Friday, January 7, 2011

"Hey! You're Not Useless Afterall!"

It's been a rough couple of days and this morning was no easier. We've been pre-rigging day in and day out, often re-doing things we've already done to meet the last minute changes from Production. So when the chance arises for us to take a break, no one has to tell us twice. My Brothers for the day and I immediately drop what we were doing and head out to the truck for some water and snacks.

So there I am, just chilling on the back of the lift gate, cold soda in my hand, enjoying the morning breeze against my damp skin. This was essentially a new crew that I was on, but I had been called back to play with them enough times that I was starting to really feel like one of the guys.

Just then, one of my coworkers who I've been primarily working with takes a seat beside me.

"You know," he starts off, "You really impressed me yesterday and this morning. You're starting to prove not to be useless afterall."

I turn to look at his face to see if there was any hint of joking at that last part. There wasn't.

"Um... What?"

"I mean it," he continues. "Yesterday was rough, but you just kept going without stopping. That was really great. You're helpful now."

I sit there, staring at him, jaw wide open and flabbergasted. Finally, I ask him, "So you're saying I've been doing nothing but fucking up all this time?" I spit out the question as lightheartedly as I could, hoping I could spin it into somewhat of a joke to give him a way to back peddle out of the insult he just threw at me. But he didn't take it.

"No, no, no... I'm serious. You're doing really well right now. Keep it up."

I take a good look at the guy. This was his way of genuinely paying me a compliment. What the fuck...?

So instead of going off on the guy, I tried to handle the situation as professionally as I could.

"You know," I said to him, "Thanks, but I really don't need to hear this from you."

"What?" He seemed confused now. He honestly didn't seem to think anything was wrong with what he just said to me.

"I'm saying, I don't need to hear this from you. So you can just save it."

Finally sensing that something he said had rubbed me the wrong way, he tried to "validate" me even more. "I don't think you understand. I'm saying it's a good thing that you're useful now. I really mean it!"

I try to find the right words to make him understand why saying "You're finally good after working with us for so long" can be insulting. "I know you mean that as a compliment, but by saying that, you're also saying that I've been useless for the past few weeks I've been with you guys."

"Yeah, but you were helpful yesterday and today. I mean it too. Don't worry. It's a good thing."

I give up. He wasn't getting it. And the more I tried to explain it to him, the more aggravated I was getting. I wanted this conversation to end. "I get that it's a good thing that I don't totally suck right now, but you know what? I don't want to hear it."

And with that and a curt "Fine. Have it your way," he gets up and leaves me alone with my now flavorless soda.

Who the hell does he think he is to be talking to me like that? Sure, I'll admit that he's been on this crew way longer than I have and he does have more experience with bigger shows than I do, but I've also been in this business longer overall. On this specific crew, he does have seniority over me, but I've also proven to have some skills that he doesn't. Despite me still learning the ways of this group, I feel like I've done enough to earn my keep.

I may not be the best at my job, but I'd like to at least think I'm a hard worker and at the very least, I'd like to think I'm not counterproductive to the team. In fact, early on in my days with this crew, I've gotten comments from some of the less cocky members about how I've surprised them (in the good way).

So where the hell does this guy get off by telling me, "Hey! You're not a total fucktard afterall!" and expecting me to be grateful for it?

As our break ends and we head back to work, I could tell he was insulted that I wouldn't take his "compliment." Whatever. He's not the Best Boy on this crew. He's not the Gaffer. And those two are the ones who keep bringing me back.

So I must be doing something right...


JD said...

I think he was trying to say, "You're like one of the five fingers in my glove now, you're really fitting in with the crew now." Not that you useless before, but now you and "they" have become a team.

Niall said...

That was possible the most insulting way to give some one a compliment. He could have just said "hey, good work. Your busting ass." Nuff said. The way he put it he was tip toeing around the fact that your a girl, just to tumble down the other side of saying that he thought you were useless.

