'Still half thinking that I'm dressing for a TV commercial, I climb in'

Worst Jobs 2015

'Still half thinking that I'm dressing for a TV commercial, I climb in'
Jim Campbell illustration

As an actor, you take any job you can get. My friend lets me know about an acting job that pays, and they want me. They like your style, he says. I don't even have to audition. Being 19 and in college, I jump on it. My friend tells me it's a local payday loan company and they're shooting a commercial. I ask why he doesn't want the gig. Too busy, he says, but he wanted to help his friends out. What a nice guy!

I arrive at the location on a sweltering 90-degree day. I'm curious why I don't see a film crew; in fact, I don't even see lights or a camera, nothing, just a lump of green fabric sitting on the floor. I ask for my contact, and he says, "You must be Chris! Are you ready to do this?" Thinking we must be traveling to the shoot, I say: "Sure! Let's do it!"

Some people describe blacking out at traumatic events — it's like that. I feel stunned and trapped when the guy holds up what looks like a large cartoon stack of dollar bills.

"So you enter in from the back," the guy says. Still half thinking that I'm dressing for a TV commercial, I climb in. I'm now "Bill," the Check into Cash mascot. I gather myself. OK, this isn't that bad. I can still kind of act and put this on my demo reel. Here we go!

"OK, can you see? Let me take your hand and I will show you where you will be working," the guy says.

In my head, I ask, "Don't you mean acting?"

He leads me to the sidewalk right by Division Street at rush hour. Still not seeing a camera, it slowly starts to sink in. As he starts describing how I am going to be dancing and waving to drivers for the next two hours, I can only begin to curse my friend for what is the most amazing bait-and-switch ever.

Crushed, my waving and dancing lack passion. No one wants to come get a high-interest loan. I'm a prime target for trash, car honks and lots of middle fingers. I'm roasting inside of my large green costume, and I find new respect for all the workers in theme parks.

It's the longest two hours of my life. I waddle the costume back in there, drenched in sweat. The guy asks how it went.

"How it went? How do you think it went? What feedback are you looking for here?"

That's what I want to say, but instead, I mutter: "Fine." I take home $50 and run.

When I bump into my friend the next day, all we can do is laugh. He got me. I let him know that in the future he can keep his acting jobs to himself. ♦

Lila Shaw Girvin: Gift of a Moment @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through March 12
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