Friday, November 26, 2004

Headset Perry

I remember one junior producer from a few shops back, who thought his new gig as weekend producer required him to assume the air of a battlefield general. Let's call him Perry.

Perry was...a dubious individual. He favored wearing a telephone headset, and would pace up and down the cubicles having loud conversations with people I'm pretty sure weren't even on the line. His co-workers abused him with names like 'drive-thru boy' and the like, but Perry only swelled with pride, certain his colleagues were only jealous of his newfound authority.

All in all, he was harmless. And clueless. Once while roaming the halls on a weekend shift, he rang up the on-call manager on his headset with a red-hot alert:

"Hey, this is Perry. Just thought you might wanna know we got some flourescent lights flickering in the hallway here at the station..."

That particular newsbreak earned him an instant arse chewing from the surly on-call manager, who threatened to come down and perform an invasive anal procedure with his nifty telephone headset. Perry declined.

But the eager young producer worked hard to avoid me, after an episode I'm not especially proud of. I myself was lounging at home one weekend when the phone rang. It was Perry, out of breath with excitement...

"Stew, there's a trailer park burning to the ground just south of you and I need you to roll everything you got on it!"

I fought the urge to tell him 'everything I had' was a filthy Ford Explorer with only fumes in the gas tank. But I thought better of it and was soon behind the wheel, racing toward the reported conflagration with visions of burning mobile home residents in my head.

Imagine my relief when the trailer park in question was NOT engulfed in flames. Instead the modest neighborhood was in the throes of a crowded block party. The gathered masses cheered as I pulled up, and soon I was sampling the finest in trailer park cheeseburgers.

Between bites, I pieced together what HAD happened. One of the charcoal grills had flamed up a bit too high for comfort, and the gathered Dads tipped it over and shoveled trailer park soil over it to extinguish the blaze. Someone HAD called the fire department, but the alarm was cancelled before the fire trucks could even arrive.

Looking down at the three foot wide circle of burnt grass, I fished my cell phone from a pocket and dialed the station.

"Hey Perry," I said "Nothing to it. A grill got out of control but the folks here put it out. Fire department didn't even make it out. I'm headed home..."

Perry's reply almost made me choke on my cheeseburger.

"Yeah, well, uh - I tell ya what, why don't you go ahead shoot video anyway and bring it in. I'll decide whether there's 'nothing to it' or not..."

I noticed one of the trailer park Dads looking at me - no doubt wondering what was making my face turn purple. I turned and walked out of earshot, feeling the blood change gears in my veins...

"Perry, I don't who the #$@! you think you are, but if you expect me to shoot this, you got those headphones on too tight..."

Though I should have stopped there, I continued -hurling every invective I learned in boot camp. It felt good at the time, but the next Monday I got called into the corner office and asked why I'd reduced the new weekend producer to a quivering mass of junior-executive jello.

They all laughed when I told them why, but I was warned not to treat the producing staff like boot camp recruits. Good advice.


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