Opposite Day

The offer seemed too good to pass up.

News writing and sports producing position for the top-rated cable news organization in the country. Opportunity for additional on-air work. And a great learning experience during the most-watched election season ever.

But the decision to take this job wasn’t an easy one. We’ve all been at this fork in road when it comes to a career choice: For love or money?

In this case, I had an offer in writing for a senior sales position from a telecom company for which I was gainfully employed and handsomely rewarded. Stability and familiarity characterized what would be my life there. The money would be very good and the people were mostly those who I had an excellent rapport with in the past.

But then a call came in from FOX News about the aforementioned writing and producing position. I had been doing weekly guest appearances on its sister business network and had asked one producer who seemed to know her way around the company for a heads up if she heard anything that might be a good fit on the writing side.

So sure enough, almost as if it was right out of a sitcom script, they contacted me for an interview just one week before I was supposed to start at the telecom. “It couldn’t hurt to hear about it,” I thought, and proceeded to meet with an Executive Producer.

Like a great first date (except for the gender), we hit it off swimmingly. A call would come in three days later on a Friday (just a weekend away from starting at the other job) that no other interviews were required.

I was in.

Usually, as most of you know, interviews at any corporation usually last weeks, sometimes even months. But television is a different animal…if you interview well and the resume is already there, there’s no need for a 3-step process.

Of course, nothing is presented like newly dry-cleaned clothes in life, and this deal was no exception. For starters, the money would be 50% less than what I would make in sales. But the room for growth was unlimited, so I saw that aspect as only a short-term issue. The real quandry presented itself in the form of the hours I would be working:

Thursday-Monday, 1:00 AM-9:00 AM (2:00 AM-10:00 AM on weekends), with meetings that could extend the day an hour or two past that.

This would mean, obviously, sleeping by day and working by night. Happy Hour would occur at The Port Authority Bowling Alley (one of the few places that serves at that time of day) from 9:30 AM-noon (and you thought the crowd at 4:00 PM at Texas Arizona was lacking). Weekend nights out would be just a fond memory.

Up would be down.

Black would be white.

And it just didn’t sound very, um, healthy.

So what to do?

Live a normal, comfortable life and wonder what could have been or…

Live a completly abnormal, somewhat uncomfortable life (but get some payback on my Bachelor’s degree).

After speaking with some members of the circle of trust, the choice became easy: Just go for it. If it doesn’t work out, a career in sales was always there waiting.

My first night at FOX proved to be a harbanger of things to come.

4:00 PM: Attempt to get some sleep during the day.

4:30 PM: Staring at the ceiling begins to get as boring as watching a preseason Nets game.

5:00 PM: Start reading the most boring piece of material at my disposal. But after printing out a few stories from Hoboken411, even that doesn’t work.

5:30 PM: Explore the wonderful world of Ambien.

6:15 PM: Fall asleep watching the Discovery channel, which would catapult itself to my Top 5 channels to watch immediately (behind ESPN, HBO, TBS and FOX News).

11:30 PM: Wake up with that confusion of a bad first sleepover hookup. You don’t feel very well, you initially have no idea what time it is, and you’re in need of a shower.

12:00 PM: Begin walking to the PATH, which runs at :26 and :56 past the hour at this time of night. The bars are still busy regardless of the night (except Mondays). There’s only one goal: Don’t run into anyone I know. conversations on the way to work are always something I’d rather avoid, and particularly when they’re lucky enough to be drunk and I’m not outside of the foggy Ambien-induced buzz I still have going.

12:18 PM: Run into old friends outside of the Hobson’s. They invite me in for a drink, but I decline.

“What, you have to get early for work tomorrow?” one asks.

“No, I’m going to work now, actually…” I reply.

(Awkward silence while this information is absorbed)

“Are you working for an escort service now? the other one asks with a laugh.

“No, see, I took this job in TV that has some weird hours. I have to run or I’ll miss the PATH.”

“Oh, OK. Well, you’re going to that party at Rob’s on Saturday, right?” is the out question.

“I don’t think so. Well, maybe. Let me see how I handle this whole opposite schedule thing.” I say while walking away backwards.

“Don’t be such a pussy! The Conch I know would never stay in on a Saturday night.”

Like Marty McFly’s response when he was called “Chicken” by Biff Tanner/Mad Dog Tanner in the horrific Back to the Future II and III (which were never meant to be made in the first place until the first one–a classic–made it impossible not to make a sequel), I take the ribbing personally.

“Please, I’ll be there. Sleep when I’m dead!”

And this marked the first of many challenges to continue my normal social schedule while preparing to go to work at midnight. My next degree should be a Bachelor’s in Self-Preservation after attempting to burn the Corona at both ends.

12:24 AM: Rats the size of small black labs run up and down the tracks without a care. They often chase each other. And when a train comes, there are about 1400 different holes for them to run into. Scientists are right: Rats and cockroaches have the only plan to survive a nuclear war.

12:26 AM: You have to hand it to the PATH…they run exactly on time. The car is half-filled, marking the first time I’ve ever gone to work without fighting for a seat or having someone who is at least a size 46 plop down next to me. We’ll mark this as Perk #1.

12:34 AM: A homeless woman is yelling something to no one in particular about three seats away from me. Now usually I have a paper to read but they were all sold-out, and I usually have my iPod on me but forgot to pack it, so I’m forced to read all of the advertisements on the wall to avoid making eye contact with this nutjob.

