The Heat is On (#13)

One of these is practical summer attire in the entertainment industry.
Which one is summer attire in the entertainment industry?

Office buildings in the entertainment industry are not air-conditioned for normal people. No. They are cooled to a comfortable temperature for executives who are predominantly old, white, fat, and wear suits. He who controls the industry controls the thermostat.

Everyone normal was left with one of two options: 1) Dress for arctic AC and swelter anytime they left the building in the 100+ degrees of summer in the San Fernando Valley, or 2) Dress for the exterior temperature and type with stiff, blue fingers.

I opted for a third choice. I brought in my New England ski gear and wore it over my light cotton clothes. A few other executive assistants followed snowsuit.  (The Australian assistant even brought it a knitted cap with braided ear flaps.) More fashion-conscious executive assistants, cold and bitter (or just bitterly cold) complained that our attire was unprofessional. Instead of turning down the AC, Big Boss A turned the heat up on us snowsuits. An email from HR arrived: “Professional attire such as sweaters and blazers are strongly encouraged for those employees who find the office temperature slightly chilly. Ski parkas, fleece jackets, wool scarves, and fuzzy hats do no constitute professional attire and are strongly discouraged.” My ski attire went home and I went back to freezing. Even the wool blazer I left at the office was no match for the ice cube factory.

After ten days in balmy Hawaii, the office AC hit me like a snowball to the face. I had picked up one pretty, flimsy dress as a souvenir, and of course I wanted to play show-and-tell with it on my first day back after vacation. Instead, I huddled in my blazer at my flying saucer-shaped desk, shivering outside my boss’ office.  I contemplated a giant pile of discarded faxes and files that had been scanned into the digital age. They’d make a nice fire. Maybe I could build one in my boss’ office. Wait a minute. His office had other possibilities.

There was no thermostat for all the assistants and cubicled coordinators outside of the executive offices, but each office had its own thermostat. It was summer, when industry execs go on vacation (i.e. obsessively watching the summer box office reports in luxurious surroundings with a drink – or two, depending on reports — in hand). My boss (we’ll call him Boss B), who had a sense of humor and was quite down to earth, was merely in New Jersey. For at least another week.

I went into Boss B’s office, set the thermostat at 95 degrees, opened the door wide, and basked in the warm air that flowed out of the office.  I wore normal summer clothes and even (gasp!) SANDALS.   I was the envy of all the assistants that week.

“How can you stand it?” asked one with a cardigan and blue lips.

I shrugged my sleeveless shoulders. “You know I used to ski in New England, right? Just took me a little while to get used to it again. If you couldn’t manage twenty below on a chair lift, you didn’t ski.”

Then I took some papers into my boss’s office, stood under the vent until I was almost sweating, and returned to my saucer.

Boss B returned. A crisis came with him. Our production company had greenlighted a script without due diligence. The movie they made was crap, released straight to DVD. But letters and emails had arrived from “investors” all over the country, insisting that they had given one of the producers money. (Said producer apparently ripped off the plot of The Producers. Even Hollywood criminal schemes are reboots now.)

Crisis mode involved me rolling a lot of calls, followed by me hunting up execs on foot, and finally Boss B spending an hour locked in his office on an important call overseas.

When he burst out of the office, Boss B – who was quite round and not a young man – was bright red in the face.   His jacket was off, and sweat stained his armpits, chest, and neck. “I think I’m having a heart attack!”

Oh God. I had forgotten to turn down the thermostat. I helped Boss B to my chair. “Sit, sit, you just need some air. And water!” I hauled ass into the little kitchen/ break room, grabbed two paper towels, two cups of water, and raced back. I had Boss B drink one cup while I wet the towels and put them on his face and neck.   Then I dashed into his office, set the thermostat as low as it could go, and ran back out to my desk.

Boss B still had the paper towel over his face. “Did you call 911?” Boss B hadn’t dialed a phone since the days of rotary phones. I wasn’t sure he knew how.

“Let’s give it a minute.”

“What if I’m having a heart attack?”

“Do you have chest pains? Does your left arm hurt? Or are you just really, really hot?”

