Chapter 5: The Assembly Line

Back in the cubicle Daria worked on completing her piece about the paintball fieldtrip. Daria looked at the clock on her computer when she finished her work. There was about 15 minutes left until the deadline. Daria used the time to edit her work in one or two places and finally submitted it to the system with two minutes to spare. A confirmation message appeared on her screen along with another message to report to the conference room table.

When she arrived at the conference table all the writers were sitting there apparently arguing with each other. Burt was standing at one end of the table writing things on one of the whiteboards. He turned to the interviewees who had just entered the room and said, "You interviewees stand by the far wall, watch, and listen. This is the final pre-production meeting. What comes out of here will be the options for tonight's program. The results go to Hattie, she makes the final call on content and then they go up to Bergie for final review. He almost never makes a change. This all has to be done in an hour, because it then goes to production. Once things go to production our job is done for the day and we can go home. Therefore, we want everything to be right when it goes out of here. Each night one person stays late in case some rewrites are need." Looking back at the people around the table he shouted, "Alright now give me 6 stories."

Daria stood there and watched the chaos, fighting, and shouting that went on during the meeting. Clearly the writers were competing to get their stories on the show. Once those were chosen, then two or three were chosen to go in reserve. It started to become clear that the advantage of having your story chosen was that you kept your job. If you went too long without having a story chosen for airing, then your job was in jeopardy. She was reminded of a movie she and Jane saw together – Chicken Run. If you were a hen and stopped laying eggs, then you got 'the chop!'

All of this was clearly a competition. In the end Burt had his list. He went back to his cubicle and forwarded the list and files to Hattie. After the meeting the writers just milled around the room. Some writers talked to the interviewees – Daria noticed the ones that talked were the ones who had their stories chosen. The others just slunk back to their cubicles to wait for the stories to be sent to production so that they could go home.

About 30 minutes later Burt stuck his head back in the room and nearly shouted, "Hattie has approved everything. It is on to Burt now." Then he disappeared again. When another 20 minutes had passed he returned with his jacket and announced, "Burt approved and the script is in production. Goodnight everyone. John is staying tonight. Interviewees, Hattie will be here in a minute. She will have a final debrief with you." With that he turned and hurried out the door.

The interviewees seemed to be loosening up a bit and actually talked to each other. Daria found out that they were all new graduates and had graduated from Columbia, Yale, and the University of Houston. Not surprisingly, all of them were already published authors. It was about 25 minutes before Hattie showed up.

"Follow me," Hattie said. "Yalie, you have a meeting with Human Resources. The rest of you will continue on with me." With that she turned and the four interviewees followed. They stopped at Human Resources and the young man who studied at Yale left the group and went into the office. Everyone else followed Hattie to the Production Department. Just before entering Hattie turned to the three interviewees and said, "The kid from Yale is done. You are now the pool for the two jobs. Good luck. We are going to go in and we will watch production of an episode. Keep quiet and don't touch anything. Production has 3 hours to get this program ready to air. You will see recording, editing, and final review. It all happens fast so pay attention. Nobody is going to talk to you until after the show is ready to air. So, there will be no questions. Understand?" Everyone nodded their heads yes and followed her through the door. Hattie indicated where they were to sit and watch.

Daria was surprised at how quickly the next couple of hours went by. They watched as video was taken in the studio, dubbing was performed on the film clips, and how the video editors put everything together in a coherent show. Finally, they got to see the entire show before it went on TV.

Once that was over Hattie took the three of them aside and said, "OK, now you three are done for today. Come back tomorrow at 9:00 am sharp. I will meet you in the lobby." Hattie then escorted them all to the lobby. They turned in their visitor's badges and headed outside.

Once outside Daria checked her phone. It was 8:15 pm. She flipped it open and quickly called Tom.

"Hi Daria," Tom said. "Are you done for the day?"

Daria replied, "Yeah. I can go to the subway and head back to the hotel. I should be able to get there in less than an hour."

"Is there a place you can wait indoors?" Tom asked.

"I think I can wait in the lobby. Why?" Daria answered.

"I think I can get to you faster. And I found a couple of restaurants near the studios. We can have dinner there. How does that sound?"

"Sounds fine to me. I'll wait in the building lobby. See you in a little bit. Bye." Daria closed her phone ending the call. Then she went back into the building lobby where she sat on a bench that allowed her to see out the windows. The security guard had no problem letting her sit there and wait for Tom.

