Linguist, lexicographer, radio host, public speaker

The Shoot

In light of the actor’s union strike. An acquaintance in advertising: “We rented a Humvee for the shoot. These are massive vehicles, and they look good. They’ve got power, and that low design, and we figured it would be perfect. “But when we go out there, the mud was several feet deep. There’d been unusual rain, but we had already hauled the crew and gear out there, and the client was showing up any minute, so we figured we had better go ahead and risk it, risk getting the Humvee trapped. “We like to keep our shoots union, when possible. We hire union actors and union crews, mainly because it’s a good way to avoid trouble, but also because we all have friends in the unions, actor friends who always need the money. But the downside to unions is their adherence to job descriptions. They will not and are not allowed to deviate beyond their assigned tasks. That might hurt another union member, take away work or a paycheck from someone else. “So when the Humvee did, in fact, get stuck deep in the mud, spinning and careening around, nobody on the crew would help. These were big guys, used to hauling heavy gangboxes around, or carrying equipment from one place to another all day long. Not a one of them would help dig the Humvee out. “Michael, the account guy, who like me had dressed a bit nicer than usual in anticipation of the client, was forced to do it himself. I would have helped, but I was in a dress and hose, and my shoes weren’t suitable for the shoot, anyway, much less suitable for digging vehicles out of pig-deep mud. “He tucked his tie into his white shirt, took off his shoes ($200 leather, it looked like to me), and climbed into the mud in his stockinged feet with a shovel. It took him almost an hour and a half to clear out enough mud to lay down scoops of gravel and bundles of branches to give the thing some traction. There was no incline, really. It went from solid dirt and rock to mud, straight down, so it was tough going. “But he got it out. The professional union driver sat behind the wheel the whole time, waiting. “Meantime, the client had showed up. At first he was pissed about the delays. Delays mean higher costs. He has his own people to answer to. But by the end, he was glowing in the light of Michael’s can-do spirit. He offered to buy us dinner. We had a very nice meal, the three of us, and the client kept grabbing my leg.”

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Grant Barrett