Tales From The Set: “Call My Ex, Please?” (a true story)

When choosing some sort of creative art as a career, you find out early on that you need to find other employment opportunities outside your field of interest In order to pay the bills. And since I have yet to acquire the fortune that is my birthright, when I lived in Los Angeles briefly, one of those jobs was working background on tv and film sets — also known as being an extra.

Greys 1019
The simplest game of Where’s Waldo ever. Look for the clever clog in the gray suit on the left blocking his face with his own champagne glass. A star in the making.

As I had no aspirations of being an actor, I’m pretty easygoing regarding my placement in the crowd. Tucked behind tall people? Facing away from the camera? Set in a position farthest from the principal actors? Not a problem. I was glad to be working and I kinda liked being on set and watching the crew set up shots. Other perks include:

  • Absolutely no acting ability is required (thankfully)
  • Being booked on a series or feature gets me out of the house and breaks the monotony of my average day
  • I get to slip into the skins of different people (hospital administrator, construction worker, churchgoer, Muslim, parent, etc.)
  • I’ve seen myself on TV three times to date (freeze frame is my best friend)

The downside?

  • The pay could be better (but I’m non-union, so dem’s da breaks)
  • Lugging around your own wardrobe (always bring at least two options) on public transportation (guess who never learned to drive?) can be cumbersome
  • The hurry up and wait… and wait… and wait… and wait… can wear on your patience, especially later in the day
  • Craft services (the snacks and drinks table) for extras is a bit of a dice roll
  • And sometimes other background actors. Not all, mind you, you come across some interesting people chock full of stories and experiences who are willing to let you pick their brains… then there are the others.

Before I get to the meat of the nutshell, I need to set the stage. Picture a room that holds one thousand people. Only one person in that thousand is certifiably crazy. Do you know how you’d be able to spot the nutjob? It would be the only person speaking to me. Got it? Good. Let’s proceed.

One time I was on the set of a tv show named Grey’s Anatomy in extras holding (just as it says on the tin — a place where background actors lounge about while they wait to be called to set) minding my own business, when an attractive young woman stood close to me and started speaking. She clearly wasn’t looking at me, so I followed her eyeline to see if she was perhaps conversing with someone behind me. Nope, no one there. So, I assumed she invited her imaginary friend to the set to keep her company, and I shrugged it off.

For the record, I do not discriminate against people with invisible friends as I know full well the difficulty in making and maintaining worthwhile friendships, imaginary or otherwise. That, and I once dated a woman whose older sister was pretty chummy with Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and the rest of the Disney gang, and they would often go on Magic Kingdom adventures in the solitude of her bedroom.

A story for another day.

But this woman kept repeating the same sentence, loud enough for me to hear, but no one watching would ever had accused us of having a conversation. More like we were secret agents who daren’t risk breaking our cover, she was giving me the sign and awaited the countersign.

You’re not the first one to live in a strange place with strange people, nor the last,” she repeated.

I looked at her. She, however, refused to make eye contact and simply waited for my reply. Never one to resist the urge to poke the mental tiger, I finally said, “Sometimes it feels that way, though.”

The sluice gates were opened and I wasn’t prepared for the rush of conversation headed my way. Among the many topics she introduced:

  • How women are Christlike when they menstruate, as they suffer for mankind.
  • How she’s happy not to be dancing for biker gangs anymore.
  • How pigeons are truly blessed and carry our prayer up to heaven.
  • How she gave up selling subscriptions to a specialist magazine for ukelele players because she made a decision not to give up her integrity for money.
  • How the government was concealing the fact that chicken fried steak was the cure for cancer.
  • How her stepfather used to send Chinese pornography to her Toy Yorkie.
  • How July always smelled like shades of red.
  • How okra smells like sex before you cook it.

And a host of others I can’t recall at the moment (I’m sure they still haunt the nightmares I can’t remember). Throughout the day, I tried my best to avoid her. Trips to the restroom, striking up conversations with strangers, hiding within crowds of people, but she always managed to sniff me out and made other people uncomfortable to the point they drifted away and gave us space. I had been designated friend-of-mental and no one wanted any part of providing me shelter.

