My People: or Reasons to Refer to One’s Self as a Dark Skinned Eskimo

I haven’t been on here for a while ’cause I’ve been working like a Hebrew slave’, as my grandma would say. She also referred to herself as a dark skinned Eskimo when the children of my Southside neighborhood would dart in to the street at night in front of cars.

I love being black. I’m African- American- balls to bone. But what I’m feeling really genocidal about right now is… NIGGAS! I know, I know, I’m not supposed to use that word, but I’m using it because respectability politics be damned.

So I’m working on a commercial for a shack that bestows Italian pie treats to the American public. It was complicated logistically, it was emotionally harrowing and in the end… I got fucked- BY A NIGGA.

I hire production assistants. I generally hire people I know and can trust because I have to depend on them to be my eyes and ears when I’m on my cell phone at the office looking at 3 lines blinking awaiting my attention. They do pick ups and drop offs for me, they make sure the union workers have what they need, and usually they are my favorite people on set. They’re mine. I brought them here. They’re my support system.

I had one of my most trusted P.A.’s help me out with the procuring of such talent as I’m a little out of the P.A. loop being that I’m over 30 and all of the people I usually use have moved up in the ranks as I have. I used to be a P.A. and I was a damned good one… until it was time for me to move on. When that time came, you’d never met a surlier young woman in your life. I just didn’t give a fuck. So I quit and became the coordinator. More money, more power, more headaches… bring it on.

So there was a P.A. I’d hired… let’s call him Mr. Crazy. I’d met Mr. Crazy socially with my P.A. and he gave him a chance. Mr. Crazy is also a close friend, or so I thought, with one of my neighborhood friends… Mr. Rational, so I figured if Mr. Rational thought he was okay, that was good enough for me.

We do the job, I rarely saw him though. On my wrap day the production designer told me he couldn’t stand Mr. Crazy and to keep him away from him. “Why?” I asked.

“If I ask him for a lamp he’ll ask ‘do you want the bookcase too?’ he’s trying really hard, but it’s annoying and frustrating.”

Copy that. Point taken, but I feel I can still work with him. Have him over for a drink. Give him some pointers. Although on this job it wasn’t the case, but I’m usually 100% of the brown people on set with any power. It’s nice to have other blacks on set with me, especially commercial sets which are traditionally an old boys team. I knew he was interested in film, he’s over 40 looking for some other outlet than the post office where he’s worked for 20+ years (I think), and thought he’d done some projects before, so I didn’t think anything of it.

My wrap was a beast. It was the most complicated wrap I’d ever done in my life. Mr. Crazy said he was gonna come in on Monday to bring me a receipt and I was gonna have him fill out an add’l timecard as I was giving him a double day for one of the really long one’s he’d worked. The other P.A. that he’s worked with who he refers to as “The White Boy” had already filled out a timecard so he was straight. Alas, I didn’t hear from Mr. Crazy until a week after the job was wrapped. In LA, DONE.

So I go to the movies with a friend (Appaloosa was really good. I even liked Renee Zelweiger.) And come out to this text message:

“This check is insane. I busted my ass for the whole week and all you put down was 40 hours. I heard you tell the white boy I worked with on the last day that you were gonna get him more money like I did bust my ass I had a total of 60 plus hrs. This is not right!!! Holla back! ASAP!”

To which I phoned him to get a barrage of ‘what the fucks’ and such. As I was standing on 17th and Broadway I did what I do… I threw money at a problem. Only it was my money. I told him I’d give him $200.

That was a hasty decision. As I’m on the train I’m getting furious. “How dare he?” was all I kept saying. My friend was trying to take my mind off of it, but I was getting angrier and angrier.

I discussed it with Mr. Rational who surmised that his friend was “buggin’ out” and who chided me for offering my own money. “What the fuck, grown folks gotta take care of their own shit.” He is as wise as the town for which he’s named.

So the next day while lounging with a friend, I call him and inform him that I’m going to give him $100 since I shouldn’t have to pay for his not doing what he’s supposed to do. As I’m trying to explain the situation to him and inform him that he needs to speak to me as someone who hired him not as a ‘homegirl’ he continues yelling into the phone various abuses and in the end “FUCK YOU! KEEP YOUR MONEY!” and hangs up on me.

Well, you could imagine my disappointment to his behavior. “Who the fuck does this nigga think he’s talking to? I’m not his child. I’m his BOSS. FUCK THIS NIGGA.” is a little closer to the sentiment.

So then the games were afoot.

Mr. Crazy Text: You think you can tell me that your (sic) giving me two hundred, then tell me that your only givin’ me 1oo dollars. Not once did anyone of you explain to me what I was getting paid for my work…I just knew, what you don’t think I got friends in the bizz. Your (sic) not supposed to be givin’ me any money. The company that paid is supposed to. But you didn’t want to put the extra hours in I worked. It’s ironic how you can say in my face to that white boy how you was gonna get him more money… I must be a fool. But that’s alright…..Kharma (sic) is a bitch, remember that. We love to take advantage of our people. The worst thing about it is evrybody (sic) told me about you….I knew this was coming from the first day…I just wanted to see if you really was gonna play me. I’ll pray for you. See you @ the top.“

My response was:

“He filled out a timecard for the next week which I was homa (sic… gonna) have u do the monday you were coming 2 c me. Only 40 hours can go on non-union timecards. He did what he was supposed 2. I waited 3 days. I’m trying to fix it but I won’t entertain this further through texts.”

