad car came, but the police let them off with a warning. She then went to her boss, the Screaming Asshole, and told him about the situation, and the Screaming Asshole (to his credit) put his company lawyer on it and had a restraining order placed against both men. The Screaming Asshole then demanded sex from her, and she laughed and pretended he was just joking.
Paul has paid back all the money he owed Maggie, and he has one more paycheck check coming before the end of the month. But that won’t give him enough to pay his share of the upcoming rent, nor pay off enough of the car loan to make the repo men back down. He calls his mom in Andover Massachusetts for money, but she can only give him $250, and his dad in Florida tells him on the phone that Paul needs to go through this alone to “learn about character.”
“Thanks, Dad. And say ‘hi’ to your secretary who’s now my stepmom. I learned a lot about character when you made that move,” Paul says, and hangs up.
If a miracle doesn’t happen in a week, he’ll open the garage door and let the repo guys take the car. Then he’ll have met three of Maggie’s demands – back money paid off, no more creditors calling, and she’ll have her garage back. Then maybe he can beg for mercy and get an extension on his share of the rent and the bills until the next paycheck comes.
When Maggie is home, there is an uneasy sense of the looming deadline. Maggie is friendly but distant, which makes Paul think that she believes he won’t make it. They do sleep in the same bed, however, and they even have sex once – but with no giggling, cuddling or cooing silliness, and it ends with a peck on the lips before Maggie jumps out of bed for work. Paul feels like a visiting “friend with benefits” who stays a few days before being asked to move on.
The person who is most sympathetic is Big Andy, who feels bad for introducing Paul to Joel in the first place. Even though Andy’s gear was destroyed, he made good money on the rental. The gear is also insured, but Joel Cuvney hasn’t signed the paperwork and isn’t returning Andy’s phone calls, so Andy doesn’t expect to see a claim check anytime soon. Joel may be delaying out of spite, or he has legal problems with the show and the network is preventing him from signing.
“I’ll make it up to you, I swear,” Paul says.
“Don’t worry about it. It taught me that I shouldn’t be in the gear rental business anyway.”
Andy buys Paul lunch at the Cat and Fiddle pub and restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. Paul has a 45-minute break for lunch, which suits Andy fine because he has another meeting at Capitol Records with XXX-Tra and their management. Andy leans back and stretches his arms, his new leather jacket squeaking on his big frame. He is all smiles.
“They signed a contract with me guaranteeing that I’d produce their next two albums. That’s why I gave them studio time and produced for their first record for free. Now that the record company loves them they want to put in their own producer and squeeze me out,” Any says.
“What are you going to do?”
“My lawyer is on it. I’m going to get percentage ownership of those fuckers.”
“Do you think you’ll get it?”
“Oh yeah. My contract is ironclad. I saw this coming a while ago.”
“My problem is I never see anything coming.”
“You’re doing okay. Better than those homeless kids you’ve been following.”
“This is true,” Paul says and means it. The tribe is still out there somewhere, fighting to find food, and he’d just eaten a decent meal in the warm sun. He flashes back to one of the hundred nights of shooting, when Trent led them to a big blue dumpster behind a Chinese restaurant in Hollywood. Duncan dived in and found a bucket of fried rice and noodles. The tribe was happy that night.
Paul puts his dark glasses on and picks at his damp French fries. “I better get back to the vault. We’re on-lining some ‘Survivor’ promos in an hour.”
Andy tosses down a fifty-dollar bill and puts on his glasses. “Paul, if a decent job comes up at the recording studio, it’s yours.”
The two men shake hands, and Paul is aware that if they stay on their respective courses they won’t be having very many more of these lunches.
Andy’s cell phone rings and he answers.
Paul pats him on the back and walks away, until Andy grabs him and motions at the phone.
“Joel Cuvney! How are you, sir? I hope Paul and the gear served you well on your project? Good! Yeah, I heard about the damage, no problem, no problem, I’m sure you’re good for it...”
Paul gestures that he has had enough and keeps walking, but Andy grabs him by the collar and yanks him back into the restaurant. “As a matter of fact, he’s right here with me. We just finished lunch. Hang on,” Andy says, and hands the phone to Paul and threatens to hit him if he doesn’t talk.
“Paul? It’s me Joel. I really need your help.”