“You Gonna Need a Box?”
by Marianne Curan
In my profession, which I’ll loosely call “Show Biz,” performers often describe themselves as a “working” actor/writer/host, etc —which even the least hip to that phrase assume that means you’re an “unemployed” actor/writer/host, etc—
If you do claim to be a “working” anything you better be ready to answer the inevitable, “Oh, great! Where can I see you?”
To prevent stammering into an inelegant babble of bullshit I keep these quick shut-em-up answers handy:
1) “You can’t actually see me because I'm doing a lot of voice-overs… dubbing movies into English. I had no idea Farsi was such a musical language!”
2) “You can see me on “Law & Order.”” Here’s why this works: Anyone who’s ever held a spear in a high school play has worked on “Law & Order.” No matter what scene or character you describe there’s an episode of it in re-runs that they’ll buy is you. You were undercover, right? I know this because not only have I seen EVERY episode but I also did an episode of “Law & Order.” (Bet you just made the “dun-dun” noise, right?)
3) “I’m a strict Method Actor and I’m rehearsing a new project about being an unemployed radio host…the hardest role I’ve ever had. But it’s coming along.”
Okay, I added that last one because I just became an unemployed radio host.
I can honestly say I’ve never been personally fired from a job…any job. Yes, shows I’ve been on were canceled, pilots for new shows weren’t picked up and I’ve been replaced by younger, cheaper talent. But, the news always came from my agent, someone on MY side, so it never had the same sting.
That was until recently. My husband and I were co-hosts of a popular morning radio show nearing its 6th full year on the air. But, one day on our way home from the studio, the phone rang.
A few hours later we found ourselves seated across from our boss, let’s call him Mr. Boss, and the head of HR, Ms. Helfinger. Mr. Boss, shifting in apparent discomfort at the unpleasant task ahead, leaned in to tell us that they were “going in a different direction.”
“Going in a different direction.” Ha! Why is that the only thing management can come up with instead of saying what is actually happening… you’re being fired?
Are they really going in a different direction? Did the radio show suddenly decide to manufacture hubcaps? Are they now grooming dogs? Running a Mathnasium franchise? That would be “going in a different direction.”
Nope. They’re still a radio station. They still play music on the radio, only now with new hosts. And we just got fired.
Ms. Helfinger handed us the requisite “Don’t-Sue-Us-Cuz-We-Didn’t-Mean-It-Paperwork” and asked for our keycards (i.e. so we can’t go postal and pin Xeroxed copies of our asses on the break room bulletin board).
We all stood up in awkward silence. I was wavering between giggles and grim when Ms. Helfinger asked, “Are you gonna need a box?”
I almost laughed out loud at the sudden revelation. When you get fired they give you a box! That’s when I knew I’d really never been fired before. I never got a box.
That’s when I spotted two empty file boxes behind Ms. Helfinger’s chair. They were our boxes.
Bob and I looked at each other. “Do you need a box, sweetie?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Do you?” he replied.
and my Daffy Duck pen holder.”
“Yeah, I only have a couple of baseball bobbleheads but something tells me I’m not taking them home.” offered Bob.
“No. No, you’re not.” I said with a grin.
As we gathered our sparse belongings it appeared we would need only one of those boxes. Just one. Our entire 6 years on this show fit into one box.
Mr. Boss and Ms. Helfinger made their heartfelt goodbyes to us and we headed to the elevator for our last trip home from “work.” Before the doors opened I grabbed Bob by the arm and led him to the stairs.
“No one in radio takes the stairs!” I said. “There’s much less of a chance we’ll be spotted making the “Box of Shame” walk!” We laughed and quietly sneaked out, my 1st Place Chili Cookoff trophy poking out of “the Box.”
It’s a few weeks later and I’m settling into unemployment. I’m certainly not missing my 7 p.m. bedtime and my 3 a.m. wake-up calls. But, there’s much I do miss… entertaining people. It’s always the first thing you miss if you do what I do.
I found out that the hardest part of my new life is remembering what day of the week it is. Although I solved that by checking my Pill Minder box each morning when I pop my anti-depressants and blood pressure pills. “Oh, look! It’s Tuesday!”
Tomorrow will be Wednesday and so on, and so on. I’ll figure it out. I always do.
By the way, did you see me on “Law & Order?”