Well, that was over quickly. I got to my first trial day as a magician's assistant and discovered that he thought he was going to start my training by locking me into a cabinet I'd never seen before and letting me find my own way out (no), and that he thought that not only was he allowed to paw me whenever he wanted without my leave, but that it was necessary for a working relationships (hell no).

So, no, I do not work for a magician now. At least not that one.

On the other hand, I did confirm that my working knowledge of stage magic is still fine. He sent me off to watch David Copperfield's "Origami" trick, which I'd never seen before, and tell him how it worked. Evidently he was amazed at how simple it was when he saw the plans for it, once upon a time. It didn't look that complicated to me in the first place. Anyone else has a guess, feel free to leave it in the comments. The YouTube resolution is crap and doesn't help, but you can figure it out without HDTV.

(I signed a three-sentence NDA to get into his workshop in the first place that was so vague as to be legally unenforceable, but I'm a sport and I won't tell you how any of his stuff worked; on the other hand, I signed no such thing for David Copperfield, or anyone else on TV, so have at. If you want to work them out the same way I did, I got my initial education in serious stage magic from the Big Secrets series of books by William Poundstone, when I was a wee nipper rummaging through my parents' bookshelves for summer reading. I've read a lot of things since then, but Poundstone provides a surprisingly good, if also very snarky, rundown of the basic principles of illusion in the chapters on famous magicians.)

Mr. Magician seems to have made the decision that I worked for him and was going to listen to him the second he got me on the phone. He was surprised and displeased when I crossed my arms and refused to get into the goddamn trunk. The other assistant assured me that it was simple to figure out once you were inside -- which I knew; none of these things are complex to operate, because you have to be able to do it very quickly in order to make the trick look smooth on stage -- but fuck if I was going to set a precedent like that. He kept trying to explain his point of view. I told him I was well aware of his point of view, but that his options were to tell me how it worked before I got in, to send me home and let me figure it out on my own time, or to hire someone else.

I let him talk at me for another hour or so -- he was paying me for my time, to his credit -- but resolutely stayed out of the trunk. It crossed my mind to wonder how many girls would have caved just to make him stop rambling. I recognized that if he wanted me to start that quickly, he obviously needed an assistant way more than I needed another job, but I don't know if everyone else notices things like that.

(Also, for the record, the second anyone says the words 'I don't want you to feel pressured' to me in a conflict like this, the first thing I think is 'horsefeathers'. If you don't want me to feel pressured, you'll either concede on the spot or table it and talk about something else. He was trying to make me make a decision right that moment, and he was trying to make me fear that if I didn't agree to what he wanted I'd lose the job/the money/his approval. Fuck that.)

I also recognize that I have the advantage of being Very Very Scary. I try to come off as friendly and easy-going and reasonable, because mostly I am, but I'm also aware that even when I succeed at that, people detect an undercurrent of formidable that I couldn't do anything about even if I wanted to. When I put my foot down, people generally notice that, whatever one of my talents or qualities they're trying to get access to, I have enough of it that I always have the option of walking away and using it on behalf of someone else.

They are under the impression that there tends to be a line for this sort of thing, and they are generally correct. Don't think for a second I don't understand why I've been allowed to grow such colossal bunny ears, or why nobody has made any serious efforts to lop them off. A large part of it is that I don't use the weirdness punitively -- I'm not House, thanks -- but it helps when the trade-off for 'does not do mornings' is 'turns in brilliant work via email at 3am'.

Sometimes they try to play chicken on the basis of finances. That used to work, but when I moved across the country I decided that I would rather starve than take a job that destroyed my mental or physical health. You won't give me paying work unless I put up with this thing that will make me miserable and land me in the ER again? Okay, hire someone else.

Unfortunately, this kind of exploitation is rampant in the entertainment industry. One of the reasons I didn't do much commercial work out west is that the two major markets there are Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and if you want to be treated with basic human respect even when you're low man on the totem pole, those are not the places you go. I still don't have an exclusive agent, because I will not work unless I retain the right to walk away from anyone who thinks their money buys them the right to treat me badly.

Comments

  1. Sorry to hear that. Maybe his leaping to hire you over the phone was based on nobody who knew him being willing to get near him.

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    1. Entirely possible. I've had it happen before with perfectly lovely people and jobs, though. It's a running theme. I apparently strike people as hypercompetent to the point where they are confused if I tell them I don't know how to do something.

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