The Room

The Writers Room is empty.

I’m used to this certain sound when I sneak back here to check my cell phone or see if someone emailed — this sound of laughter bouncing down the hallway from the other end of the building, calling me back, letting me know that I just missed out on something funny. That sound isn’t going to happen again, and I hate that.

Soon after I got the job, John told me that Suzanne likes to run her writers room like she’s hosting a dinner party: Eight people, nobody too much of a spotlight hog, who each have something to contribute, with different points of view, so as to keep the conversation lively and interesting. Yes. What a lovely concept. Suzanne’s dinner party soon turned into a most spectacular dysfunctional family celebrating the longest Thanksgiving holiday. At a cabin. Where we were snowed in. With occasional visits from Uncle Evan Handler. And it was awesome.

[scripty]
Suzanne
Is anybody else freezing? I’m sorry, but I’m freezing.

Anne
Me too. I thought it was just me. I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one. I’m freezing!

Pam
I’m hot. But I’ve had sixteen cups of coffee.

Valerie
That might have something to do with it.

Christian
I’m sweating like a whore on trial who’s got a brick of hash up her ass. But whatever, turn the heat on. I don’t care. Whatever Suzanne wants.

Andy
Yes. Give the princess more heat. Someone turn up the sun!

Suzanne
I’m sorry. I’m cold.

Sebastian
Well, here’s your problem. The window’s open. Someone’s letting in actual oxygen and perhaps a little pollen, which would explain the allergies.

Anne
If any bugs get in here, I will scream.

Chuck
Well, maybe we should shut the window, if Suzanne’s cold–

Anne
Why is that window open, anyway?

Andy
Pam!

Pam
What?

Andy
You opened the window.

Pam
Because you told me to! And like, six hours ago!

Anne
When it’s darker outside than it is in here, you shut the window. That’s the rule.

Andy
Well, tell Pam the rule again. She made Suzanne cold.

Pam
Wait. How is this my fault?

Sebastian
Less yapping, more window shutting.

Suzanne
Now we sound like a real family. And stop it, because it’s so nice, I’m about to start crying.
[/scripty]

The Room is a place where you live for approximately sixty hours a week. We decided early on that we weren’t going to assign chairs, although Suzanne always sat at the front of the table, and Chuck quickly settled into First Base. The rest of us rotated, the sleepiest one always taking the far chair to Suzanne’s right, under the window. If you faced the monitor and leaned your chair back the right way, you could close your eyes for a few seconds and get away with it. But if you’re not careful, you could fall into a slumber and slam your head against the windowsill. One of us learned that the hard way. I’m not saying any names, Mayor Briggs. That position, while allowing sleepy fathers or weary novelists a moment to let the brain have a half-second of rest, also came with the enormous responsibility of monitoring the air conditioning unit, a machine that blew pure Freon into our faces whenever Suzanne left the room for more than five minutes. It’s also the chair that let you play with the venetian blind string, which is sometimes all you have when you’re on your twelfth hour of rewrites, and you know if you stop thinking for a second, you’re going to pass out.

And the eight of us were not alone. In the corner, always alert but quiet enough to gain suspicion, was either Jennifer or Chris. Jennifer types as fast as you think, and before you’re even done with the pitch sometimes, she’s already got it on the screen. “Yes, there it is. And then what will I say?” Chris’ deadpan comments knock me so off-guard, just the perfect little dig at just the right time that only a couple of us would have heard, that I would often find myself having to justify why I just broke out into laughter when it appeared nobody said anything.

And then there’s John, who walks in holding a cup of something you probably don’t want a sip from, chin in the air as he’s grinning and chewing, bursting to tell whatever tidbit of information he just got from a phone call or a visit to the set. He finds us all quite amusing, and for reasons that aren’t exactly the most logical, he was often our late-night sanity meter. “John: is this funny, or are we crazy?” He’d lean over and read a line, cock his eyebrows and shake his head. “You guys? Need some sleep.” This, coming from the man with newborn triplets. He knows a thing or two about sleep deprivation.

[scripty]
John
So, did your family have a good time visiting last week?

