For anyone who DOESN’T already know this, I work in television. I have for the last 6 years, give or take. At my current job, one of the main and most important responsibilities of the PA (me) is making sure that our master tapes for each week’s show reach our broadcaster by Monday morning at 10am. Usually this involves nothing more than a deft go-round the trusty FedEx website, but occasionally circumstances conspire to require either myself or a colleague to get on a plane and hand-carry the tapes to Washington, DC.
Usually, the reason for the hand-carry is a time crunch with editing or a Monday holiday. The reason for the hand-carry is not usually because the PA (me) forgot to ship the master tapes.
In fact, I would hazard a guess that the reason for the trip has NEVER been “the PA forgot to ship the master tapes”.
Returning home from the bars on Saturday night (Sunday morning, if you want to be particular), in a quicksilver flash of gut-wrenching panic, I realized that I’d become the first PA in history to FORGET TO SHIP THE MASTER TAPES. 1:45am, and our finished, packaged show was sitting on my desk.
If I hadn’t been wasted, I might have had an aneurism.
I stayed up until 3 trying to talk myself down and jolted awake at 8:30, still a bit drunk, to toss and turn and wait for an appropriate time to let my boss know that he’d hired a complete moron. To kill time, I searched online for last-minute flights. After two hours I had worked up the courage (SO COURAGEOUS, I am) to text him with the bad news. I booked my tickets, three hundred and sixty dollars of complete fuck-up, and then I threw up.
Sunday was spent in a pile of self-loathing and misery interrupted by the occasional panic attack, which was probably all for the best as the exhaustion reduced the number of times (3, total, about half-an-hour a pop) I would wake up that night in terror of oversleeping. My flight Monday morning departed at 6am, which meant a 4am wakeup call.
q: WHAT’S BETTER THAN WAKING UP AT 4AM?
a: ALMOST ANYTHING!!!
My plan was simple: fly into Dulles, pick up the rental car, spin over to Crystal City, deliver the tapes, cruise back to Dulles, enjoy some free internet over lunch and a glass of chenin blanc, and fly back home. In the meantime, Katsu would drop off a (crucial, important, time-sensitive) tape at our mix house on the way to work, and all would be well.
Phases 1 and 2 of the plan went off without a hitch: my flight was smooth, my rental was… a rental… but once I actually had to gather myself together and DRIVE, things started to unravel. Over the past 2 nights I’d only had, what, 7 hours of sleep, and although I’ve spent a considerable amount of time INSIDE our nation’s capital, the highways around it could beat your mind in half with a spoon. My MapQuest directions and insomnia-brain proved a poor match for DC’s snarled beltways, and I got off the George Washington Parkway to find myself NOT on 20th street but….
in the parking lot of the Pentagon.
No joke. I got off the highway and drove straight into the parking lot of our national military headquarters. Chew on that for a second.
I was so flustered by my surroundings and terrified of being hijacked by taser-toting rent-a-cops that I fled via the first available exit, which, as luck would have it, dropped me right on to 395 inbound at the height of morning rush hour ONE EXIT NORTH of my target. I often joke with my sister about the cultural significance of being “In Traffic On The Beltway”, but let me tell you, the dream beats the reality by a mile and a day. The highway was clogged like a Whole Foods parking lot before Christmas, only more slow-moving and more packed with idiots. After edging forward, inch-by-inch, for 20 minutes, I thought “fuck this shit, I’m from BOSTON” and sped off in the breakdown lane towards the entrance to National Airport, where I found a surprisingly direct route to my destination.
Once in Crystal City, I descended into the most heinous parking garage known to man, dropped off the tapes, and popped over to Starbucks for a quick coffee. While waiting for my machine-bred 3-shot skim cappuccino, I got a call from my boss, frantic, because the tape Katsu was supposed to deliver hadn’t been dropped off.
“Where is he??” my boss asked, trying not to sound infuriated, “we have a NARRATION session!!”
That would have been an easy question to answer, had I not taken my husband’s phone on the trip with me.
I called Katsumi’s coworker and his Skype, and then his coworker, and then his Skype, and then the mix house, and then his Skype, and when I finally got through I only managed to choke up a garbled handful of syllables before I started sobbing and hung up on him. It was about that time that I realized I hadn’t printed out directions for the trip BACK to Dulles.
It took 30 minutes of circling Crystal City’s avenues and parking lots (they use PARKING LOTS as STREETS there – see “Pentagon” above) before I decided to backtrack through National once again, get lost in the process, then take the GWP the wrong way. The chenin blanc, it seemed, would have to be scratched off my list of “to-do’s”, especially after I circled Dulles not two, not three, but FOUR TIMES before I figured out where they’d hid the rental car return.
Not only was I sober for my return flight, but I also coughed up an extra $30 in Extortionist Rental Car Gas Refill Charges as I didn’t have time to top off the tank.
En route back to Boston, I found myself in the center seat of a packed plane with a screaming infant, directly in front of a woman with a cough so putrid I almost resolved to quit smoking. But I was finished – DONE – my quest complete.
Before heading to work, I stopped home to wash my face and found our bath mat covered in cat piss; our newly cleaned bathroom reeking of urea and tuna by-product.
When Katsu im’ed me later this afternoon, asking me what I wanted to do for dinner, I only had one answer: an ativan sandwich and a bottle of cheap merlot.
8:34pm, and all I’ve got is a Ketel One and soda. Sigh.