12:36 AM: Like the way animals sense fear, this woman is now yelling directly at me. I refuse to make eye contact. Then out of the corner of my eye I see something coming and…wham! She hits me in the arm with a bag of what felt like clothes and some candy bars.

12:36:10 AM: The thought for a second is to (A) Beat her senseless and put her out her misery (B) Say, “What the fuck?” or (C) Get up without making eye contact and move to another car. C is obviously the only right move, so I do so without running into any homeless people. But three drunks going back to the city are almost as bad. Being that I haven’t gone out to a bar without drinking something for the better part of my adult life, I didn’t realize these people were almost as prickish as Seth Green playing himself on Entourage. C is obviously the only right move, so I do so without running into any homeless people. But three drunks going back to the city are almost as bad. Being that I haven’t gone out to a bar without drinking something for the better part of my adult life, I didn’t realize these people were almost as prickish Seth Green playing himself on Entourage.

By the way, I completely take back my analysis that the Milan Ackerman character (Tori) from the threesome episode is hotter than Sloan. Maybe seeing Ackerman in The Heartbreak Kid (which is easily Ben Stiller’s worst movie) brought her down a few notches, but Sloan’s reappearence on Sunday night got more buzz in random emails I got the next day than any Entourage review in the history of the show.

Kudos to you Emmanuelle Sophie Anne Chriqui. I never should have doubted you…

Anyway, after surviving the PATH I get into work around 1:00 AM. The newsroom, which usually has 150-200 people buzzing like a trading desk, is reduced to maybe 10. The coffee is stale but effective. And food is a difficult thing to come by unless vending machines are your thing.

Later I would find out that Ray’s Famous Pizza is open 19-hours-a-day from 9:00 AM-4:00 AM, but this turns out being something that could turn me into a size 46 waist if I have this for breakfast (or is it dinner?) on a nightly basis (or is it morning?).

Work is work…I won’t bore you with the details. But let’s just say that I don’t regret my decision in any way from this perspective: Each day is different. It’s intense. It’s fun in a stressful kind of way. Working in live television is like being a ER doctor: You may save 99 out of 100 patients, but if you screw up once, you’re going to hear about it.

Mistakes are not only seen by your boss, but their boss, and about 1.3 million people…some of which can’t wait to write the network to point out the error. So you basically have to be perfect, and may not have much time to prepare for such perfection. Still, I wouldn’t trade the position for any other out there. In short It’s a daily (nightly) rush.

Leaving work is a very strange feeling. For starters, the feeling of crashing from two cups of bad coffee is a fatigue like I’ve never felt before. And the human traffic at that time of day is always impossible to negotiate. It’s a 1-on-75 fast break down the stairs to the subway, and it’s just part of the game that you will not make that train even if it sits there for 30 seconds. There is no right or left side of the stairwell. And let’s just say that most folks aren’t cheery people when going to work in New York.

The PATH ride home always consists of me falling asleep. It just happens like being induced before an operation. A nudge from someone, periodically a friend, comes upon reaching Hoboken and everyone else is off the train. I can only imagine what some people I don’t see (but they see me) think when I’m dreaming on a train at 9:45 in the morning:

“Did you hear? Joe Concha was passed out in his clothes from the night before drooling on himself like an old man on the PATH. Will he ever grow up and get a job? How does he afford all that Columbian Bam-Bam he does, anyway?”

From there I try to get some errands done.

A&P or Shop Rite? Piece of cake. No lines whatsoever.

Supercuts? No wait and often price discounts when getting a haircut before 3:00 PM.

Post office? (See: A&P)

Having a package delivered? Haven’t missed the UPS guy in months…

As for my new Happy Hour, it should be noted that the only bar in Hoboken open before 11:00 AM in Hoboken seven days a week is The Wilton House. Great deal: $2.00 drafts all day every day, and plenty of seats available! They open at 9:00 AM for all of you sick individuals who care to call in sick and go on an all-day bender. But leave your plastic at home…it’s old school there: Cash only.

The only issue with drinking at 9:30 in the morning is the “I want to talk to everyone I know” buzz that hits at 2:00 in the afternoon is compromised since everyone is at work. But at least sleeping during the day becomes infinitely easier when dropping $35.00 for 10 beers (with tip).

This lifestyle wasn’t too difficult to adjust to until summer at the Jersey Shore came. Being a man of principle (and already putting the money down to run a house in Spring Lake), I wasn’t about to let some job get in the way of my annual rite of passage. So for three months I “commuted” back and forth to the beach on weekends. My sleep would come on the two-hour train ride to and from. Otherwise, I was like Denzel Washington in The Hurricane when he was locked up for over 20 years…putting myself mentally in a place where I didn’t think about the situation and willed myself to ignore my reality.

I would still golf or go to the beach by day. I would still pre-game. I would still go to Parker House. Nothing, not even two hours of sleep, would prevent me from enjoying my damn summer.

The cruel sacrifice came when most people were going to the second bar (Edgar’s, Leggett’s, Osprey) while I was back on a midnight train back to New York with nothing but a duffel bag, pillow and water to get my nap. In retrospect, I likely took about 3-17 years off my life.

Leading an opposite lifestyle has its pros and cons.

But at least it’s unpredictable and against the status quo.

And as long as life stays interesting, as long as it never becomes tired (no pun intended), I’ll be a better man for it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date at the Wilton House.