No One’s Listening

Jeff sat. He was new blood. A transplant. Like a minted quarter, shiny and uncirculated and fresh to death.

Seated around him, three individuals who arrived a month previous. All whom sang the song and danced the dance required to get established in this town.  He had every opportunity to pop questions, to mine for nuggets that’d make his transition easier. Finding even one morsel would make the effort worthwhile. Competition’s fierce, and that one byte of data might separate him from permanent resident status or a return ticket in three months with nothing but a story.

And he squandered the op. Instead, he talked. He shared his glorious triumphs, scheduling appointments from a league away, blowing in with the wind and blowing the hair back on his interviewers for his unpaid internship. He glowered about the bigger fish to come.

If you’ve heard “Los Angeles is a lonely city,” that’s why. Many people talk. Few listen.

The interaction, where one person opens their mouth, sound comes out, then the other person gets their chance, often isn’t dialogue around here. They’re two separate conversations, tangentially related. No interplay; just moments of waiting for the person to breathe or pass out, so the other person knows it’s their turn.

Does the entertainment business attract people like this? Or does it bring out this quality in them? Everyone’s looking to make it, on their own dime, sweat, tears – smart, brave souls, most – and that pursuit engages most of their energies. Their hustle consumes every morsel of attention. Any conversation not about them or their feats or their struggle is of no interest.  Their attention wanes in the time a youtube video buffers. Eyes glaze in the 20 seconds post posing an obligatory question.

In the trenches of this environment, a battle rages. It’s a war of soul, an internal conflict when you wake up every morning. The battle is reminding yourself to be sympathetic and kind. To be human. To remember when it’s all over, all anyone has is what they gave back to the world.

Most days, it’s a losing battle. Platitudes and sage words don’t advance careers. They don’t pay rent.  They don’t take away the loneliness.

How long can you look out for others who aren’t looking out for you?

How do you work hard and honest when most would take any edge you give them?

Offer up your soul and they’ll dump on it. Eventually, you get tired of cleaning shit up.

Seen one way, it’s a travesty to acknowledge you’ll walk away from this town jaded.

Seen another way, it’s an opportunity. An opportunity to stand out by being the person who listens, the person who looks out for others as much as he looks out for himself.

First thought that comes to mind is “it can’t be done.” This is a business built on relationships, but it’s also built on smoke and mirrors, on nepotism, and big deals brokered and broken in old boy’s clubs. And trying to rise against that with, what – kindness? heart? – is an act of madness.

Except this is a town where game changers also emerge from the mist. Not in the same abundance as the people who don’t listen, but they’re present. People who were told “you can’t do that,” or “nobody does that,” and do it anyway, because they believed in something more than their own personal advancement. Because they saw an opportunity the rest of the cogs were too busy churning to notice.

Of course, it’s hard to be one of these people. A game changer.

Why else would so few do it?

Photo Credit: thesohnzone

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