Tuesday, January 12, 2010
It's Time For The Money Talk...
I'm having lunch with a friend of mine. We've known each other since college and he's in the same line of work as I am. In the middle of our entrees, he excuses himself to take a call on his cell phone. While this is normally considered rude behavior, there is a special exception regarding inappropriate cell phone usage for those of us in The Industry. Since our lively hood depends on the next job, and the next job depends on how easily accessible we are, it's not uncommon for us to be taking calls no matter how inopportune the moment.
"Sorry about that," he says when he returns to the table. "I'm trying to see if Production will cut me a check today. I really need the money."
I nod, understanding his situation. He's usually hard up for cash and I've been there many times before myself. Then as the meal continues, I notice his plate compared to mine. While I had ordered something more reasonably priced, he had ordered one of the more expensive dishes on the menu. And as our conversation continued, he mentioned how he just bought plane tickets to Vegas. And concert tickets. And a new flat screen TV for his apartment. I also notice that he took that call on a new Blackberry.
I wish I could say this was the first time I've seen this happen, but unfortunately, it's not. I can't tell you how many times I've heard a colleague bitch about not having enough money and then five minutes later tell me about how they're upgrading the stereo system in their car. Or have their cable shut off from not paying their bill, yet they magically have the cash to buy a new guitar. They don't know if they're going to make rent this month, but they bought a new cell phone.
This is an industry of highs or lows, floods or droughts, feasts or famines. When it rains, it pours and the work is good. But as the seasons change, so will the flow of work. Suddenly you find yourself in the middle of a dry spell, unemployed for weeks on end. In order to survive, you need to learn how to save up during the good times for when things get bad.
This is why I don't understand how someone can complain about not having enough money when they're constantly spending. You don't need to order the most expensive thing on the menu, or have the best sound system or the best TV to survive in this business. All you need is a roof over your head, reliable transportation and a phone that can take calls.
I know that we work hard for our money. The long days and back-breaking hours aren't easy, so I understand the need to treat ourselves every once in a while and reward our hard work with some fun and indulgences. But with a stack of bills to pay and no work on the horizon, I have enough sense to treat myself to a pint of Ben and Jerry's instead of a trip to Vegas.
As the meal ends and we begin to say our good-byes, my friend's phone rings again. It's Production telling him he can come by right now and pick up his check.
"Yes!" he says, with a sigh of relief. "That means I can go drinking tonight with the boys. You wanna come?"
I smile and shake my head. I need to pay my electric bill.