After the scene I was in wrapped for the day, I stood in line for one of the shuttle vans to take me from the set to base camp. Okra-Sex-Smell-Girl was nowhere in sight and as the van pulled up I thought I’d made my getaway. But the Transportation Captain held the van because there was still an available seat. I know I don’t need to tell you who the seat was next to, or who filled it.

Okra-Sex looked straight ahead. To my knowledge, her eyes never once fell on me. I was an entity that only existed in her peripheral vision. “Can you call my ex from your phone, please?” she asked.

What? No.” Okay, not the best response, but she blindsided me.

Please? I tried calling him but he won’t pick up the phone, probably because he recognizes my number. I think he’s still mad at me. I just want to make sure he’s okay because my friend threatened to beat him up.”

Call your friend and ask him if he beat up your ex.” Mystery solved. Columbo was on the case.

He wouldn’t tell me if he did. He knows I’d be upset.”

I shrugged an oh, well.

You’re not going to call?” She seemed genuinely surprised.

Nope. Not happening.” By this time I stopped looking at her, as well, figuring maybe the cold shoulder would silence her for the rest of the ride. As if.

Why not?”

Hmmm, because not my ex, not my problem?”

But he doesn’t know you. When he answers, just say you dialed the wrong number or something. Then tell me if he sounds beaten up or not.”

If he sounds beaten up. Under different circumstances, I might have let the exchange play out a little longer, but it had been a long day and I was both tired and hungry, so the best I could manage was, “What did I say? No? Then that’s what I meant,” before I officially checked out of the conversation.

Not that it mattered. Even without my participation, her side of the discussion continued without skipping a beat:

If you call, I won’t have to stop by his house tonight. You’d be doing me a big favor.”

You’re so mean.

Do you think I should just leave my ex alone?”

Well, you obviously don’t know what being in love is like.”

I’d do it for you. Do you have somebody you want me to call? Give me your phone, I’ll do it.”

And it went on like that for the entirety of the trip. When we reached our destination, she smiled, still not looking my way and said, “Thanks, for being sweet.” And maybe it was my imagination but as she walked away I thought I detected a spring in her step, like she’d made her decision on what needed to be done.

For at least a week afterward, I followed the local news for reports of a lover’s tiff gone horribly wrong in a room that reeked of sex… or maybe uncooked okra.

©2014 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

31 responses to “Tales From The Set: “Call My Ex, Please?” (a true story)

  1. I once had a a server at a restaurant tell me that her ex husband had persuaded the CIA to plant bugs in the bushes outside her house because he was trying to mind control her. I’m never prepared for those kind of conversations.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post is madly excellent. 👍
    “Poking the mental tiger” makes you more courageous than me. If someone gets started talking to themselves and following me around, I’d set up boundaries quick fast in a hurry. Her walking away from you, consider that a good sign. You probably got out of that alive!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think she would have recognized boundaries, let alone respected them. Looking back on it, perhaps she was just lonely and unable to connect with people in a socially acceptable manner. Who knows?

      Thanks for the compliment, it’s much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “You’re not the first one to live in a strange place with strange people, nor the last” – would have been my cue to exit, stage left. It’s like she gave you a warning right from the start and you ignored it and took the bait anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The whole not making eye contact while talking to me would have lit my fuse! Show me some respect, gurl!

    BTW I love Grey’s Anatomy! When where you on? Maybe I saw you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My memory on exact dates in awful but it had to be late 2013 to mid 2014, I reckon. I booked four episodes leading up to Sandra Oh’s departure from the show, so, whenever that was.

      And trust me, even if you were looking for me, you wouldn’t have spotted me. I was only able to get the above photo because ABC posted it on the show’s webpage as a promo pic.

      I won’t let that stop you from starting a fan club or a Twitter movement, though: #BringBackUnnamedHospitalAdministrator (kidding, of course…unless you’re into the suggestion…nope, still kidding).

