Anyone who knows me personally for any decent amount of time knows that I maintain a general dislike for people. I just have a natural expectation that they’re going to disappoint me in an unforgivable way somehow. It’s not that I expect perfection from anyone. I completely expect life to interfere with relationships. Sometimes people simply forget things they did or said. While those moments are disappointing and can be so in a meaningful way, they’re also forgivable as human weakness – provided it isn’t a chronic occurrence. I’m talking more about flakes: people who agree to do something and then don’t do it. How does one forgive that?
Lately I’ve been discovering more flaky people than I’m used to. While people who know me typically write off my cynical opinion of humanity as a personality quirk, recent experiences only reinforce my outlook. It continually baffles me that I can check and double-check these people’s conviction on doing what they said they’d do – telling them how important it is that they do it and that if they’re not going to do it, to let me know – and still have them flake on me. I don’t know any other safeguards I can take.
As many of you know, I’ve opened up my site to other writers. I’m very grateful for the current team I have and I consider myself lucky to have found them. The problem, however, is that the entertainment industry is too large for a small team of part-time writers to cover adequately. So I continually mine sites like Craigslist for would be writers who want to develop their portfolios while performing genuine journalism with high-profile stories. The writers who responded and are now writing for me have worked out pretty well. Others, however, have turned out disastrous and I can’t understand why.
One writer that I thought was going to work out was from a small town in Colorado and she moved out here with her boyfriend because she was transferring to USC to finish college. According to her reply, she was majoring in English and literature, but had a passion for writing. Moreover, her response was very upbeat and enthusiastic. Her writing samples were only so-so, but while writing ability is an absolute must, a good attitude goes a long way with me. So I met her for coffee near Sony Pictures for a quick interview.
She was definitely young, but pleasant enough to speak with. Although, she did have an annoying habit of responding with “absolutely” after everything I said.
“Can you turn around a 750-word review in one night if I needed you to?”
“I need you to be early to every screening.”
“Hand me a napkin?”
“What time is it?”
Maybe she was nervous. Anyway, I was satisfied that she’d be good enough and easy to mold so I invited her to the screening I had to be at that evening right after the interview. She seemed a little surprised, but wanted to be accommodating so she made arrangements with her ride and we went to the screening. For someone who just breezed into town and who was now on the Sony Pictures lot, watching a movie in one of their screening rooms, she sure was restrained. I didn’t see any excitement out of her at all. Chatting with her later on Facebook, however, she explained how great the experience was.
Her review of the film needed work, but it was manageable. Since I want to bring my writers up to speed as fast as possible, I always throw as much work at newcomers. So I invited her to another screening. I knew this one was going to be a little tougher, because it was a Happy Madison film and the policy of this site is to not excoriate a movie outright. The film was tough to get through as expected and her review felt padded, so I worked with her again, offering copious notes. After that, I sent her a screener for a reality tow truck show, which she watched and said she’d turn in a review for. While waiting for that, I invited her to another screening via text. She didn’t reply, which raised a big red flag. I decided that I should prepare my own review of the tow truck show in case she didn’t come through.
She didn’t come through.
In my mind, she was fired, but I was at least willing to entertain some kind of excuse if she had one to offer. So I waited for her to make contact. She hadn’t suffered some horrible accident that landed her in the hospital or anything, since she was still consistently updating her Facebook profile. After a while she un-friended me. Analyzing the situation, I assume her boyfriend had something to do with how everything panned out. I think he was worried that I might put the moves on his girlfriend. According to the girl, her boyfriend had asked, “He’s not going to rape you or anything, right?” regarding my interview with her when he dropped her off. A few screenings later, I got to meet the boyfriend and I detected just a hint of puffery and territorial aggression. Regardless, you’d think the girl would have had the decency to at least tell me that she was quitting.
Since then, I’ve had a slew of run-ins with flakey writers; most of them don’t make it much farther than the interview stage before dropping off the face of the planet. One writer I interviewed really got my hopes up. Not only did I enjoy our hour-long interview, but this applicant had Hollywood connections. Since her writing samples were a little on the academic side, I asked her to send me something that would be a good fit for the site. She agreed, but her deadline came and went and I never heard from her again.
I don’t understand people. Writing for my site is pretty straightforward. There’s nothing “hidden” about any of the job duties. Either you want to cover the entertainment industry or you don’t. The interview is really just to make sure that we can stand each other enough to work together. But even then the bar should be set pretty low since we won’t actually be working side by side for any extended period or frequency. My point is that anyone should know whether or not they want the gig well before the interview even happens. So if they’re not interested, then why even go out of their way to meet for the interview and then sit there for an hour, nodding and agreeing to something they ultimately don’t want to be part of? These are the riddles of humanity that keep me up at night.
The only greater puzzle is figuring out how to detect these kinds of people and avoid them to save me time. I’m open to suggestions.