A Standard 20 Hour Work Day

The day begins at sunrise. Farm hours. I wake up with the alarm that immediately sends me into the “fight or flight” thing I learned about in high school. My blood pressure surges, my heart races, I am ready for an imaginary battle. In the email detailing out today’s job in San Francisco, my agent essential threatened that if we miss this flight we will be dropped from the board. I look at the clock. I’m safe. I eat some cereal, drink some juice, and have some coffee. I leave the house at five til seven. It’s a day trip so I only have a purse. This is liberating.
Ten other girls meet me at the airport. The details of the job have been vague aside from flight information and the name of the client. The flight is fine aside from the first “Twenty Minutes of Terror” which I have come to describe all of my flight ascensions these days. Every bump of turbulence turns my stomach and leads me to reach into my database of frequently used flier thoughts such as: “If we crash in water should I grab my purse?” or “If we explode in midair will I be sucked out like those people in Final Destination?” I chastise myself for dying en route to a job whose rate never seems worth jeopardizing my life. When I was younger I loved flying. Mom would always give me the window seat and I would sit staring at clouds, listening to my CD Walkman and thinking about kissing boys. If only I could have remained so ignorant of danger. I put my head between my knees and pray for me to black out or fall asleep. The woman next to me puts a light hand on my back without saying anything. I raise my head.
“I hate fucking flying.”
“It’ll be over soon,” she says.
This is comforting until I think of how that sounds like a quote from “Famous Last Words.” I steal a glance at her computer. Her name is Liz Rider and she works at CBS Interactive.
Three town cards pick us up at the airport. By the time I grab the front seat in a Lincoln Town & Country, I realize that the car in front of us is a Mercedes. I want to hop out and join the other two girls but I feel like I would be offending my driver so I stay put. On the freeway he points out houses and landfills but his accent is incomprehensible so I just laugh and say “uh huh” a lot.
It’s 1:15 by the time I start actually working, which first involves a fitting for the runway show. I walk into a room of awkward tension and silence. The designer of Akris is there and he is balding and skinny and Austrian. He sits at a long table at the end of the room adjusting Post It notes in a stack of paper. He asks me to walk. I walk. He stares. I am uncomfortable and I think he doesn’t like my jawline. “Number four,” he says. I am working for the fashion equivalent of a passive aggressive J. Stalin. The room is completely quiet with the exception of delegating outfits, commanding models to walk, and the click of Polaroids being taken. On two occasions he says, “That looks great.” But it sounds forced and lame and halfhearted. When I leave the room I am sweaty and nervous. The man literally sucked every once of personality out of a twenty by twenty foot space.
The show comes and goes and nobody falls and nobody’s boobs fly out unexpectedly. It is a wild success. The same three cars fill up and again I miss my opportunity to ride in the Mercedes. It’s a surprisingly lovely spring evening in San Francisco and I wind the tinted window of the car to its child-proof limit. The air is tepid and the sky is a desaturated cobalt and this is the part of my life that I love but don’t get enough of. The mad dash, the blurry scenery, the ability to convince yourself for a moment that you are important. A Coca Cola sign flickers on, it’s bulbs switching illumination responsibility.

Standard

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