Diary of a Greeter

Leg 6 – Mumbai, India

At the time I thought they should loosen up, relax with each other, and just be themselves. That would have been fine, except that in some cases, themselves are about twelve years old.
Dear Diary,

Things at the Pit Stop are getting rough. Familiarity breeds contempt; it also seems to breed resentment, childishness, and dumb practical jokes. How I long for the start of the race, all awkward silences and uncertainty. At the time I thought they should loosen up, relax with each other, and just be themselves. That would have been fine, except that in some cases, themselves are about twelve years old.

The Pit Stops are off-camera, so I won’t mention any names, but there’s one team, “Nelly” and “Don”, who have taken a serious dislike to another, who I’ll call “Willie” and, er, “Duck”. I have no idea where this comes from. Sexual jealousy? Don walks around with his dick on his forehead, so Nellie might be taking her anger out on a perceived rival. But, for some unknown reason, Willie has a reputation of not having a reputation, if you catch my drift, so that can’t be right. I guess it’s just junior high all over again, and we all know how that works: if you want to be up, tear someone else down.

Ordinarily I’m just fine with the tearing – as you well know – but this is too juvenile for even my tastes. Short-sheeting Duck’s bed? Putting a frog in Willie’s backpack? What the hell is that all about? By the next Pit Stop, I expect we’ll have escalated to “Kick Me!” signs. Sheesh.

And then there’s mealtime behaviour. I understand that they don’t get to eat a lot while they are on the road (to which I say cry me a damn river; this hasn’t exactly been The Amazing Smorgasbord for me, either) but that’s no excuse. There was a huge issue when, uh, “Veronica” let her teammate “Laree” cut into line at the buffet. “Flip” and “Miken” were right behind them, and they went ballistic. “I honoured the line!” Flip shouted. “I honoured the line!” Miken just groaned that this always happened to them. It only got worse when Laree took the last brownie. I think the boys have some serious issues to resolve from their kindergarten days.

There’s a lot of internal trouble too. Take “Lee-Ann” and, um, “Maree”. They were barely speaking to each other when they got to the mat, but they got over that real fast. In their room they went straight from “icy silence” to “screaming shitfit” without bothering to stop at pleasant conversation. After fifteen minutes of “you bitch!” this and “you cow!” that, the staff shrink went upstairs to talk to them, backed by a medic with a bottle of Paxil and a quart of Jack Daniels. They calmed down eventually.
Meanwhile, “Don”, is pissing everyone off with the constant juggling and balancing. Seriously, never ask the guy to pass the salt unless you want it to land in your lap accompanied by an orange, a candelabra, and Phil’s wallet.
Flip and Miken are having trouble too, with Flip always trying to lure Duck away to “strategize,” and I’ve already mentioned how pissed off Nelly is getting at Don. He wasn’t too bad this time, actually, as his favourite stalkees Lee-Ann and Maree were holed up in an intervention for most of the Stop. Meanwhile, “Don”, (no, the other one) is pissing everyone off with the constant juggling and balancing. Seriously, never ask the guy to pass the salt unless you want it to land in your lap accompanied by an orange, a candelabra, and Phil’s wallet. The only ones who seem immune to it all are two guys I’ll call “Dave” and “Jeff,” but I think that’s just because everyone thinks they’re with the crew.

All in all, I was just as happy to get out of that vipers’ nest. And when I heard we were going to India, I was stoked. I’d never been there before, and I figured I was in for a treat. Boy, was I ever.

First, of course, I had to get there. The less said about the flight, the better. I ended up on the same plane as most of the teams, which meant that, among other discomforts, I had to put up with all of the following: Kelly firing spitwads at Millie (hey, we’re out of the Pit Stop; it’s all fair game). Seeing Jon (no, the other one) putting his moves on every flight attendant on board (including the one called Enrico). Spending fifteen long minutes with a bursting bladder while Tian and Jaree made up, or did lines, or had an organic experience, or something, in the only working toilet in the back of the plane. I was never so happy to land.

As soon as we cleared customs, BVM sent me off to pick up my costume at Film City, home of Bollywood. “Whatever the hell that it,” I said to myself. What it is, apparently, is a giant maze of studios where they crank out millions of feet of film each year to feed the massive movie-going appetite of the Indian Subcontinent. My driver didn’t seem to know his way around any better than I did, but eventually he stopped in front of one building and insisted that it was the right one. I went inside.

“Are you my Ganesh?” He may have been short, he may have been round, he may have been brown, but a director with a bug up his ass is the same the world over. Especially when he’s in my face. “I said are you my Ganesh?”

I had no idea. Ga-who? BVM didn’t tell me anything about my costume. “I guess so…”

“You cannot be my Ganesh! Too scrawny!” This was the story of my life: arrive on set to be “Head Thug,” end up “Third Waiter.” I fucking hate it when this happens. Time to take the elephant by the tusks.

“Look, pal, I just got thrown in a car and sent over here. They said you’d know what to do with me. Well, do you?”
He clapped his hands and shouted something. Five ladies descended, coated me in what smelled like shoe polish, and then dressed me magenta harem pants and a gold vest.
Directors hate it when you suggest they don’t know what they’re doing. “Ah, yes, you’re the double. Yes, I see it now, just the right height, about the right weight… a little pale, but we can work with that …” He clapped his hands and shouted something. Five ladies descended, coated me in what smelled like shoe polish, and then dressed me magenta harem pants and a gold vest.