….

Sitting in the Italian restaurant a block from the studios Tom and Daria ordered salads, pizza, and beer. Daria hadn't realized that Tom called ahead and reserved a curved booth in the corner. As much as Tom wanted to hear about Daria's interview she insisted that he go first.

"Well, it was pretty standard. I talked to several partners. They have a 'hiring season' right after most colleges are finished with the school year. You go around and talk about your interests in the field. Each partner represents a different practice within the firm. Ultimately they are trying to match you as a candidate for one or two areas. When they have finished interviewing all of the candidates they make their selection and send out job offers. I am one of the later candidates and they liked me. So, I have a job offer in hand from them. I need to tell them yes or no by close of business tomorrow."

Daria asked, "Wow. Did you get to see your work environment?"

"Yes," Tom replied. "It will be cubicle sweet cubicle! Partners get an office with a view of cubicle land and supervise the secretary for their area. Senior partners get an office suite with a private secretary and real wood furniture."

In total deadpan Daria commented, "It is good to have something to aspire to!"

"Are you encouraging me or is that sarcasm? You know sometimes I can't tell with you!" Tom commented.

"Both," Daria replied. "I know you are not so shallow that the furniture is your motivation. Obviously you see opportunities with advancement in the firm. I hope it is to accomplish something good."

Tom smiled at Daria and said, "You know that it is."

She replied, "What are you going to tell them?"

"I wanted to talk with you first," He answered as he leaned over and kissed her. Just then their salads arrived. "Now tell me about your day."

"Think hamster on a wheel," Daria said. She went on to talk about the firing at the morning meeting. Then she told Tom about how they had written segments and spent time interviewing with various people. "The weirdest part was that each individual I interviewed with asked some totally stupid question. My favorite was: 'What is the thing that you hate most about humanity?'"

Tom looked at Daria. Smiling again he said, "That ought to be right up your alley!" Then he kissed her cheek.

Looking at Tom she wiped her cheek and replied, "I told him it was boyfriends who kiss me after eating creamy Italian dressing with plenty of garlic in it!"

"Oh," Tom said.

Daria reached over, squeezed his hand and smiled at him. The occasional public kiss was alright, but Daria was still not very comfortable with much in the way of public displays of affection. It wasn't that she wasn't affectionate toward Tom. It was just that she still preferred to keep things in private.

Tom got the message. He had pushed Daria a little too far. Between the stress of the job interview and everything else he would wait until they were back in the hotel room before he showed any more overt affection. He also knew that pushing Daria a little bit now would then actually help her open up and be more affectionate.

As they started in on their pizza Tom asked, "So were there any other interesting questions?"

"Well, there was 'Who would you let punch you directly in the face and why them?'"

Tom chuckled, "OK. I am sitting on pins and needles waiting for this answer."

Daria went on in total deadpan, "Why I told them you, of course. I'm your girlfriend and you like to be seen with me. Even if I let you punch me directly in the face I am certain that you wouldn't hurt me. You don't want to be going around with a girlfriend with a damaged face!"

Tom laughed so hard that he nearly choked on the bit of pizza in his mouth. He took several sips of his beer before he could speak again. Then he said, "I would never hurt you, Daria! Physically or emotionally."

Looking into Tom's gray eyes and taking his hand under the table Daria replied simply, "I know. Now you need to promise me that you will take that job."

"We don't know your situation yet," Tom said.

"Look," Daria replied. "It doesn't matter whether I get this job or not. You have an opportunity. Take it. I will find something here in New York or elsewhere. If it is elsewhere, then we are just back to a long distance relationship like we have had in the last year. It will take you some effort to get rid of me."

"I have no interest in getting rid of you, Daria. The fact is that I want to be near you. I want to have you with me. I love you."

"I love you too, Tom. But we are at a point in life where starting our careers are going to have to be considered."

It was late enough on the way back that Daria and Tom were actually able to sit next to each other on the subway. The car was mostly empty. Daria leaned over and said in a quiet voice to Tom, "You know, I could really use something to relieve all this stress and get my mind off of this interview."

Tom replied to her, "I think we can figure something out when we get back to the hotel." Looking at his love he smiled and went on, "I have something in mind."

Daria smiled back at Tom and said, "Me too."