I unlocked the door, skipping the mailbox, and went right past my best friend, happy to see me, happy to be fed.
I needed a drink first. Maybe three.
It was a day.
More than a day; the type of day that made me see my lines—my hypocrisy against my own youthful belief system. There was no denying it.
I wasn’t going to lose my job over this, just my self-respect.
And a lot of sleep.
It came out of nowhere. We were ready to air. The media was bought. Broadcast, cross channel…set to hit the entire east coast.
It was a spot I was actually proud of. It was a cross between the rhythms of the 90’s theater sensation “STOMP!” mixed with an average Saturday afternoon in a modern family.
I made a point to have a mixed-race Husband and Wife. I made a point to cast believable, children.
If I could have made it a gay couple, I would have. But, I knew their lines, long before I learned mine.
The client approved the script, the cast.
They sat, breathing down the back of my neck as I breathed down the director’s.
The crew, a friendly group of union workers who knew they had a nice gig, affectionately called us all Breathers because we were the ones paid to oversee professionals who knew what they were doing, only to cover our own asses.
They got it. So did we.
The shoot went well. The edit took forever—building the beats, out of footsteps, video games, email and instant message alerts, ending with the wife tapping a spoon on the side of a simmering pan, and the husband and wife clinking wine glasses was a challenge for the sound engineer (as I breathed down yet another neck.)
It took two weeks to convince the client that having a married couple drink alcohol on television was okay.
The week before it was set to air, we’re called into the dungeon, the office’s makeshift secondary conference room, set away from the sounds of hustle and bustle, nestled snug by the furnace.
Outside, the young anarchists and bored college hipsters were picketing again. I wondered if she was out there.
And I met a solemn group, a quiet Account Executive, confused Art Director, pissed off Creative Director, and the President of the agency, a loose cannon with far too many opinions the would be better kept to himself.
The Art Director and I were the only ones that didn’t know what was going on.
Were we about to be fired? Rewarded? Did I misspell something on a billboard? Did we land a client?
The President didn’t look at us. He just turned on the speaker for the conference line and dialed.
I didn’t even know who we were calling or why.
I could cut the air with a butter knife; it was so thick, as the phone rang out somewhere.
I didn’t realize it yet, but I was about to realize where I draw the line professionally, and the side I stood on would have greatly disappointed the younger, indestructible me.