“Hey, this is just like when I was in the chorus of The King and I…”

“Silence!” Suddenly he was all Cecil B. Ranganathan. “As you know, Kapoor Rosham had to leave early to begin his next film. We need you to stand in for some extra shots for a few scenes – the dance, the wedding, the chase, the battle, the dream, the other wedding, the other dance, the other chase, the other battle, the other dance…”

My head was spinning. “Look pal, just tell me where to stand.”

He grinned and squeezed my cheek. “With an attitude like that,” he beamed, “I could make you a star!”

Fifteen hours later I was collapsed in a heap on a pile of pink pillows. I had ridden a chariot, been seduced by fourteen dancing maidens, eaten three banquets, sung two love ballads, taken part in five duels, been visited by the avatars of three members of the Hindu pantheon, and leapt from a collapsing tower, a collapsing bridge, and a collapsing four-poster bed. “How many movies are you making?” I croaked after we cut for the last time.

“Just the one today,” he said. “But I like your style. You’re standing in for Kapoor this time, but how’d you like a real part in my next epic? They’ve just started the script; filming begins Friday.”

A part? Epic? Holy crap. Ten years in the business Stateside, and my highest profile credit was corpse-of-the-week on Six Feet Under. I had uttered exactly twenty-three words on screen: “That way.” “Miss, your change!” “Yes, sir”. “Nooo! Noooooooo!” and, (my personal favourites) “Mister Li sent me with a message for you; he says augh gurgle blort.” I turned the words over in my head. Epic. Star. Dancing Maiden number eleven rubbed my feet and smiled shyly. That was it. I didn’t care how much shoe polish I would have to wear, the answer was…
I turned the words over in my head. Epic. Star. Dancing Maiden number eleven rubbed my feet and smiled shyly. That was it. I didn’t care how much shoe polish I would have to wear, the answer was…
“Where the fuck have you been? Napping! Christ, man, we’ve got a race to film!” The mellifluous tones of BVM cut through the drowsy air of the studio like a chainsaw through crème brulé. “At least you’ve got your make up. Where’s the damn turban?”

Two Production Assistants frog-marched me out the door towards a waiting van. I called back to Cecil B. “YES! The answer is YES! I’m staying at the… uh…” I looked at PA number one “Where am I staying?”

He snorted. “Direct orders from JB: ‘Get his ass down here. Don’t ask, don’t persuade. Pick up and carry.’ It’s more than my job’s worth to tell you anything.”

Crap.

Half an hour later, my head swaddled in fourteen yards of green burlap (the extra itchy kind – I’m sure I’ve got BVM to thank for that), I was standing by the mat with Phil whispering at me: “Try to smile, dammit. This is the Gateway to India, not the Black fucking Hole of Calcutta.”

Suddenly, two guys appeared out of nowhere, running like the wind, with Chip and Reichen on their tails. “Wow,” I said to Phil, “they weren’t kidding about the pickpocket problem here. Looks like C&R got taken.”

“Those aren’t pickpockets,” he said, “That’s, uh, that’s, uh…” He pulled his cheat sheet out of his pocket.
The four guys were neck-and-neck. It was a photo finish; I was sure they’d tie. Suddenly, a boom mike fell on the ground right in front of Reichen and he went ass over teakettle, taking Chip down with him.
The four guys were neck-and-neck. It was a photo finish; I was sure they’d tie. Suddenly, a boom mike fell on the ground right in front of Reichen and he went ass over teakettle, taking Chip down with him. “Yesss!” said someone from the sidelines. I looked over; it was the rep from Royal Caribbean. “Give that man a bonus!”

“..that’s, uh, David and Jeff!” said Phil. “You’re the first team to arrive.”

We had to wait a bit while Reichen dusted himself off and someone bandaged Chip’s knee. After checking them in, Phil said “Hard luck about the cruise boys.” Then he offered them a La-Z-Boy and some Lee Press-On Nails for second-place.

They failed to see the humour in the situation and grumbled off to the buffet table. “At least there’s no one to cut in line ahead of us.”

Kelly and Jon were next, all smiles and hugs for everyone. “Whoa!” snapped Phil. “Please, Jon, hands where I can see them!” They bounced off and Phil muttered “That boy would screw a snake if he could find someone to hold it for him…”

The last teams to arrive weren’t nearly in such good shape. Millie looked like she was about to keel over. Memo to myself: Kama Sutra greeting failed to pan out. Offer instead revitalizing move performed by Dancing Maiden number eleven at hour thirteen of filming. Could be right up Millie’s street.

Tian and Jaree were up next, and that’s when I really started to notice the smell. It had been getting stronger with every team; a powerful combination of sweat, soap, and fish guts. Let’s just say it won’t be replacing CKOne anytime soon. They seemed to be getting along a little better; I guess the doc was right that post-hypnotic suggestions work really well after a good slug of Jack.

Than, a sight for sore eyes. Jon and Al, all clowned out. “You are team number six.” Yeah boys, almost Philiminated. Put that it your cannon and fire it. Perhaps a bit less juggling and a bit more hustle next leg, okay?

Last in were Monica and Sharee. It really was a shame to see them go; they were nice ladies, they worked hard, and they ran a good race. On the plus side, never again will I have to hear the words, “Well, as our husbands are both professional athletes…”

Every cloud has a silver lining, diary. Now then, time to look up ‘Ranganathan, Cecil B.’ in the Mumbai phone book. The population is only twelve million; how many could there be?