Met my good friend Stacy at a local gastropub down the street from my studio. I was annoyingly early and stood awkwardly craning my neck looking for her. The kind, boyish face behind the bar asked if I wanted to take a seat and look at the beer menu. The need to be extroverted came like a defense mechanism: if I wanted to survive in this environment, I had to turn on the kind charm.
I smiled and sat right in front of him and asked him his name.
He asked me mine, we shook hands, and Jeff went over the beer and cocktails menu. I ordered an old fashioned and watched him prepare it in front of me. For the next 10 minutes, I watched the baseball game on tv, periodically looked at my phone for new text messages. Couples took their seats at both sides of me, after they had asked if I was with someone. Jeff offered to them if they needed their names down for a table, both couples had said no, they’ll eat at the bar.
After he had given them beer samples, I asked Jeff if it wouldn’t be much trouble for him to add my name for a table of two. He said not at all and brought over the hostess Jessica, a statuesque Gisele Bundchen look-alike. “Jessica, this is Elaine,” Jeff said over the din of the bar, “Can we please get her a table?” Jessica put her hand on my shoulder and said, “How many, Elaine?”
Stacy arrived wearing a strawberry festival t-shirt which Jeff pointed at and said, “You gotta try the strawberry white ale! Only if you want. You know, ‘cuz of the shirt.” I introduced them both and Stacy was won over. She ordered the fruity ale.
Closed out my tab and thanked Jeff after Jessica told us she got our table. Ordered food and talked about work (she was having trouble finding a job), her boyfriend, and my lack thereof. I’m so shy! I’d tell her. She looked at me incredulously. She didn’t understand how I could be so confident with the bartender and not with other guys. I blamed the old fashioned, the guiding spirit of Don Draper.
“Simple steps, Elaine,” she told me and proceeded with more boy advice. She made it sound so easy. And maybe it was. I was always so jealous of Stacy’s social confidence, her ability to break down everything into small goals attained by “simple steps.”
We talked at our table for over three hours, the kind waiter refilling our carafe with chilled water told us to take our time. God, it was fun. Little did she know, it was a day of next steps.
Our show was well received at Comic-Con. It was vid-dev modeler’s last day (another one of our design team leaves us!). At the end of the work day, I needed to accompany him to the parking garage exit so he could give me his badge. I hopped in his car and we drove around the parking garage towards our back gate.
“You know, there’s always coordinator positions coming up,” he said. “You could come onto a feature after season 2.” My heart raced. A coordinator on a feature? That would ensure at least two years of steady work. We got to the back gate and he gave me his parking badge. “I’ll look out for you, Elaine. Take care.”
Dinner ended with Stacy giving me more boy advice and me encouraging Stacy not to lose hope during the job hunt. “I was unemployed for over a year, Stacy. You just have to keep looking and putting your name out there and exhausting your contacts and keep busy. Work temp jobs if you have to while looking for that dream job. If we want to keep doing this,” I motioned to the drinks and our empty plates of food, “because I know you love eating out and seeing movies and traveling and going to museums, you need money coming in.” I hated being harsh, but she agreed.
We left, and I drove her to her car which was parked in an upscale neighborhood almost a mile away. “Remember how fun it was walking everywhere in San Francisco?” she said. “It’s so different down here.”
We hugged and said bye. I felt old, but in a good way, in the realm of that feeling you get after you’ve learned a lesson or travelled somewhere far or healed from a hurt you never thought would go.
Traffic on the 101 tonight didn’t seem to matter. Someone was setting off fireworks in the distance.