Pam
They did. I drove them around the lot. We got some Jamba Juice. My sister gave me this —

John
What’s wrong?

Pam
It’s gone! It’s gone! Where the hell is it?

[Pam drops to her knees and frantically searches under her couch.]

John
You okay? What’s missing?

Pam
My Johnny Depp poster.

John
Jesus, Pam. I thought something was actually wrong.

Pam
I didn’t even open it yet! My sister gave it to me. She brought it over on the plane and —

John
Calm down. It’s here somewhere.

Pam
No, it’s not!

John
Well, everything else is here, right?

Pam
Yes! My computer. My purse.

John
When did you last see it?

Pam
I know I saw it yesterday morning. I remember because I wasn’t going to open it until we got the back nine, because I thought it’d be good luck.

John
Awww.

Pam
Shut up! And now someone stole it.

John
Pam. Nobody stole a Johnny Depp poster. You’re the only person who would do that. Did you check Christian’s office?

Pam
… Andy!

John
Yeah, he probably has it.

Pam
[running down hallway]
This is very funny, that he stole it, but I’m so mad.

[entering Andy’s office]

Pam
Hi. Give it back.

Andy
What are you talking about?

Pam
It’s very funny, but I want you to give it back now.

Andy
Pam. Honestly, I don’t…

Pam
You took my Johnny Depp poster.

Andy
Right hand to God, I didn’t. But I kind of wish I did. Did you check Christian’s office?

Pam
Just give it back.

Andy
I don’t have it!

Pam
Sebastian!

[Pam runs to the next office]

John
This is hilarious.

Ken
What’s wrong?

Pam
I don’t want to tell you.

Sebastian
[through muffled door]
It’s open!

Pam
No, it’s locked!

Sebastian
[opening door, on phone, nods]

Pam
Hi. Did you steal my Johnny Depp poster?

[Sebastian’s face goes through a series of emotions: confusion, mild disgust, bemused pity, annoyance. Then he sits at his desk and continues his phone call. Pam shuts his door.]

Pam
He’s on the phone.

John
Did he have it?

Pam
No.

Sebastian
[through muffled door]
Did you look in Christian’s office?

Ken
What’s wrong?

Pam
John stole my Johnny Depp poster and he won’t give it back.

[Pam runs into John’s office and starts looking around.]

John
You need to calm down. I don’t have it. I’m sorry. But nobody took it. Nobody stole your poster.

Pam
Why won’t Andy just give it back?

John
I don’t know. Maybe because it’s funny that you’re so upset.

Ken
Johnny Depp is pretty dreamy.

Pam
It’s that my sister gave it to me. And it was for good luck. And yes, this is really funny, that someone hid the poster. But both Andy and John walked down to my office today to say hello. That neverhappens. So I know something’s up. They weren’t just being friendly. They swiped my poster. Either that or someone came into my office and stole it. Who can get into the office at night? Because it was locked.

[Ken checks the key closet.]

Ken
There’s a key to your office in here, so I guess some…crazed… twelve-year old might have come in here, broken into the building and selected your office to steal your pristine Johnny Depp poster still in the wrapper. That’s the only thing that makes sense.

[Pam begins jumping up and down in fury.]

Pam
This makes me so angry!

Ken
Did you check Christian’s office?

Pam

[Pam runs into Christian’s office.]

Pam
Dammit!

Chris
Pam? What’s wrong?

Pam
I don’t want to tell you because it sounds stupid.

Chris
Try me.

Pam
Someone stole my Johnny Depp poster.

Chris
Okay, that does sound pretty stupid. But you know, probably nobody stole your Johnny Depp poster. Did you check Christian’s office?

Pam
I just ransacked it. Nothing. And Andy didn’t take it.

Chris
Okay. If Andy didn’t take it, then I think it’s in your office.

Pam
It’s not! Everything else is.

Chris
Why don’t we go into your office, and you show me where it was.

[They walk into the office.]

Pam
It was leaning against the wall, right here–

[FREEZE. PAM’S HAND IS NOW ON THE POSTER, WHICH IS ON THE WINDOWSILL. (Totally blending in with the windowsill, by the way. You could hardly notice it.)]