That was yesterday. Today as I’m finishing my Sedaris and moving to Notaro and laughing I get:

Mr. Crazy:

When can I come and see you?

Me:

4 what?

Mr. Crazy:

The money you said you were giving me!

Now I’m thinking, maybe he’s on drugs. Didn’t he tell me to go fuck myself and keep my fucking money not 24h ago?

So I didn’t respond. I read, I laugh, I smoke cigs and drink coffee. I talked to my aunt and told her what was happening to which she volunteered to call him and take care of it for me. She’s not the OG for nothing. Then as I’m cracking up to my book there’s the ominous ring. Miles Davis’ “So What?” never seemed so apropos.

Mr. Crazy Text:

“Since you dont’ want to answer me. Let me tell you this. The conversation we had about you giving me this money was recorded. My aunt works for ( eeoc ). She has your info to your main office in la. I’ve recorded my conversations with two of your employees telling me how much hours I’ve worked. ‘Wait this gets interesting’

I am also in touch wit the law office, who is responsible for over worked and under paid. This is gonna be great for you. Exposure. You asked for it now you got it. Just because you think your slick. Your company needs to know how you fuck wit there money.”

While not responding I get this one:

Mr. Crazy Text: “I was suppose to been informed that I needed to fill out another time card. You let them take money I bust my ass for. I did everything in my power to work as hard as I did for , and you tell me your takin a hundred dollars from what I earned. Why fuck ya own people. Why me, I really don’t understand you. I just lost my wife two yrz ago, so this is hard for me. I took off from work for a week for this. Why would you tell me you were giving me 2oo, when all you had to say ‘come up and fill out a time card’. So I’m supposed to deny you what’s mine. Sorry I’m not built like that.. What are we gonna do sis…..

it’s that easy!!”

NOW I’M JUST PISSED!!

How dare he? And the really fucking bizarre part is that he has no idea how this works. I feel so sad for him but I also want to stick it to him in some way. But I’m gonna be the bigga nigga, cause he has a circular logic run by emotion and not intelligence and I can’t argue with fools.

Me:

“The job is over. I don’t work 4 them anymore. I’m freelance. I had 3 days 2 wrap. That’s it. My offering MY money was a courtesy I’ve never offered anyone who didn’t do what they said they would do! I was trying 2 explain that 2 u b4 u hung up on of (sic… me) & started all this. I’m sorry u feel abused & don’t understand how commercials work but I’m trying 2 do the right thing and keep getting abused. B4 u hung up on me you told me 2 keep my money.”

I was continuing it to say, “Which is it?” when the phone rang. It was Mr. Crazy himself.

I got a chance to explain it to him. I spoke calmly and rationally, expressed my great disappointment in his assailing my racial allegiances…“and for you to do all this talking about doing right by your people and this is how you treat me. It makes me sad and angry and hurts my feelings… but that’s personal. Let’s deal with the business at hand. How much will it take for you to be satisfied? What needs to be done to fix this?”

Of course, it was just $200. That’s it. All of this over $200. I have an art director who owes me $5000- for 8 MONTHS. And I’ve given him a judgment letter. I’ve documented my correspondence and I do call from time to time to see if I can learn anything new… but to no avail. That’s ending a 10-year friendship. I could give a fuck about Mr. Crazy and $200 is a small price to pay for his satisfaction and my not having to think about him ever again.

He’s coming over later today to get the money. I should call Mr. Rational to be there just in case he really is crazy.

Two points I feel need reiteration:

1) This person is over 40 years old.

2) The money he’s arguing about is not what he earned, per se. I got him a double day because there was one excessively long day worked and no other P.A.’s but him and ‘the white boy’ got it. It was a courtesy on my part as well. The other P.A.’s worked just as hard if not harder for me, but I was doing them a solid. But ya know what they say about acts of kindness.

I’m so sad for a lot of my people. We’ve been sorely under/ un- educated and it’s now glaringly apparent when it comes to matters of business and professionalism. Our insistence in using street talk at work and a general failure to understand the systems we work in.

What really makes me sad is that I’m too tired and angry to really do anything about it. I can try to pronounce words correctly to give some one a map, but I can’t make them walk down the road to grammatically correct town. Hell, I barely understand how commas work and semi colons are a mystery shrouded in subject-verb agreements. But I believe I can get a point across when I’m sober.

As Mr. Crazy’s yelling into the phone how fucking professional he is, I understood that I just needed to get my point across and find a way to make this go away. I could even hear his aunt trying to chime in. she got it. Once he figured out what I was saying I could hear the acquiescence in his voice. I hope through the day he figures out not just that he was wrong, but how he was wrong. How very wrong headed and ill tempered he is to work in this industry. How stupid he really is about this whole thing.

But let’s be clear. The dead wife angle is some bullshit. Only an immature asshole would pull a dead wife out for $200. What a tiny little world he lives in. but I get out of that world for $200 cash. No taxes. No withholding. Free and clear.

And isn’t that what Obama would want me to do?

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