Lying My Way to the Middle

I’m a liar, a cheat and a scumbag.

I’m not proud of it, but I learned these characteristics like when Liam Neeson tells his daughter’s kidnapper in the movie Taken, that he has “a particular set of skills acquired over a long career." 

It began when I worked as a talent agency assistant.  One particular month, I was blamed for numerous things that weren’t my fault and was getting reamed daily to the point where I was going to be fired.

I didn’t understand it. The moralistic world that I had successfully operated within was self-imploding. It was like being in an alternate dimension where 2 + 2 = 15.  Finally, a young agent who was witnessing my imminent downfall pulled me into his office.  

“What the hell are you doing?” he said.

I vented my frustrations, and he gave me the greatest advice that helped me survive. 

“From here on out, deny fault. Blame it on somebody else. An assistant, an agent, fuck, blame the mailman.  Just don't take the hit if you don’t have to.  And if it’s fixable, do everything in your power to clean up the mess before somebody finds out.”  

I know this sounds horrible, but if you disagree, go work as an assistant in Hollywood and then come back and talk to me. 

His advice helped. I worked harder to be more meticulous, but mistakes were inevitable. But when I saw a train wreck heading my way, I blamed others or covered my tracks as best as I could.  It helped me avoid being on the receiving end of demoralizing yellings and later when I worked as a manager, saved my reputation in front of clients.

To be clear, most of these errors were NOT my fault, but I realized that everyone plays this game and it’s sink or swim. 

Two years later, I left the agency and became an assistant to a TV producer.  He was a smiling cobra. He could charm you and make you feel safe, and then lock you into a deal where you give up your first-born child. He played many psychological games with me, and working for him was like being the assistant to “the Joker” from Batman.

Anyway, he had these movie posters of projects he produced mounted on his walls. He paid a ton of money to get them framed and when our company moved, these posters were carefully wrapped and shipped to the new office space.  A few days later, every executive had their newly shipped artwork leaning against their office walls.  I called the building operations manager who informed me that a professional wall-hanger would be swinging by to hang all posters and artwork. I informed my boss of the update.

“Hang it up tonight.”  he instructed.

I guess he wanted to be the first person to have his office completely set up.  I had no idea how to hang up framed movie posters and wasn’t sure if I was allowed to nail things into the walls.  I replied with my standard answer.

“No problem.”  

I went to a nearby hardware store and asked the man behind the counter how to hang up framed posters without using nails, and he pointed me to a wall of double-adhesive glue strips.

“This shit can hold an elephant on the ceiling.”

I went back to the office and began the painstaking process of hanging up movie posters with glue strips.  It took me about four hours because I also had to measure everything with a ruler and make sure everything was equidistant.  Easy if there are two people, so one person can observe and say if something looks crooked.  Near impossible if you are working by yourself at midnight. 

I finished everything and admired my handiwork.  I had discovered an innate hidden talent and actually thought that maybe I should pick up carpentry as a side hobby because I hung up six movie posters. I went home that night and slept peacefully.

I got to the office the next morning and froze in horror upon entering my boss' office. Three of the movie posters had fallen off the wall in the middle of the night. The frames were badly cracked and split.

Another assistant heard me scream. He ran in and asked me what happened. I explained my predicament, hoping he would help me brainstorm a solution.

“That sucks. ” He replied before slithering back to his desk.

I was going to get destroyed. Knowing you are going to be yelled at is like being in a prison camp, awaiting torture.  All you can do is mentally brace yourself and fight the urge to jump out the window.   

I couldn’t blame anyone because I hung up the posters, but maybe I could fix it.   It was 8:30 A.M..  My boss was at a breakfast and would be in by 9:30.  There was no way a framestore would have the repairs done in time.  I got on my knees and surveyed the damage. I realized that if I pushed the cracked frame together, it almost looked normal.

I Google mapped the area and sprinted to the closest CVS. I bought three tubes of super glue and a packet of black magic markers. I rushed back to the office and began the intricate process of gluing the frames back together.  It was kind of sloppy, but did the trick. I still had to deal with the problem of the exposed splintered wood, which I colored in with the black marker.  

I then used about 30 adhesive strips per poster and threw them back up on the wall.  It was about 9:28 when I finished, and my boss strolled in three minutes later.  He stopped by the doorway and scanned the room.

“Is that poster crooked?”  

“I don’t think so.”

It totally was, but I couldn’t move it because I had just permanently glued it against the wall and would need a sledgehammer to break the wall and get it down.

That Tuesday was probably the most nerve-wracking day of my life. I couldn’t concentrate because I was replaying the nightmare of the other posters crashing down, one after the other. 

“Are you OK?” he asked.  

“Yes, it’s really hot in here!”

Thankfully, none of the posters fell, and he never asked me to redecorate his office.  When my boss got fired a few months later, he asked me to bring his movie posters to his house. Two building workers had to help me tear the posters off the wall, which I delivered to my boss in layers of bubble tape.

Sometimes I think back to that day and can smile about it. I don’t know if my boss ever found out about the picture frames. A part of me doesn’t care but if he does call me out one day, I’ll man up about it.

I’ll deny everything.