Chapter 2: The Strange, the Bizarre, and the Unexpected

Hattie and Daria walked into the writers' suite. The first thing that Daria noticed was the large conference table in the center of the room near the door. It was covered with everything from papers to fast food waste. She also noted that none of the chairs matched. Overall it looked like the furnishings had been salvaged from the nearest dumpster. Beyond the table were cubicles.

A guy walked up to Daria, wiped his hand on his t-shirt – that hand needed wiping – and extended it. Daria shook hands with him as he said, "You must be the first of the interviewees today. I'm Burt. I'm the head writer for the show." Turning to Hattie he said, "Sorry I had to send you to the production meeting, but I had to stop in at the dentist's office this morning. Where's Howard?"

Hattie said in a rather matter-of-fact tone, "Fired. Bergie canned him right there in the meeting. I'm surprised he hasn't been up yet with HR to collect his things."

"Too bad," Burt lamented. "But, you could see it coming. He hadn't written a decent thing in six months."

"That's the way it goes," Hattie replied.

Turning again to Daria, Burt said, "Let me show you around here right quick."

"By the way, Burt," Hattie said. "Can someone get this table cleaned up before the boss comes in here and sees it? He'll have a hemorrhage and fire the whole staff!"

"That would be you #2," Burt responded. "Now Daria, I'm sorry to say that you missed the morning writers' meeting. There will be an afternoon meeting as well. In the morning we sit around this table and figure out what stories to write for the show. As you might guess, we write show segments and then the director decides which segments will be put together for any one show. We try to have a backlog of about one week's material so that there is never an interruption. It also keeps us from going insane. As it is sometimes the director wants a rewrite shortly before air time." Daria walked with Burt around the cubicles and he introduced her to the writers. As much as the meeting area looked like a pig sty, the individual cubicles were mostly neat, clean, the furnishings were in good shape, and the writers had the latest technology. Clearly, however, there was not a dress code in the writers' suite.

The two stopped at Burt's cubicle. He sat in his desk chair and motioned Daria to sit in a hard plastic side chair. As she sat down Burt asked her, "So, if you died and came back as an animal, what kind of animal would you be?"

"Excuse me?" Daria asked incredulously. Her eyes got very big.

"If you died and came back as an animal, what kind of animal would you be?" Burt asked again.

"Bald eagle," Daria replied almost instantly.

Looking at her, Burt asked, "Why a bald eagle?"

"Simple," Daria replied. "They get to fly, they're fast, they can eat most anything, they can fly in a storm, and they are protected by law from human beings."

"Hmm," was all Burt could say. "How would you translate that into a Sick Sad World headline?"

Daria responded right away, "Untouchable threat to your pets? Bald eagles dining on your dog – next on Sick Sad World!"

"That's pretty good. I like it," Burt said. "What would I find if I looked in your refrigerator right now?"

Daria was beginning to wonder at the sanity of these people, but then they did write for Sick Sad World. "Right now you would find nothing. I'm homeless. I just graduated from college and have no place of my own."

Burt's eyes got wide and he exclaimed, "Are you living in your car?"

"I don't have a car," Daria replied.

Burt's voice went up about a half-octave. "So, you're staying with your parents then?"

"No."

"Then what do you do with all your things?" Burt's eyes were now bulging.

"I have a suitcase and a backpack. That's it," Daria said in total deadpan.

Burt looked like he was near panic, "You aren't living on the street are you? Are you at least in a shelter?"

Daria decided to end this line of questioning before Burt had a stroke. "No. I am staying with my boyfriend. His lease runs until the end of June. Here in New York for the moment I am living in a hotel."

"Oh, well that's good. I'd hate to see you living in a cardboard box on the streets of New York!"

Burt got up and escorted Daria to her next interview with a guy named Hersh. No one mentioned if it was his first name or last name. Hersh didn't introduce himself to her. He just sat down and it was clear she was expected to sit in the side chair by his desk.

Hersh said with his very thick Brooklyn accent, "So, how would you describe yourself in three words?"

The first words that came to Daria's mind were: annoyed, intellectual, and apathetic. However, she knew that these would hardly help her in an interview! Instead she looked at Hersh and said, "Creative, focused, and articulate."