      Liked by 2 people

  5. “Okra-Sex-Smell-Girl” Hahahahahahahaha! If you’re a nutjob magnet, the best professions to have would be psychologist and writer! Another gangsta post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Out of everything here, no eye contact, weird former jobs, conspiracy theories, friend and ex fight, the scariest thing was when she said “Thanks, for being sweet.” What do you think she thought she heard you say when you stopped talking? You may be the dog to her David Berkowitz. I’m obviously not calling you a dog but you know what I mean right? Does any of this make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t worry, I followed your train of thought, and thanks for clarifying that you weren’t calling me a dog because sometimes when I wake up and look at myself in the mirror…I just can’t say for sure that I’m not.

      Obviously, she thought she heard us having a disagreement and maybe I had a change of heart and called her ex and it turned out he was okay. Or I might have suggested that she go on a murdering spree? Who knows with imaginary me? He’s so unpredictable.

      Now, you’ve got me wondering if there really was an ex, and if I dialed the number who would I actually be calling?

      It didn’t seem like it at the time, but I definitely dodged a bullet there.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. 😂😂 This is great! I once had a lady give me a paper plate with a bunch of gibberish and symbols scrawled on it. She told me to keep it close as it protects me from people in the nearby air traffic control tower from hearing my thoughts. I worked at a bank, near an airport. 😂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This is so damn hilarious!!! LOL!
    I couldn’t stop laughing. You must’ve been so fed up by the end of it all.
    Maybe she was in another dimension and saw you as her savior. A fellow vegetable to relieve her of her mental jibber-jabber. How do people do this? It could be a fixation or even an alien invasion, but you my friend didn’t succumb, and that’s brilliant.
    I still can’t stop laughing. I think I’m short on words today. Okra lady is telling me that it’s okay. And that she’ll use my phone to tell you that sometimes humor is a creativity douser. Should I comply or bid her goodbye.
    Hell! I’m afraid I might even dream about her. So much for reading this at bedtime. As I still giggle I will say good night.
    P.S. You look great in the suit and the champagne glass mask. They couldn’t have captured a better angle. Aloof. 🙂


    • A sad fact of my existence is that I have no poker face. Everything I feel shows plainly on my face, and had she bothered to look at me, she would have seen how fed up I was. It was so relentless that I felt I was being pranked.

      And she was definitely from another dimension, and maybe her head was so full of jibber-jabber that she needed to vent some of it before she exploded, so, perhaps I unwittingly did her a good turn. But I sincerely doubt it.

      If you side with Okra-Sex-Smell-Girl, our (pending) partnership is off. I will not have her use you as a conduit to feed any more of her insanity to me. Lend her your phone at your own peril, She will sup on your brain with a nice chianti. Mark my words.

      You made me smile, which isn’t an easy thing to do these days, so sweet dreams, Miss Gill, and may your slumberland be free of no-eye-contact-making nutjobs.

      PS. You’re an incorrigible liar, and looking “aloof” is only looking like “a fool” from an odd angle.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Haha! Lol!
        There’s no beating you at satire. You are the undisputed king or tsar. Please take your pick.
        And I think okra lady just wandered off for more no-eye-contact stalking. She probably knows that our pending partnership is of utmost importance to me.
        And please keep smiling. It’s good for a no-poker face. I can’t hide my expressions either. But have been working on it. It saves a lot of trouble and unnecessary discussion.
        I like what you’ve done with aloof.
        You’re not a person. But a wizard wordsmith. Okra lady sensed it too. No wonder she wanted your words. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, man…where to even begin? Being deaf and a lip-reader means being forced to maintain eye contact with the speaker’s face constantly (so much context comes from the eyes and eyebrows). Ms. Okra’s refusal to share peepers would have seriously scuffed my eternal…ahem…good mood. I’m unable to look away when someone speaks to me (unfortunately) so I would have been doomed in your shoes. Holy gravy… Also, it’s so cool to get a glimpse of you in the photo! Being able to put a face (champagne flute included) to all these amazing words is priceless. You look rather dapper in that gray suit, Rhyan! What an adventure this was! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Okra Sex Smell Girl was truly one of a kind and in hindsight, she made the day more eventful than usual (sometimes you strike up conversations in Extras Holding but it’s typically with a background actor bragging about working on some big project with some well-known actor and that gets to be boring after a while). I only wish I was less tired and agitated from sitting around and waiting all day, then I could have explored her character a little further (grist for the story mill). Cheers for the read!

      Liked by 1 person

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