From the Things For Which I Wish Someone Would Invent a Solution department: We need something—anything!–to make multi-person conference calls less excruciating.

I had one yesterday with Lions Gate, the studio that (yay!) has optioned My Formerly Hot Life and plans to make it a fabulous TV show that will launch a thousand catchphrases and fashion trends and eventually, after many years, have people arguing about whether or not it has jumped the shark. At which time it will be syndicated and have sent the children of all involved to college.

(If my therapist Carol is reading this, I want you to take note of my terrifically positive attitude!)

There were, like, 8 or 9 or so people scheduled to be on the call, only a few of whom I’d ever met in person. I dialed in.

[Click, blip, echo noise]. “Um, hello, this is Stephanie,” I spoke into the void.

A woman said she was Person X for Persons Y and Z at the studio.

Meaning, while I am sure her mother loves her, Person X was relatively unimportant as compared to Persons Y and Z, and so she could afford to sit and listen to me breathe.

“Hi there,” I said perkily. [Weird speakerphone pause.] “Hey,” she answered. [Awkward silence. ] To my credit, I resisted the urge to talk about the weather. There’s nothing worse than weather talk with people from L.A.

After a minute or two, a male voice, Kevin, said he was “for Rebecca and Christy,” my agents here in New York.

“Hi, Kevin, it’s Stephanie!” I said. [Weird speakerphone pause with no sound so you’re not quite sure if he said anything.] “What?” I asked.

“Hey. I said Hey!” he said.

“Oh, ok. Hey.” [Awkward silence.]

I was fast learning that only only losers make their own calls, or for that matter, speak directly into the handset, as I was doing. I should have had one of my daughters call in and announce that she was “for Stephanie” and hold the line while I sat there and read Us magazine, instead of doing it myself.

I said as much and neither of the important people surrogates laughed, or if they did it fell into the weird speakerphone pause void.

I vowed not to say another word. I sat for a few more minutes, flipping pages and hearing clicks and people going on hold and coming back. Occasionally someone called roll like in first grade, determined that all the actual important people were still not there, and then went off the line again.

Eventually Rebecca dials in,  and [click, echo, noise] announces herself. “Are we all here?”

The two surrogate people announce that their actual people were ready to go whenever three other people called in. “I’m here! Hi, Rebecca!”

“Hey,” she said. Rebecca is a friend but it’s not like we could have a real conversation with other people listening, so we just sat there in [awkward] silence.

Five more minutes go by and I can’t stand it. Why do I feel like I need to make it comfortable for everyone else, whom I’ve never met, who are probably not uncomfortable at all because they do this all the time? But I do!

“So…what do we all think of men wearing buns?” I toss out. “I’m looking at Us magazine, and, like, Bradley Cooper has a bun.” Rebecca chuckles. “Not a good look,” she says.

Then for what seemed like 45 minutes, no one said anything.

Finally: “I don’t think about that.” That was one of the Important People Surrogates.

Apparently only losers actually speak when they’re on the phone.

Rebecca, bless her, tries to go high brow and asks if anyone has read this funny post going around Facebook about white male writers. “Oh, I did! Omigod that was hilarious!” Rebecca said something about wanting to know more about the writer, and I agreed that she was funny.

[Silence. Even more awkward for us having tried to relieve the awkwardness. Lots of putting us on hold to check where the important people were by their surrogates, a few more rounds of roll call.]

Eventually everyone got on the call—happy to be working together, this is going to be great, etc.–and it was all good, despite lots of weird speakerphone voids where something critical may or may not have been said but I’m sure I’ll catch it next time.

See, I’m learning about this whole Hollywood thing. And if it doesn’t work out, I may just invent a drinking game that people can play while they wait for everyone to arrive on a call so they don’t gouge their eyes out.


Photo by Quinn.Anya CC