I am at a point in my career where I have very little to offer anybody. I’ve been in LA for around seven months, which to me feels like a long time in spite of the fact that it isn’t, I didn’t go to film school, which means I’ve got limited connections and on-set experience, and all the experience I do have only qualifies me to be a production assistant, which is the film production equivalent of one of the redshirt security officers on the Enterprise only without benefits or cool uniforms.
Of course, I’ve got my writing, but the problem is that the number of people who want to be writers greatly outmatches the number of paying jobs for writers, so to apply for any writing-oriented job or job that’s even close to writing I have to compete with literally hundreds of other people with more or less the same aspirations and qualifications as me.
For example, I spent the past several months waiting with baited breath to see if I’d gotten a writer’s room PA position on a basic cable mystery/comedy TV show – and take it from me, several months is a long fucking time to have your breath be baited. The reason I had to wait so long to find out that I ultimately didn’t get the job (my response) was because while it was very important to me, it was of minimal importance to the people doling out the jobs – production assistant positions are pretty much the last to be filled.
This, more than anything, has become the bane of my existence – I apply for a lot of permanent jobs that I’d really love to have and then simply hear nothing, as though I’ve fired my resume into a black hole. Getting a prompt ‘no’ would be far preferable to this, because it’d at least give me closure; hearing nothing only leaves me uncertain and reminds me that I’m of so little importance that the people I’ve sent my resume to can’t be bothered to think of rejecting me until the last second.
It’s kind of frustrating. I mean, given half a chance I’m sure I could explain to these people that I am, in fact, quite important and worthy of a prompt response, but since the people I’m sending my resume to barely have time to say ‘no’ to me I doubt they have time to watch my ninety minute one man musical revue about my employability, tentatively entitled Truman!
Recently, though, I was granted an incredible opportunity to visit the opposite side of this issue – one of my roommates had moved out, so I created a Craigslist ad to search for a new one.
I’ve previously covered the unchecked insanity of Los Angeles Craigslist pages during my search for housing before I moved down here. For those of you who don’t remember and are too lazy to click on the link I so courteously provided you, I discovered that something about 340 days of sunlight per year makes people incapable of writing a posting that isn’t either stupid, unintelligible, or the ramblings of a serial killer.
I set out to do better with my ad – I took a number of in-focus, well-lit pictures of the room and apartment, then wrote up an ad that was as detailed as it was funny and grammatically correct. I posted the whole business on Thursday night at around 8:00 PM and then promptly went to bed so I could get up at 4:30 AM for the shoot I was PAing on the next day.
When my alarm woke me up, I had around 20 emails in my inbox already. By the end of the day, it was over 50. When I had a spare second at work to check my email, I found that a few people had emailed me twice – once in the wee hours of the morning, when they’d first found the ad, and then a second, more desperate inquiry later on in the afternoon, asking whether the apartment was still available and requesting in the politest terms possible that I hurry the fuck up and respond to them.
It’s really a strange thing to wake up one morning and find that lots and lots of people suddenly want something from you and are willing to bend over backwards to get it. Having people fill my inbox with polite requests and outright pleas for a chance to rent a $630 a month room in my apartment is probably as close as I’m ever going to get to having sex appeal. Honestly, I don’t know how Christina Hendricks deals with it.
I resolved that as soon as I was off work on Friday, I’d send prompt emails to the people who I wanted to meet, as well as gracious denials to everyone else. But after work on Friday some of the other PAs and I wound up going out for a drink, so I resolved to respond on Saturday. But then on Saturday I was pretty tired and mostly wanted to watch How I Met Your Mother, so I figured everybody could wait another day.
Ultimately, I did what all of the job interviewers I’ve emailed have done – that is, the bare minimum necessary. I emailed the guy who had sent me the sanest, funniest, and most grammatically correct application, invited him to come meet us and see the place, and then, judging him to be cool and hygienic enough for our high standards, invited him to live with us.
I know that I should email everyone else to let them know the room has been filled, but I’m reluctant. Craigslist masks my email address on the posting so applicants don’t know who they’re emailing, but replying to their emails reveals my true address – for me to send a mass response would be giving my email address and, by proxy, my name to around 70 complete strangers, any number of whom could be serial killers.
I suppose it’s wrong of me to engage in the same practice that gives me such a headache when I’m on the other side of the table, but I wouldn’t even say that leaving people in limbo is necessarily malicious or wrong. I can’t reasonably expect my search for steady employment to be important enough to warrant a prompt and hasty email from somebody who has a lot of other stuff on his plate, nor should a bunch of people who I’ve never met expect me to mass-email them that the room they applied for is now occupied – seeing as it’s been four days and LA Craigslist postings are auto-deleted after seven, I think the answer should be pretty clear by now anyway.
The sad fact is, if everybody’s primary concern was of primary importance to everyone else, nothing would ever get done and the storied institution of waiting in line would immediately cease to exist. There simply comes a point when it just makes more sense to leave somebody hanging for a little while. If I learned one thing from Inception, it’s that being caught in limbo, sometimes, is just a part of life.
Truman Capps will come to regret these words when he sends out his next job application.