"How many glasses of wine did you have last night?" My dad asked when I called with the details of my open mic triumph.
"Just one before reading my essay. Then I had one waiting for me when I got back to the table," I said. He laughed.
"That was a good idea. A lot of performers have a drink to help them relax before going up on stage. Even Barbra Streisand has to take benzodiazepine for stage fright. When's the audition?" he asked, referring to my audition for 2nd Story--the reason I had subjected myself to the nerve-wracking open mic night in the first place.
"Tuesday at 7:30."
"You'll do great," he said. "They already like your story. The audition is just to make sure you're not some weird, enormous person who drools."
"Yeah, I guess so," I replied.
"Just do your best," he said. "And don't drool."
From this conversation, I mined two important pearls of wisdom: drink and don't drool. Ever a Daddy's Girl, I tried my best to follow his advice. The drooling part was easy. I have never been a drooler. Check!
The drinking was a little more difficult. F and I were meeting after work at Story Studio, a writing center tucked away on the second floor of a renovated factory building in Irving Park. We planned to hang out there until my audition, which was conveniently located in the room next door.
F and I recently became Story Studio members, which includes discounts on writing classes and unlimited access to the writing center's comfy lounge. So we have been going at least once a week to sit on the couch and write. There's no TV, no Internet access, no snacks or cats to distract us from our Important Work. We bring the bare minimum: sandwich fixins and bottled water.
It's probably not cool to bring alcohol to the writing center. But I didn't care. My father had prescribed a glass of wine. And Sunday's open mic experience was so successful that I thought it most prudent to recreate the essentials. I wore the same outfit. I arranged my hair the same way. And I bought some wine.
I felt very classy waiting in line at the 7-Eleven after work with my $2.49 mini bottle of Pinot Grigio. Behind me stood an obese man from whose unbuttoned shirt his massive, grimy stomach protruded. He didn't smell very nice, and he repeated in a guttural whine, "Someone stole my cigarette rollers! Someone stole my cigarette rollers!" I paid, stowed my wine in my lunch box with the turkey, dinner rolls, and bottled water, and stepped out into the 95-degree heat of downtown Chicago.
I was sweating before I even reached the L stop, where I shoved into a train car that was at least ten degrees hotter than the sidewalk. Wedged against the doors of the train in the sweltering heat, I clutched in one hand a horrifically heavy bag filled with my laptop, two books, a notebook, my executive planner, and God knows what else--and in the other hand, my lunch box filled with cheap wine and Butterball deli meat.
An inauspicious start.
But once I got to Story Studio and set up my laptop on the couch in the cool lounge with F, I started to feel much better. I sneaked sips of wine from the brown paper bag hidden in my lunch box, and felt almost relaxed. Almost.
Although I wasn't nearly as sickeningly anxious as I had been before the open mic, I was still nervous.
I shouldn't have been. The audition went smoothly. Sitting on a comfortable, overstuffed couch with two attentive girls, I read the essay even better than I had on Sunday. They laughed, they nodded, they made the appropriate listening noises. And when I finished, they clapped.
Then they asked questions. After countless interviews for countless jobs, I consider myself a pro at fielding questions like, "What is your greatest strength?" and "Why do you want to work here?" and "What is your proudest accomplishment?"
I realized last night, however, that I am not at all a pro at answering questions like, "What's the craziest thing that's ever happened to you?" Which is what one of the girls asked, leaning toward me with an engaging smile like a best girlfriend craving gossip.
I will freely admit that at times--most times, really--I tend to think too much. Immediately, my overheated brain crowded with all the possible implications of this seemingly casual question:
Does she mean the craziest thing I've DONE? or The craziest thing that has ever happened TO me? What does she mean by "crazy"? Does she mean "strange and unexpected" or "wild and kinky" or just "insane"?
Besides the fact that I'm not really the wild-and-crazy type, my mind instantly cleared of any and all fascinating tidbits to share about myself. I won't tell you what I finally came up with. Anything you imagine is sure to be crazier than what I actually said.
Other than the fact that I'm not interesting on demand, I think the audition went splendidly. I did the best I possibly could. I breathed. I talked. I laughed. I was confident and personable.
And my dad will be proud because I did not drool.