The Eyebleeders / 21 October 1998
[Scene 1/1: A spacious conference room, complete with indirect fluorescent lighting, a lengthy and oblong wooden table, leather chairs on rollers, an overhead projector, and a whiteboard w/full rack of dry erase markers. Upon the oblong wooden table is a stack of nicely bound reports, a conference phone, and an oversized brandy snifter. All of the chairs are currently being sat upon. The room is in complete silence except for the quiet humming of the overhead projector. The silence continues for a good 2-3 minutes. Note to director: Stretch out this dead moment until the tension and uncertainty consumes the audience and they are just as edgy as the characters onstage — all characters, that is, except for Mr. Horch, who finally breaks the awful silence.]
MR HORCH: [writing idly with an expensive silver stylus] I’ll be damned if this pen isn’t so fine and sleek that it writes memos by itself.
[much laughter amongst the others]
MR HORCH: I’m serious. [the laughter breaks off abruptly] It’s like holding a teardrop of pure mercury in my hand. It has a will of its own. When you really get down to it, this pen is the true mastermind behind this company. It has made every significant decision of the past ten years. I am merely its vessel. I am but the womb into which this pen ejaculates its numerous and sterling ideas.
MR POLITO: “Sterling,” ha-ha, sir.
MR HORCH: Yes. Now where do you suppose Mr. Goddamn Asshole is?
WELL-GROOMED EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT: He said he was on his way.
MR DRISTER: We can only assume there was a death in his family.
MR HALVETTI: If there wasn’t, there surely will be soon.
MR HORCH: Now, now, let’s not be hasty. Let’s give Mr. Goddamn Asshole a chance to explain himself.
[a shorter-but-still-too-long silence]
MS RODO: Did anybody catch that horrid commercial for Tampax?
MR POLITO: You mean the one with the mimes?
MS RODO: The very one.
MR POLITO: I didn’t really get—
[MR POLITO is interrupted by the noisy and breathless entrance of Mr. Goddamn Asshole.]
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: Hey there, everyone, hi, sorry I’m late.
MR HORCH: Thank you for joining us.
MR DRISTER: We can only assume there was a death in your family.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: [searching in vain for a free chair, resigning himself to squatting at the opposite end of the table from Mr. Horch] Ah, ha, no, nothing that serious.
MR HALVETTI: [rising from his chair so quickly and violently that he sends it flipping backwards to the freshly vacuumed carpet] This is an outrage, Mr. Goddamn Asshole. We’ve been waiting here for ten full minutes. Do you understand how much money it is costing this company to pay these high-level employees to sit here and do nothing for ten full minutes?
MS RODO: [gesturing toward Well-Groomed Executive Assistant] I wouldn’t call HIM a high-level employee.
MR POLITO: Nor would I.
MR HALVETTI: You keep a roomful of high-level employees and one secretary who is grossly overpaid for the amount of work he does sitting and waiting for ten full minutes. This is a red flag, mister. This calls for a lesson in priorities.
WELL-GROOMED EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT: Technically, I’m an executive assistant. And I am paid a salary that is commensurate with others who hold similar positions in this industry.
[a shocked silence rockets through the room]
MR HORCH: [nodding toward Mr. Polito] Mr. Polito, please make sure that this person’s little outburst has been duly noted.
MR POLITO: Already done, sir.
MR HALVETTI: It seems you both could use a lesson in priorities.
MR HORCH: Halvetti, it makes my balls ache to think of prolonging this meeting any further.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: [to Mr. Halvetti] Tony, if you’re not going to be using your chair…
MR HALVETTI: [rolling his chair behind him as he moves to the whiteboard] I am, as a matter of fact, and even if I wasn’t, you still couldn’t use it because this chair is reserved for people who have respect for the time and money of this company and its esteemed upper echelon. Now look. [withdrawing a marker from the rack] I present you with a simple decision. Let’s say you are suddenly inflicted with a bizarre and crippling disease and the doctors tell you that you must amputate either your left leg or your right arm. [he writes “left leg” and “right arm” on the board] Which would you choose?
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: My right arm.
[jaws drop, a few quiet gasps]
MS RODO: Are you serious?
