It was in the time of eighteen hour days and all-nighters. Just starting out in the film business, the concept of benefits, unions, or overtime, was just a fantasy. The pay was horrible. But I would get a credit!
It would have been a sweatshop if I was operating a sewing machine, instead of a moviola. It was still a sweatshop.
The job was down in Venice, at a B-movie studio conjured out of a defunct lumber yard. I was up all night cutting sound effects for a bad sci-fi movie. I had just completed editing the grisly sounds of our hero removing a potato sized tumor from his buddy, without any pain killers. They were on a spaceship.
I was proud of my work. But I felt like I had operated on myself.
The producer would come through and lay off a few editors, every week or so. I would get laid off. A few days later, I’d get the call and come back in. It just put us behind schedule. Thus the all-nighters, effectively halving the pay for the same amount of work.
When it was all over, I received the ‘recidivist award’ for the most rehires for a single show.
My sister-in-law expressed concern at my lack of rest. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” was my ‘witty’ response. She didn’t laugh.
This particular day, I was running on empty. I needed food. I needed sleep.
I walked down to the Venice roundabout where there was a health food store. I could use some healthy food. Sunlight and air would perk me up. Maybe they could super-size about eight hours sleep for me.
Walking past Gold’s Gym, I thought, ‘I bet everyone there eats at the health food store. They must be really healthy.’ I was hallucinating.
Inside, a line of customers waited to order food. It was cool, quiet, and dimly lit. Sometimes everyone would shuffle a couple steps toward the counter. I hoped to eat before I fell asleep.
On either side of us, were display tables filled with inviting, plump, fresh fruit and vegetables, everything that was in season. I wanted to lie down on those nice, organic heads of lettuce for a snooze.
People would come in from the beach, laughing and horsing around. Their laughter was jarring. Everyone waited patiently.
The guy in front of me was from the gym. He had pimples up the back of his neck and a shaved head. His sleeveless shirt revealed all his muscles gained from pumping iron. He looked really strong, but could he tie his shoes? I think he was grass fed.
One of the beach kids shoved a friend, who then bumped into someone else. Like sweaty dominos, each person in line accidentally bumped into the person before him. When I got nudged, I almost caught my balance, but then bumped into Mr. Pumper.
Enraged, he turned on me. His fist shot out and hit my shoulder, knocking me backward. I held up my hands, attempting to appease him. “Hold it, man! I said I was sorry.”
He charged, head down and roaring. Had we been outside, he would have tackled me. I would have been down and it would be over. Instead, we crashed into the vegetable display, which collapsed and sent fruit and vegetables everywhere. Outclassed, I put him in a headlock and hung on. He reared back and swung me around. My feet left the floor. Everyone scattered.
I felt like one of those rodeo clowns. Not the real clown, but one of the stuffed decoys that the bull tramples after ripping it to pieces.
Everyone was yelling to stop. Finally, the guy calmed down. I let go. He gave me a dirty look and then got back into line. I was dazed and disheveled.
Then everyone else got into line, as if this happened all the time. Just a normal day at the health food store.
I ate my flavorless sandwich in the park.
Back at work, everyone asked me what happened. Did I get into a fight? I told them “that health food store has a pretty rough clientele. Those sprouts really pack a wallop.”