[Pam grabs Chris’ wrist. She is bent over, breathless, laughing, completely red.]

Chris
Okay, now what we’re going to do, is we’re going to take a little walk, and perhaps make some apologies to a few people. Don’t you think we should do that?

[Pam nods, still laughing.]

Chris
It’s okay. Grab your poster. Let’s go. Hey, everybody. Look what we found. Where should we start?

Pam
… andy.

Chris
That’s what I think, too. Let’s go tell Andy you’re sorry. And then who?

Pam
… john.

Chris
That’s right. And should we apologize to Ken?

Ken
She never accused me.

Pam
Clearly I like you best.

Ken
But that Johnny Depp is hot. I’m totally stealing that shit now. You’d better go put that poster in your car if you don’t want it to become invisible.
[/scripty]

One day I was taking coffee orders and forgot Sebastian. I just forgot he was in his office, working on his script. And when he joined the table, we were all happily sipping our lattes, pitching jokes, and he realized he had been forgotten. By me. I think I also forgot Jennifer that day, because I am a spazzy asshole sometimes. Jennifer forgave me. Sebastian made sure my next coffee order was for lukewarm tap water with three Splendas. Which they gave me. Because Steve really enjoyed making that order at Starbucks.

This is a room where one is always sleepy, one is always hungry, one is always quiet, one is always on some kind of sugar high, one is always crashing from a caffeine or Red Bull high, one is doodling, one is tapping a pen, one is in charge of all slang that has ever been invented, one perks up at the mention of the letters N, P and R, one is leaning back in a chair, one loves kids even when they’re creepy, one knows every movie ever released and knows the date that movie was released, one is patiently waiting to execute the perfect joke at the right time, and one is inches and a joke away from opening a box that makes cricket sounds. One hates Greek food, one hates Indian food, one hates a smorgasbord, and one hates everything but octopus. This is The Room, and it’s where I lived for six months. It’s where holding your pencil on the bridge of your nose makes everyone crack up. It’s where someone will buy an infomercial pen and the rest of us will pretend it’s awesome. It’s where pandas and koalas have blog wars. It’s where Oprah was discussed like some people talk about sports highlights. It’s where we needed to watch every second of R Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” because it seemed like they were writing some of the chapters just for us. It’s where people were cheered up from simply hearing the words “Pufferfish” or “Coffeebot.” We have jokes nobody else will get about Sean Connery’s addiction to “According to Jim,” horseless carriages, the well-timed use of the word “literally,” and Marshall Lucky’s Rootin’ Tootin’ Stunt Show.

[scripty]
Andy
Pam, did you drink all that?

[Pam looks over the eight empty water bottles, three empty coffee cups and one diet coke can.]

Pam
Um, yeah. It’s really wasteful. I should keep refilling the water bottles.

Sebastian
Are you feeling alright?

Pam
I drink a lot of water.

Valerie
Not that much.

Suzanne
It’s good to drink that much water.

Pam
I guess I have had a lot of water. I took an allergy pill.

Sebastian
Don’t get sick.

Pam
Either that, or I just entered Type II Diabetes.

Christian
Ugh, I’d do that if it got me really skinny. Plus, you know. Needles. Anybody need another Red Bull?

Pam
I can’t believe you guys monitor my water intake.

Andy
What else are we going to do? We’re staring at each other all day.
[/scripty]

Suzanne threw a very long dinner party where we stayed as long as we were allowed, not because we heard there were nine toilets, but because every day was fun. Even when it wasn’t supposed to be fun anymore, it was still fun. I’ll miss the bike rides, the cart rides, the days when Suzanne would turn a page, look over her notes and say, “I’m laughing. Anybody got anything?” I’ll miss the stories, the pranks and the way we looked out for each other. I’ll miss the champagne toasts, the advice, the friendship and the way The Room sounded when everybody laughed at once.

A few of us are still lingering around the office for as long as they’ll let us, while we’re still in post production. I guess we’re hoping there’s a second round of dessert.

When I started working at Hot Properties, I told everybody I had won the Job Lottery. I hope I never took a second of it for granted.