“Hot as hell. That fever came on like a freight train. Call 911.”

“Give it another minute.”

“Are you trying to kill me?”

“Um, tried that already, apparently.”

Boss B pulled the paper towel off his face and straightened. “I think you’d better explain.”

“Oh, look! You’re sitting up! And you’re not so red.  Yay.”

Now that the Boss B no longer needed medical attention, my coworkers showed up to help. They showered Boss B with faux concern while I admitted to tampering with the thermostat.

Behind me, Ms. Cardigan snorted softly. “New England chair lift. Right.”

The shipping coordinator laughed for five minutes, though, and Boss B joined in.   I was not fired. Instead, the story of Boss B’s “heart attack” became a favorite joke on our floor. Other execs would make a point of checking the thermostat before a meeting in Boss B’s office. It was even funny, the first five times.

My office secret Santa gave me fingerless gloves and earmuffs that Christmas.

I wore them to work.

This time, no one complained.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

15 thoughts on “The Heat is On (#13)”

  1. Loved your story about meeting the parents (could that be a plot for a movie?). Also worked in a crazy place where they kept the temps at sub freezing levels. I duct taped the vents in my area shut and it really helped. They were on the ceiling and no one ever looked up. Love your writing!

    1. I am laughing over the duct taped vents. Very resourceful. Never thought of that. Thank you so much for your kind words, Kate! I am enjoying your blog! I shall have to hunt up stories of the Morgan cat next.

    2. Well, since Hollywood loves reboots, a movie based on Andy’s family would probably go like this: Hollywood’s brilliant execs would call the film “Meet the Chinese Fockers.” They would keep the original movie’s storyline (with a few stereotypical tropes tossed in for “humor”), have the Chinese family played by Koreans and Vietnamese, and wonder why they get bad publicity as racists.

      1. My ex came from a Midwest Polish family/community. I couldn’t pronounce most of the names. I’m from the east coast. I couldn’t believe how old world his family was. They expected me to eat things like blood soup (made from duck blood). I stuck to pizza. It didn’t last. His culture (at least at that time) didn’t believe in equality. The man was the boss and that just doesn’t fly here.

        1. “Blood soup.” It sounds almost as delectable as chicken feet — which Andy loves and can make. Only one person in my family was brave enough to try the chicken feet. It was not me.

          1. You are a wise woman. I did not try the blood soup. They put dates and raisins in it too with potato dumplings. The smell freaked me out. I don’t know how you eat chicken feet. Aren’t they hard and crunchy? Deep fried in batter with a nice dipping sauce that disguises the whole thing? Ew!

            1. Sometimes they are fried — usually when we get Dim Sum. Andy makes them a slightly different way, but I couldn’t give you the particulars as I am too chicken (ha, ha) to stay in the kitchen. I think it is quite admirable and environmentally sound to use every part of an animal killed for food, but the thought of spitting out the toenails freaks my little white self out. I am just not that brave. I admire another AMWF couple who travel the world and will try ANYTHING:

              The video of Fukuoka has Jessica watching how certain ramen broth is made and then trying it.You’d think ramen broth wouldn’t be scary until you see them make the broth. (I think it’s better not to know, this is why I don’t go in the kitchen. Probably also why I will die of food poisoning one day.)

              1. I have to know what it is or I won’t eat it. That’s just my white self showing through. Actually I am of German heritage and they make some weird sausages too but my mother never made them in my family. She did make the periogies and wonderful starching stuff.

  2. I am having the opposite problem in my new office… the heating is too hot! My colleague even has a fan on all the time! But I am sure the air con is going to be frigid in the summer…

  3. Ohhh, that icy issue. xD It happened to me too, last summer. I was working in an office and they kept all the AC on. One was behind me, but not too close. I had a window next to me. My colleague opened the window too. I died. However, my friend had the AC right NEXT to her. She could even use it as an arm rest. She was wearing a bunch of winter clothes.

    And then we’d go out in the heat.

      1. Ahaha, but it was huge! xD And I get you. It was pretty hot in here too. But then it rained. <3 So, it got cold, like really cold and I got sick. Pfft. Perfect. xD Tho, I'm better now. Yay!

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