The night is going bad. Appallingly bad. More bad than any bad interaction I have ever had with another human being over the course of my nearly-thirty years. On a scale of one to ten, this is a nuclear meltdown, one that will destroy future generations of plants, animals, people, leaving everything to roam the earth with nine legs and a fistful of eyeballs. No one will be spared. This is, by all accounts, the worst blind-work-date-drink I have ever had.
If I had had my way, I wouldn’t even be here, seething while I stare at a portrait of a cow on the wall of this bar, my vision blurring with rage. Five hours ago, knowing that I was running on energy fumes, I asked the person I am currently standing across from, henceforth referred to as Angry Guy, if he didn’t mind rescheduling. Having never met before, I wanted to, you know, bring my A-game. Be charming, amiable, friendly, unlike what I currently feel, which is tired, beat-up, and on a precipice of a cold. “Are you serious?” he asked. And then Angry Guy laid into me about essentially ruining his night. Rescheduling was not in the cards. “No thanks,” he texted.
Not wanting to make enemies out of a total stranger, I said I’d make it work. “I don’t want you meeting out of obligation though,” he texted. Too late for that, Angry Guy. Right now I feel like a kid whose grandmother’s grabbed them by the ear, dragging them violently towards a bowl of mashed peas.
But I try to forget our acrimonious text message exchange by the time I arrive at The Spotted Pig. I even venture to hug him instead of shaking hands. Angry Guy is, after all, the friend of a mutual friend, who thought it would be a good idea for the two of us to meet, being as we are both writers. He, currently writing for a comedy network TV show and myself, chipping away at my own projects. Only, you know, Angry Guy apparently doesn’t see it that way. Angry Guy thinks he’s the only writer at this bar, and I’m just a pretty girl doing real cute things with her life, a non-threatening entity.
“You mind if I don’t drink?” I ask. “I’ve got to work tomorrow.” Angry Guy says that’s fine, even though clearly it’s not, because Angry Guy is already drunk from the dinner he came from, a fact he pointed out ten minutes ago when he told me, “Got a little drunk at dinner.” Later, after things have started to go increasingly bad, he’ll mention my not drinking and ask what “work” for me tomorrow entails. I’ll tell him I freelance. He’ll ask me who for. I’ll list three different corporate clients and five publications. And he’ll go, “Pffffff,” and roll his eyes. “That’s not work.”
Before Angry Guy goes full-blown offensive, he works his comedian shtick, which is belligerently loud and generally abrasive. After telling me I look like a caterer in my white button-up shirt (“Seriously, did you just take off your bowtie and come here from work? You know, as a caterer?”), he proceeds to tell me how much he makes per week writing for this new show ($3,600), which is more than what he used to make writing for the same show ($1,600), but after discovering how amazingly brilliant and talented and totally amazing he was, they upped his pay. Oh, yeah, and he gets $500 per day consulting for an ad agency. Within ten minutes, I know the breakdown of his yearly 1099s and W2s. “I don’t even know what to do with all this money!” he says. And I, on my part, don’t really know what to do with this bizarre discussion of income, and so I just kind of stand there and lamely say something about how maybe he should save some of it. “No, man. I’m just, like, buyin’ clothes!” I shouldn’t feel bad for him, he assures me, because he says he still hates himself on the inside.
At some point he drops Blake Lively’s name. “She’s nice,” he informs me.
Next up, he tells me about the genesis of his 3k-follower Twitter account and how his ex-girlfriend was “Twitter famous.” At the mere mention of this phrase, I feel all of my organs groan in discomfort. A psychological rash takes hold of my person and makes me wish I was born in Butte, Montana in the 1800s, in a land where the most technologically advanced item was a butter churner, if it simply meant I did not have to be standing here in this bar with this comedian screaming into my ear about a career born of 140-character wit nuggets. If these are the spoils of the digital age, I beg for Armageddon.
He tells me This Editor is following him and That Editor is following him, and that in January he will do a piece for a famous satirical newspaper named after a vegetable but says he doesn’t give a s^*t about writing for them. “If they don’t like my ideas, fine,” he says. “I’ll just go back to my $3,600 per-week job writing for television!” He takes a swig of his Manhattan.
“So what is it you want to do with your life?” he hollers, delivered in a way that is far from curious or supportive, in a way that infers whatever I am currently doing is flippant and worthless. “You want to just write for magazines?” I tell him that the endgame is screenplays, and that I have a manager in LA. “Whose you’re manager?” he asks, clearly for ammunition purposes, mining for intel to destroy me. “This guy Ray,” I say. “He’s amazing.”
Apparently Angry Guy’s representation situation is more complicated. Awhile back he slept with his agent’s assistant’s assistant or something, who has now (shockingly) climbed the ranks to something better. She is currently the boss of his agent, and will – for more reasons he probably doesn’t have enough self-awareness to comprehend — take any opportunity to make life hell. “I’ve got to stop sticking my d*$# into things,” he laments. He walks to the bar and orders another drink. I ask him to grab me a water, which he forgot the first time, leaving me standing with my arms crossed and nothing to do for the last 45 minutes.
But everything is leading up to this moment, when Angry Guy launches into a mini, pseudo-comical tirade about how soon he’ll be making the big time cash, and, as he sees it, I will rue the day. “I’ll be making seven-figures and you’ll be all, ‘Hey! I remember when I had a drink with that guy…’” He keeps going, making it clear that the level of badness this work-date-drink thing has reached will be something I will regret, not simply because it has been bloody painful, but because Angry Guy is going to be a wildly successful. Me, on the other hand, with my magazine articles and my “pfffff” work, won’t amount to anything where Angry Guy is forced to stand back one day and go, “Hey! I remember when I had a drink with that girl!” The arrogant, misogynistic, epically offensive aside sends me reeling.
“Oh, yeah,” I start. “Because by then I’ll just have married some rich guy and I’ll have four kids, and I’ll hit you up and ask you to write a screenplay about an idea I shelved when I was 21, and I’ll pay you with all my husband’s money.”
“Glad you know how Hollywood works,” he says.
At this point, I have gone dead silent. I stare at the aforementioned cow portrait. “That didn’t land well,” he says. “ I was kidding. I thought we were doing that ‘I make fun of you, you make fun of me’ thing.” Reaching for my coat, I ask him where he’s going next. Meeting adjourned.
I knew I should have rescheduled.