"Oh my god, I'm, like, so over people's crap, you know!"
For the love of heaven, will you shut up, you whiny little twat!
On the inside. Out loud, of course, I say, "Oh, I know exactly what you mean."
"People are just so selfish. I mean, Jenni was supposed to tell Sapphire about Lina's premiere, right? And then, like, the morning before Lina gets a call from her agent who's all like 'Hey, what's going on.'"
Good lord, that voice! The drawn-out vowels. 'Like' peppered in every other phrase with a froggy croak. And the ascension at the end of each sentence, as if everything were a question. A twenty-four-year-old supermodel who talks like a toddler with a two-pack-a-day habit. Does she think it's sexy? Does she think of anything but the last post she read on her phone? All I know is we've been driving for nearly three hours and if this doesn't end soon I'm going to aim the Jaguar hood ornament at a telephone pole and floor it.
"And now Lina's getting all pissy and texting Mom. Like, leave Mom out of it, you know! Oh my god."
It started innocently enough. Crystal had to be in Las Vegas by sundown and—her beliefs to the contrary—she's not quite worth chartering a private jet. So, I volunteered. I've been a production assistant on Model Home for three years. Not the first time I've had to play chauffeur, but first crack I've had at Crystal's custom XJ. It is a magnificent beast, I must admit. Purrs like a kitten, roars like a lion, sprints like a cheetah. It's a bit surprising she bought it, being as she hates to drive, but it's a brilliant status symbol.
"I mean, seriously, if Sapphire can't be bothered then, like, why should anybody care about her stupid things, you know."
I nod and say 'Oh?' and 'Uh-huh' at the proper intervals—even toss in a 'No way!' I've picked up listening to Americans—but inside I'm screaming. On set, I don't have to interact with "the talent" very much. I mostly just keep tally of crew and equipment, sign for the catering, and take notes for the script supervisor. Yes, there's a script supervisor on a reality show. Shocked, are you?
"It's not like I don't make sacrifices for her all the time. Last year I had to fly back from Miami on the red eye for that Santa Barbara cruise or whatever. And I friggin' hate boats! Never again, you know? It's like, oh my god, really."
There was a segment on some news magazine show about the degradation of speech in America. They cited two particular terms: "uptalk" — raising the pitch of the voice at the ends of phrases; and "vocal fry" — a kind of throaty growl used to trail off words. Together, they spread a plague of retrograde maturity among young women who demeaned themselves by talking like infants at school or on the job—and all because of the corrupting influence of Crystal Cashima. Oh, she wasn't blamed as Ground Zero for the disease, but she was declared its most notorious carrier.
I glance over and Crystal's lost in her phone, biting her lip. She's already gnawed holes in her sweatshirt cuffs and poked her thumbs through. She has her legs tucked up under her in the passenger seat. How does she even do that? Made of rubber, the girl is. Me, I can barely sit up, my whole body stiff from the long drive and the stress of Crystal's chatter.
"Sometimes I wish people would just, like, grow the fuck up, you know?"
Says the poster child for infantilization!
"I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of catty bitches."
Take arms against a sea of catty bitches, and by opposing, end them!
"Oh my god, I just want to get away from these people trying to make me feel like shit."
In the show about uptalk and vocal fry, they had a clip of Crystal saying "Oh my god!" that they ran backward and forward, sped up and slowed down, to illustrate the point. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh. My. God. Ohhhh. Mmmyyyy. Gahhhdd. We passed that clip all around the crew. A few of them had it as a ringtone.
"You're, like, the only person who's, like, consistently nice to me."
"I'm sorry, what?"
"I said you're the only person on the show who's decent to me."
"Yeah, it's like everyone's always mad, telling us what to do. But you're always, like, please and thank you—like, sweet all the time. And I love your voice, like, your accent. Where are you from again?"
"I'm from England," I answer, starting to feel like a total cow. "A place called Gloucestershire."
"Gloss-tur-shear," she says carefully. "Is it nice there?"
"It's lovely. You should visit next time you're in London."
"Oh my god, you're going to totally hate me, but I've forgotten your name. It's Mary Ann?"
"Miriam," I answer. "But that's what most Americans call me." I exaggerate an accent, "Mairry Yan!"
Bless her heart, she giggles. A pretty ripple of sound.
"You know Sonic Tommy?" she asks.
"You mean the DJ who does the parties?" I picture the spotty kid with nose rings and ginger dreadlocks who's only skill seems to be turning up the volume.
"Uh-huh. We've been working on, like, some music. Can I play you something?"
I cringe. I grip the wheel as three hours of frayed nerves beg for silence. But, of course, I say, "Sure."
"It's, like, a song about my life and stuff. It's called 'Golden.'"
Crystal fiddles with her phone and the Bluetooth touchscreen in the dashboard. Screechy thumpa-thumpa music blasts from the custom sound system. I can feel the roots of my teeth actually thudding with the bass. I'm just about to ask—politely—for her to turn it down when it cuts off.
"Sorry, that's not it."
She keeps scrolling. In the moment of blessed quiet I'm trying to think of some way to ask if we can listen later when a guitar riff begins to play.
It's a gentle acoustic strum laced with deft fingerings, and it draws me instantly.