From the Assistant’s Chair: The Little Things

This is an ongoing study into the mind of an assistant editor, and the various small tasks he is assigned to.

An editing facility is a lot like an underground fight club. Except it’s cleaner. And more work gets done. And there aren’t any fights. It’s actually nothing like an underground fight club. But that would be awesome if it was.

Aside from misleading people with opening sentences, an assistant editor has many responsibilities that go beyond actual editing work. It’s these little things that are required of the job that not only make this place run infinitely times smoother, but they are also the reason that clients keep coming back. Having this delusion that these minor things are the most important aspect of the office is important in not only ensuring that you keep doing them, but it also boosts your ego and enables you to brag about your job to attractive women at parties.

These little tasks can vary from cleaning spots off the walls to making coffee for people who may not even drink coffee. The fact that you brought someone coffee out of surprise will make that person feel great, even if it makes them feel nauseous from the smell of coffee that they despise. Sure I have to dump the coffee out in the sink, which some would consider wasted coffee, but I actually consider it a job well done.

You have to take note of subtle cues from people around the office. If a client says in passing that they used to eat chocolate ice cream when they were a kid, surprise them at lunch with a one pound tub of chocolate ice cream. They will look confused and suspicious, but if you read them deep enough, you’ll know it’s what they actually want. At the end of the day, when you are cleaning up and you notice the ice cream has two spoon marks in it, you’ll realize what a great person you are.

Food is actually the life of the edit suite, and essential to ensuring that everything runs smoothly. We have 2 full snack bars and 2 fully stocks refrigerators loaded with goodies to keep people happy. Guess who stocks those? You guess it (I’m assuming you said me). Clients often look at the snacks and say “I can’t eat any of this, I’m on a diet” that’s when I swoop in and say “it’s no big deal, this stuff is all low calorie!”, then I proceed to gorge down a few bags of Cheetos and several candy bars. They will look at you in an odd way, and probably not eat anything at that time, but you’ll know it worked when you see those 4 Lifesaver mint wrappers on the client table at the end of the day. It’s also why I’ve gained 35 pounds since I started working here, but once I finally decide to start working out and it’s all converted to muscle, THEN we’ll see who’s laughing.

But you can’t just throw the food in a big pile and expect people to eat any of it. I have it all well organized with every label visible in a clean orderly fashion. If there is one thing I learned from Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, it’s that cans of corn will never move if you keep them in the cabinet. Try and “sell” the food to your clients and coworkers. Walk around yelling “DORITOS HERE, DORITOS, DELICIOUS DORITOS, GOT YOUR DORITOS RIGHT HERE” You’ll be surprised at how many people will take a bag of Doritos under the condition that you “shut up”. Way I see it, they took the bag of Doritos.

Cleaning the office is obviously essential, but also make sure the outside of the office is clean as well. This may be a regional thing, but we have a problem here in the Chicago-land area with geese (these are the same jerks that took down that plane over the Hudson). And these are geese that like to take craps everywhere, that I have to clean up.

There used to be one goose, who fouled our sidewalk all the time, so I went out there and tried to bargain with it, and gave it a french fry on the condition it would never come back. I didn’t take into account that the goose didn’t understand English, because it think it took it the wrong way and must have alerted his kin of the free delicious food, as all of the sudden there were 26 geese. It was like a Hitchcock movie mixed with an Aflac commercial.

Simple solution, I unleashed a wave of Chinese needle snakes to kill the geese. When they became a problem, I imported some gorillas to eat the snakes. The beauty of that is that when winter came, the gorillas simply froze to death!

Let me just say that 99% percent of the things an assistant editor does go completely unnoticed. But that is how it should be. We are the ninjas of the post house, our work is done in the shadows.

For instance, I spilled hot chocolate mix all over the counter and floor yesterday, and in a flurry of time I wiped down the counter with water, and vacuumed the floor to a perfect degree. Two minutes later when Tom walked in the room, he didn’t say anything about it, but the way I see it, he wasn’t SUPPOSED to say anything about it, because my silent duties were done correctly. Had I left all the hot chocolate mix all over the place and moved on to something else, Tom would have looked at me like I was a complete jerk. But when he came in the room and sat down and didn’t even seem to acknowledge that I was in the room, even after I said “hello”, I smiled a little bit, because I knew I was the hero this office needed.

They will never throw a parade for us, or give us the key to the city, but the look of oblivious normalcy on my coworkers faces are enough for me to keep doing what I’m doing. You could say that the assistant editor is the SINGLE most important person in the edit suite. You’d probably be wrong, but you COULD certainly say that. Much like you COULD say Legally Blonde is a better movie than Citizen Kane.

God speed, fellow assistants.


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