Hersh paused a minute and looked around his cubicle. Then he turned and said, "OK, so tell me a funny story about something that happened to you in college that shows those three traits."

Daria paused and was a little nonplussed by the question. She was prepared to talk about herself in terms of her professional work and even some bland personal things in order to make small talk. She and Tom had even practiced some off-the-wall questions to help her think on her feet. This was a whole different level. Telling a personal, humorous story was simply not something she did, except maybe with Tom or Jane. Even then, Daria would hardly volunteer such information to her best friends unless intoxicated or pressed. Now this random guy at a job interview wanted her to open up. This was clearly a conundrum. She had three choices: tell a true story from college, use something from high school and pretend it was college, or make up a completely fictional story, i.e., lie. Her interviewer wouldn't know the difference. Should the story be self-deprecating, which would show that she wasn't conceited? Alternatively, she could have someone else be the butt of something she did to them, which would simply paint her as a bitch. Oh the choices we have to make!

"So?" Hersh said. "C'mon already."

Daria responded, "Alright, here is a story from my sophomore year. My best friend goes to Boston Fine Arts College."

Hersh interrupted with the comment, "Yeah, I know the place. They call it BFAC. My sister went there 10 years ago. She waits tables now."

"So you know that they have graphic arts, performing arts, music, and programs like fashion and costume design."

"Yeah. My sister was learning to paint. What a waste for my parents. My father sold all of my mother's diamonds, except her wedding ring, to pay for that place. On top of it, I don't think my sister had any talent. She would have done better to apprentice and learn to paint walls. But, BFAC still let her in and took our money. Me, I just worked hard on my writing and went to community college. Now who is better off? Me."

Daria made an instant and potentially dangerous decision. She decided to act like her interviewer. "So," she said. "Do you want to hear the story or not? I'm perfectly good not telling you about this."

"Go on," Hersh said.

"So my friend was dating this guy named Henry. Henry was majoring in acting and he had a class where they were doing dramatic reading. For this assignment they were reading in parts. The book was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was a Saturday night and several of us were sitting around Henry's apartment and had had a few drinks. Jane was really bugging them to do some of the reading. We had the members of Henry's team there, except the person who was to read Mr. Bennet. Jane insisted that I read his part, being the only literature major present. She also knew that I really love Jane Austen."

"Sounds like a boring Saturday night to me."

"That's the BFAC crowd. Anyway, so we start reading Chapter 41. Just to make it interesting, Jane had insisted that we make the reading a drinking game. Everyone had to do a shot whenever the word 'life' was uttered."

"Now we are getting somewhere," Hersh said. "You're pretty skinny. I bet that booze went right to your head!"

Daria's first thought was, 'You are a pig.' But, she just pushed on with the story. "We had taken three shots when we came to the section where Mr. Bennett was talking about Lydia. I was reading the text very seriously when I came to the statement 'she cannot grow many degrees worse without authorizing us to lock her up for the rest of her life.' I blew the line." Daria leaned forward and got close to Hersh's face. In her absolutely best deadpan she delivered the line, "I said, 'she cannot grow many degrees worse without authorizing us to knock her up for the rest of her life!'"

Hersh started to laugh so hard that Daria thought he would either fall off of his chair and hit his head on something – not that it would cause any noticeable damage – or that he would wet himself. Fortunately, he did neither. It probably took him three minutes or so to collect himself. Wiping his eyes he said, "That is a good story!"

Daria talked with Hersh for another five minutes or so. Then before taking her to the next meeting he said, "I have one more question for you."

"Shoot," Daria replied. This guy was clearly insufferable.

Hersh asked, "What is the thing that you hate most about humanity?"

Daria answered in total deadpan, "Clearly it is their personal greenhouse gas emissions. They breath, they speak, and they fart. I have to put up with all of that just to survive in this world. I could certainly do without it and so could the environment."

Hersh guffawed again and had to wipe his eyes. "Daria," he said. "You have a fantastic sense of comic timing. I think that is something we need around here. But first, I need to take you to the next interview."

Daria endured two more interviews. She had to answer such deep questions as: What do you think about when you are alone in a car? And what is the weirdest place you ever unintentionally vomited? Audrey, Daria's final interview of the morning, led her back to the large conference area. Finally, it was time for lunch.