If i'm working with some one new there is a grace period to see what they got for chops. I'm impartial till i have time on set with them to have thing to judge them on. They're neither useless or helpful, they just are. He sounds a little slow on talking with people.

Nathan said...

I got nothin'. I'm gobsmacked.

(But thanks for giving me the opportunity to use the word "gobsmacked". That doesn't happen every day!)

D said...

Who are these idiots that you keep working with? I've worked with many female grips and electricians over the years and honestly we don't think anything of it. We've got a female juicer on the series I'm doing now and she's treated like one of the boys. one of the biggest key grips in Hollywood now is a woman (iron man 2). I suspect these jerkoffs probably aren't very good at their jobs if they haven't been around enough to see how many working female techs there are.

Michael Taylor said...

Assuming this is a verbatim transcript of the actual conversation (a qualification I add only because few of us are taking notes on real life as it's going down), then I see no excuse whatsoever for this clown's attitude or behavior -- and I'm a guy who actually looks for reasons to cut those foot-in-mouth types a little slack, given the many times I -- due to general or situational cluelessness -- have all but swallowed my own size 12s.

This guy's comments and inability to understand your reactions have raised the bar on the Clueless Scale to new heights. All I can say is that a jerk like this makes the rest of us look good.

He's a fool. Ignore him as best you can, and try not to let his condescending attitude bother you.

A.J. said...

JD - I don't think that's what he was trying to say, seeing as how he actually used the word "useless".

Niall - I think he definitely needed to work on his people skills.

Nathan - I'm glad I could help! And I'm also gobsmacked myself to hear that you're at a loss for words! :)

D - Interestingly enough, I don't think think the female factor was in play on this one. (Or if it was, I was totally oblivious to it. Maybe you saw something in the convo that I didn't.) Either way, I don't know where these idiots come from, but they're everywhere...

Michael - Yeah, this guy is part jerk and part clueless, which is also what makes him hard to ignore.

Sanjay Sami said...

What a jackass. Best to ignore guys like that. From the transcript of your conversation, you can tell that he will never ever get it. I have had a version of this for a large part of the 20 years that I have been in the business. I am Indian, and on many movies that I am key grip on in other countries, I have got this attitude from local Gaffers, Operators and even from crew that are working for me in the grip department.
It does not matter what my resume looks like. They just figure that if I'm Indian, I can't really be upto the "Hollywood" standard.
I've had a camera operator once tell me (after I made a suggestion to change a shot a little in order to reduce the risk to 50 extras who were under a crane) - "Look man this is Hollywood - not Bollywood"
I usually just smile and carry on doing my thing, because by the end of the movie, I know that they would have changed their mind, in a way that they would not have done had I got into an argument with them.
Sometimes you just have to ignore the Jackasses.

It can be really difficult - especially now that they have a movie with 2 sequels named after them :-)

D said...

Sanjay you're not alone. I got the same thing for years because I'm from the south and have an accent. The payoff comes when they realize I'm better at my job than they are at theirs.

A.J. said...

Sanjay - I feel ya. And you're right; guys like that will never get it and the only thing you can do is to keep doing your job well.

D - Added Bonus: Women on set love a guy with an accent. :)

Sanjay Sami said...

D - Totally agree with you.
Aj - My accent maybe a bit much for them, although its way more southern than D's its also a bit eastern ;)

JD said...

Okay. I was trying to be P.C. and attribute his comments to a poor command of the language and the inability to put into words what he really meant. But then again, he might just be an A-hole.

Hugo Fuchs said...

Just a point: This is common in places on the East coast. Basically, if someone comes in, they're considered useless until they prove otherwise. What the proper translation of this would be is something like, "We're glad that you didn't turn out to be a slacker hired because of some government/studio memo saying there had to be a higher female to male ratio, and that you're actually adept at your skillset."

Hugo Fuchs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A.J. said...

Hugo - Unfortunately, this was totally a West Coast situation. The guy in the post has only ever worked in California and there was no "Equal Opportunity" hiring practices in play here.
But thanks for sharing. I totally didn't know that about the East coast.

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