MR DRISTER: Good god, man, at least have the common courtesy to insult us behind our backs.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: What? I’d rather be able to walk. I can learn to write with my left hand. I suppose I’d have to give up golf but at least I wouldn’t be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life.
MR HALVETTI: [throwing his arms to the heavens] You see, Mr. Horch? You see? “I … I … I.” “MY left hand.” “The rest of MY life.”
MR DRISTER: It is the guilty man who chooses to run.
MR HORCH: Will everyone please just sit down? Halvetti, get away from that board. You there [pointing at Well-Groomed Executive Assistant], the one with the commensurate salary, give Mr. Goddamn Asshole your chair.
WELL-GROOMED EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT: Sir?
MR HORCH: Just go get coffee for everyone and don’t come back until the meeting is over.
MS RODO: I’d like a Diet Sprite.
MR HORCH: Get Allison a Diet Sprite. And get me one, too.
MR POLITO: Are there any bagels left?
MR DRISTER: No. And I’ll give you one guess who stashed them all for her nine million kids.
MR HORCH: Go get us some bagels, too.
WELL-GROOMED EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT: [reluctantly getting up] Um, OK, so we’ve got two Diet Sprites, four coffees…
MR HORCH: I’ve heard tell of a mythical bagel, a bagel that is too potent and delicious to be anything more than a flight of fancy, something that has coalesced from the ethereal fabric of dream and vision, a bagel that is so perfect it makes one’s soul burn with a white-hot flame. Merely looking upon this bagel would cause a godless man to go blind and insane, but for the man who has prepared himself, the man who is at peace and whose thoughts are pure and cleansed — well, the story goes that the bagel would open up its secrets and mysteries to him, filling him with eternal bliss. Find me that bagel and I’ll forget all about your little outburst this morning.
WELL-GROOMED EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT: [scuttling out the door] Yes, sir.
MR HORCH: Now, Mr. Goddamn Asshole. If you would be so kind as to pay your one-dollar late fee and then discuss your findings on the Kill’r Flakes promotion.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: [taking a seat and pulling files from his briefcase] OK, Mr. Horch, I’ve got the results right here.
MR HALVETTI: [dragging his chair back to the table and sitting in it] No need, Goddamn Asshole. No need.
MS RODO: [gesturing toward the pile of reports at the center of the table] I’ve prepared copies for everyone.
[they all reach for the bound reports]
MR POLITO: [caressing the report] This cover is quite luxurious, Allison. Decadent, almost.
MR HORCH: [reaching forward to loudly flick the rim of the brandy snifter with his finger] Ahem, Mr. Goddamn Asshole?
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: Sorry, sorry. [he fumbles around in his coat pocket and withdraws his wallet] I’ll put a fiver in there, you know, so I’ll have some credit.
MR HORCH: That’s not funny.
MS RODO: [flipping through the slick and colorful pages of the report] Mr. Goddamn Asshole, I took the liberty of compiling the results for you, seeing as you were busy with other duties that were evidently more pressing.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: Ah, yes, yes, this looks quite excellent. Though … hm …. let’s see … I must say your interpretation of the results is a tad less forgiving—
MS RODO: My interpretation?
MR DRISTER: I don’t believe this data is open to interpretation. That would be akin to interpreting the number sixteen. It is what it is.
MR POLITO: Statistics don’t lie.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: Well, it’s just that most of these cases haven’t been confirmed yet, so we’re dealing with a wide margin of error. The standard deviation—
MR HALVETTI: Here he comes with the standard deviation.
MR HORCH: You’re right, you’re right, not all of those cases are confirmed. But there is one case, one particular instance that I take a particular interest in, Mr. Goddamn Asshole, and that particular instance has most definitely been confirmed.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: Sir, I understand your personal interest in this—
MR DRISTER: Mr. Horch takes a personal interest in every aspect of this company’s business. This is no exception.
MR HORCH: This most certainly is an exception.
MR DRISTER: An exception of the highest magnitude.
MR POLITO: If we are going to be using the word “exception,” then a new precedent will be set today and from now on “exception” will have to include far, far, bigger things.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: Mr. Horch, first let me offer my most sincerest apologies. I will be sure to stop in and visit the little tyke today after work.
