City of Industry

The second out-of-town audition I had was in Manchester. Marcus said not to bother going, but I had recently been (gently) encouraging my agent to send me on more auditions, so I had to go. Besides, what was so bad about Manchester? Everyone seemed to love their soccer – err football – team, so it couldn’t be that bad.

Despite my best efforts to look imposing and in need of space, the mid-afternoon train was packed before we left and a rotund old man with no sense of smell squeezed into the seat beside me. Okay, I don’t know for sure about his sense of smell, but I do know mine detected that he hadn’t washed his sweater since 1954. On top of that, he was chewing incessantly on the end of a mushy, smelly cheap cigar. I wasn’t nervous about the audition but I was nervous about his stink rubbing off on me.

I noticed that after each stop, the boarding passengers started to get rougher and rougher. On the last stop before Manchester, the conductor got into a scuffle with three teenagers who apparently hadn’t bought the right ticket. He wouldn’t move the train until they got off. They had some argument about how they had bought the wrong tickets by accident and should be allowed to travel all the way to Manchester. Voices were raised – tensions rose. Another conductor came by as back up. I started worrying that this would turn into one of those horrible stories you read about in The Metro, where some innocent bystander gets a knife in the throat for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was suddenly thankful for Mr. Smelly Cigar who was my de facto security blanket (or, if nothing else, a human shield). The conductors ultimately won the battle and the kids flipped up their standard-issue sweatshirt hoods and gave us all a one-finger salute as the train pulled away.

By the time the train pulled into Manchester, I had only enough time to grab a taxi and get to the audition. I had planned to walk, but as the cabbie curved around one dodgy back street after another, I was glad I didn’t. At least my agent had told me the pay was good (she never defined “good,” but I took her word for it).

The gig was a promotional video for the city of Manchester. I had to do a fake video conference call where I told my “boss” how great Manchester is and why multi-national corporations in all major industries should put an office there instead of London. I thought I should work in a wink, or at least cross my fingers behind my back, but I refrained. I grabbed another taxi back to the train station and hoped I didn’t get the part.

Two train tickets and two taxis in the last two auditions wiped out any income from the vox pops job. If only my agent paid 15% of my expenses, too.