By Lydia LaFleur, a member of Get Your WordsWorth
My knees don’t bend when going down subway stairs; my balance so off kilter I feel I’ll topple over when stepping off a curb; I have a pinched nerve on my right side; my right eye is doing 95% of the work because of the cataract in the left one – and forget about writer’s block, I can’t even think of a subject to write about for my Writing Workshop. Then last Tuesday I get a call from Flaunt Model Management. They got me a couple of commercials some time ago, but aside from one other call recently I hadn’t heard from them for the past three years. Everyone on file in my age bracket must have passed away by now. Winnie tells me that Starkist Tuna is looking for people who can make a face like a fish and can I go to a go/see (audition) on Thursday. I agree and start practicing puckering up my lips and bulging out my eyes to look like a fish. But what if I have to climb stairs to the studio as I had some pretty old, narrow ones on previous go/sees? I call to enquire and get Gene, the owner, who remembers me. He thinks there will be an elevator, adds that he hopes he’ll be able to get me more jobs in the future and asks if I’ve been practicing my fish face.
The go/see is at a casting studio in Midtown Manhattan, and the afternoon tryouts start at 3:00. Fearing that I might topple over onto the subway tracks I decide to take a taxi despite knowing that it’s going to cost. I don’t mind that the driver is on the old side, but he can’t hear well. I have to enunciate every word of the directions in a loud voice, and soon after we get going, he says, “You said the East Side?” “No,” I boom back, “The West Side!” I know it’s really going to cost when I realize he’s driving down Broadway with all its lights instead of the West Side Highway. In the Fifties he gets onto Ninth Avenue and all the traffic. I remember the world’s leaders are in town for the United Nations, but what are they doing on the West Side? When we finally arrive, the bill is $24 including tip.
I’m relieved to see an elevator and up I go to the third floor. Gene told me there would be a lot of people, and he was right – dozens and dozens of mothers and a couple of stay-at-home dads with their daughters ranging in age from four to fourteen, but no one anywhere near my age. Most are sitting on folding chairs and others standing in a line leading to what I guess is the photo studio. I go to the elongated desk which is surrounded by women filling out forms or asking questions. I fill out the usual form with the vital information including agency, age, weight, size of blouse, dress, shoes, etc. A woman goes by me saying she can’t wait any longer, that her daughter is about to pass out. I’m number 292, and they’re only up to 219; the very pleasant and surprisingly unfrazzled middle aged woman at the desk tells me that it takes only two minutes for each person. Still… And then no numbers are called for a while, because the camera crew is taking its afternoon break. Plus I have to be home by 5:30 for a yoga class, and I don’t want to be caught in the rush hour. I look among this large but quiet crowd for a seat; a pretty Asian mother puts her preteen daughter on her lap so I can sit down. Another Asian woman, young and beautiful, with bobbed hair, sits practically facing me with her chair turned around; she has a huge handbag and gigantic canvas bag on the floor beside her, and is writing on a stack of papers that look like the forms we filled out. I think that she’s made this spot into her office, because there’s no room anywhere else, but I’m wrong. She has been to other appointments that day, and is carrying changes in clothing for them. She doesn’t seem to mind the wait and proceeds to refresh her makeup even though I think she looks perfect already.
An hour later when the call is only for number 239, I face reality; I have to leave. When I tell the woman at the desk, she says, “You can go next. I need someone in your age category.” So there I am in the photo studio with the camera crew. The young man directing me in my poses seems to be enjoying himself and laughs at my fish face, but asks if I can’t pucker up my lips more, draw them in; I do my best, but realize my denture is in the way. A passing thought as I’m ushered out the door – should’ve taken that denture out (I have no shame) – but too late now, my two minutes are up.
It’s 4:20 now and people are streaming out of office buildings. No way can I survive this rush hour crowd. I hail another taxi, but make the mistake of directing the cab driver to take the West Side Highway. The traffic’s really bad; he blames it on The United Nations. When it begins to look dire, I hear him mutter “Amsterdam Avenue” and, of course, he’s right, so at 79th Street we leave the bumper to bumper traffic. The driver says that after this experience he’s going home. The fare is $27 including tip.
This expedition has cost me $51, and I can’t even make a convincing fish face. But, at least I have something to write about.