MR HORCH: Quite magnanimous of you, but unfortunately you aren’t allowed within 500 feet of the hospital.
MR DRISTER: It’s really for your own safety.
MR POLITO: Some of us thought it would be a nice idea to pitch in for that sympathy ice sculpture.
MS RODO: And I sent around the card for everyone to sign.
MR HALVETTI: Where were you, Goddamn Asshole? Are you on this team or not?
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: Again, I apologize. It’s been a rather hectic week.
MR HORCH: A rather hectic week for us all.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: I’ve had to deal with press conferences, interviews, personal attacks from all sides. My house has become a war zone.
MR HALVETTI: Aw, poor baby.
MS RODO: Maybe you should’ve considered all this before turning a blind eye to the preliminary testing.
MR POLITO: “Oh, what’s that I see? Subject 202 frothing at the mouth? I think I shall look the other way.”
MR HALVETTI: [chortling] That’s right. “Oh, suddenly I am taking a great interest in this paper clip here on the other side of the room.”
MR HORCH: Well, Mr. Goddamn Asshole? Is that how it happened?
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: Sir, I swear on the Holy Bible that the preliminary testing looked tip-top to me. You have to understand I was dependent on the opinions of many, many people. Words of honor were exchanged.
MR DRISTER: Words of honor and a quarter will buy you not even a phone call.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: [to Mr. Drister] Phil, you were there in that meeting where Seymour and Sally gave us the results. We both watched the same videotaped sessions.
MR HORCH: When you’re dealing with something of such importance, you need to doublecheck and triplecheck. You need to take a personal interest in every facet of the production.
MS RODO: Have you seen our stock today?
MR POLITO: Personally, it makes me want to weep openly.
MR DRISTER: I was weeping openly earlier this morning. Tony can vouch for that.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: Mistakes were made, I’ll admit—
MR HALVETTI: Let’s not keep things in the passive voice, Goddamn Asshole. You made mistakes. Subject. Verb. Plural noun. Plural noun.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: [almost to himself] Paula assured me the kids would love it.
MS RODO: The kids who didn’t start bleeding out of their eyes loved it.
MR DRISTER: [examining the report curiously] And really, according to this, the eye-bleeders only make up 3% of the total viewers.
MR POLITO: A pittance!
MR HALVETTI: A mere 300,000 or so. I’m rounding down because of my generous spirit.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: How many times can I apologize? I was promised that the technology was ready, and that by the time it reached the airwaves it would be perfectly adjusted for general viewing. How was I to know? We need to stop pointing fingers and start working on damage control.
MR HORCH: Oh, we’ve already started that. Our PR department has been pulling long hours to calculate exactly how much responsibility one man can bear before the public begins to get suspicious.
MS RODO: Their findings are really quite interesting.
MR POLITO: We’d probably be in a lot more trouble if this happened ten or fifteen years ago, but nowadays people are far more willing to accept simple solutions.
MR DRISTER: The papers, too. It gives them more advertising space if they don’t have to go into long, drawn-out stories to explain everything.
MR HALVETTI: Mister. Goddamn. Asshole. Three simple words, and the story is done.
MR HORCH: The damage is controlled.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: But … there … there was a team of over … over a hundred people working on this clip.
MR DRISTER: All under you. All your responsibility.
MS RODO: We were thinking about tacking that embezzlement problem from ‘94 onto this thing, too. It won’t make any difference at this point, and that issue has really been a headache for us for quite some time.
MR HORCH: You will, for the first time, be doing this company a service.
[a semi-long silence as everyone looks to Mr. Goddamn Asshole]
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: So that’s how it’s going to be.
MR HALVETTI: ‘Fraid so, buckaroo. We’re going to miss your fastball, that’s for sure.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: I take it things are already in motion?
MS RODO: The press conference is scheduled for four-thirty.
MR GODDAMN ASSHOLE: Do I have time to stare blankly into space and then set myself on fire on the side of the freeway?
MR HORCH: We wouldn’t have it any other way.
[Well-Groomed Executive Assistant sticks his head into the room]
WELL-GROOMED EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT: Mr. Horch? I’m not sure, but I think I found that bagel.
[uproarious laughter fills the room]