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The Inverse Relationship of Seriousness and Gravity

I met a former Las Vegas police officer, and he told me the following story:

We got a call for a suicide. Self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

You could see the victim from the front door. He was sitting at the kitchen table, kinda in profile. The entry wound was on his temple. The gun was still dangling from his left hand.

It was all pretty straight forward, so I sent the rookie in to check out the scene. Like I said, you could see the entry wound from the door, but when he walked around the table, he saw the exit wound.

An entry wound is like what you see on TV– a bloody hole just about the size of a bullet. The exit wound is something else entirely. The right half of this guy’s head was gone. Brains splattered everywhere, bones broken every which way, an eye hanging down by where his cheek should be.

The kid wasn’t expecting it at all. He came running out of the house, kneeled over the edge of the porch, and vomited his guts out. The rest of us just died laughing. Someone pointed out the neighbors were on their lawns, watching us, but it didn’t matter.

We couldn’t stop laughing.

Compare that with Rob Long talking about getting a sandwich:

Making a movie or television show is hard work, and sometimes the high point in your day is the turkey sandwich on sourdough toast with mayo on one side and mustard on the other and when it comes untoasted, well, that little moment in between network notes and bad news from the studio is sort of ruined. And it’s hard not too get really really mad about the untoasted sourdough — irrationally mad, yes, overreacting and inappropriately raging, yes — because, well, you know going in that the network is going to be awful and the studio is going to be obstructionist and the production is going to go over budget and the effect isn’t going to look like it’s supposed to and the star is going to be irritating and the audience is going to be fickle but, really, you had a pretty good shot at getting that bread toasted. I mean, there’s a toaster in the restaurant, yes? And slices of bread were proximate to that device? So, basically, what you’re telling me is that even the stuff that’s supposed to go right, that can easily go right, is going to go wrong?

Is it just me, or do the people who should take their job seriously, don’t, and the people who shouldn’t take their job seriously, do?

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12 Responses

  1. After a few weeks at my first internship at an agency in Beverly Hills, it was becoming commonplace to hear the agents and managers scream at literally everyone around them – valets, busboys, delivery men, etc… As if their job was actually life or death material. I remember thinking “What a bunch of self-important bastards…. I want to do that.”

    (Since then I’ve learned that I most certainly do NOT want to do that. Production rocks – agents and managers are some of the most unhappy, bitter, soul-sucking creatures on God’s green Earth. I’d like to be able to live with myself after I come home from the job, thankyouverymuch.)

  2. The police situation is called gallows humor, and it’s what people do to make it through stressful situations. (I spent 3 years working in an ER, and you wouldn’t believe the stuff we laughed at 😉

  3. From what I recall, the reason the rookie cop in Southland threw up was because the dead mans dogs had started to eat his dead corpse, not so much the sight of a dead body.

  4. Man, I hope not. I was gonna use it in MY cop show spec.

    In any case, I was told this story in Vegas, weeks before that premiere. Maybe it’s an apocryphal story every cop knows.

  5. Oh, man, it better not have been. I was gonna use it in MY cop show pilot spec.

    In any case, I was told this story in Vegas, weeks before the show premiered. Maybe it’s an apocryphal story every cop knows.

  6. Black humor has been used as coping mechanism for police, medical personel, and the military for a long time — probably since the beginning of modern civilization. People whose jobs force them to witness the worst of human behavior on a daily basis would go crazy without venting in some way, and sometimes they do anyway. Check out the stats on police suicide sometime — retired officers “eat the gun” with alarming regularity. To the rest of us who rarely (if ever) go to such dark places, such “humor” can seem incomprehensible — but it’s a useful reminder that others are doing our dirty work for us. Maybe we should all be grateful for that.

    As to the Rob Long excerpt, it reads a bit rough out of context — but if you listen to the whole piece, you understand the underlying irony in all of Rob’s commentaries. He regularly skewers his end of the above-the-line Industry — and himself — with needle-point precision and some very wry humor.

    Come to think of it, I like my wry toasted too…

  7. I’d give the police a pass on this. They have to make light of certain situations or else they’d lose it. It’s human nature to cope with stuff like that. They’ve seen things I never hope to see in my entire life.

  8. Wow… yeah that exit bullet wound story and the cops laughing at the poor rookie is so fucked up. It’s true that they never show us exit wounds in Hollywood films, even I don’t know what an exit wound looks like.

    and yes, I agree, with your last statement.

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