“I think team Apec was totally corny. The way that the girl flung her arms around-”
“Cut! Can we roll that again? Listen, the team’s name is ‘Apex’, not ‘Apec’,” the director said.
“Oh, okay, sorry about that. Apex? Got it.”
“I think team Apex was totally corny. The way that the girl, like, flung her arms around and said that she was going on her honeymoon was really over the top. I definitely preferred team Maverick.” Yeah! Nailed it!
Sheena and I stood in the wet parking lot of Studio 16 in Kuala Lumpur. The camera was trained on us as we stood in front of Lavern’s hippie bus, painted like something out of a psychedelic acid trip. Somehow, after a little more than a week in the city, we had landed on an episode of the Malaysian version of The Apprentice.
The day had started off normally enough. I had parked Nacho in the driveway of the house where we were staying, and put on my VW surgeon’s gloves. During our last few weeks in Argentina our water purification system had sprung a leak somewhere under the floor. I had made the floor hinged so that almost the entire water system could be easily accessed, but there was one section under the rear seat where it was inaccessible. The leak, of course, sprung under the rear seat.
I started by removing the seat, and then went to work enlarging the opening in the false floor where the heater poked through. This would allow me to access the leak and get Nacho fixed right up, and would put an end to the water pouring out under our floor. Around midday we got a message from our new friend Teng Tsen.
“You’re going on TV tonight. Start driving to the IKEA, and someone will meet you on the freeway to show you where to go. There will be lots of Volkswagen people there, so bring Nacho. Dress business smart.”
I looked at Nacho. The rear seat was missing, the heater was balanced on its side, and the battery and inverter were delicately stacked on top of one another to power the Dremel tool, which was sitting next to a half-cut hole in the floor. Tools, wires, tubing, and tape were all stacked on the counters, and the various cabinets and storage boxes were all open and disheveled. Nacho wasn’t going anywhere.
With Nacho down for the count, Sheena and I put on our only clean clothes.
“Hey Sheena, what does business smart mean?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you think these sandals are business smart?”
“Uh, probably not. Maybe you should wear your running shoes.”
Once we were business smart in our jeans and semi-clean, slightly wrinkled shirts and tennis shoes, we loaded up with our friends Seb and Soizic into Lavern’s hippie bus and lurched and sputtered onto the freeway.
Sure enough, near the IKEA Stephen waited for us on the side of the freeway, and then pulled out in front of us to lead the way to Studio 16. When we arrived the parking lot was full of old Volkswagen Beetles. We parked and were led to some tents where the cast and crew were eating Indian food. We settled in, filled our plates, and sat around looking business smart. Just then it began to rain, and soon it became a downpour.
While we ate, sheltered under the tents, we were brought up to speed. For this episode of The Apprentice, two teams had created marketing campaigns to promote the new Volkswagen Beetle. We would be in the audience, and would watch the teams present their commercials to some executives from Volkswagen, including a guy named Simon who apparently designed the new Beetle.
The production assistant poked her head out of the studio door and told us to get ready. We would walk into the studio in single file while the cameras rolled, and then we would sit down. My television debut! Should I strut, or maybe do more of a saunter? Should I smile? No, smiling doesn’t look very bad-ass. I would look straight ahead, dead-eyed like a catwalk fashion model. Yeah, that would look awesome. Oh man, this was going to be great! I’m going on TV! I’m going on TV!
Just then the awning above me reached its water-holding capacity and buckled, sending several gallons of rain water directly on top of me. Everyone stopped and looked at me. I felt like Carrie after the bucket of pig’s blood ruined her prom glory. My eyes looked left, twitched to the right, and then left again. My face still held a relic of a grin on it from when I was thinking about how awesome I would look when I walked in like a catwalk fashion model, but the grin had turned into a strained grimace. My matted hair stuck to my forehead and my business smart shirt clung to my back like a bag of pudding.
“Umm, I think it’ll dry in time,” someone whispered.
“All right everyone, enter on THREE…TWO…ONE…” The production assistant poked her head out the door, and then disappeared. The first person walked in, then the second and third, and then I was standing in front of the door. I looked around to see who wanted to go next, but everyone looked back at me expectantly. I clasped the door handle in my clammy, wet hand and pulled it open. My waterlogged business smart tennis shoes carried me down the aisle while I stared blankly ahead like some kind of emotionless, rat-like catwalk fashion model. I went to the front row, swiveled, and splashed down into a chair.
“Pssst! Pssst!” It was the production assistant. “You can’t sit there. That’s where the client sits!” she whispered.
Oh damn. The proverbial catwalk fashion model has twisted her proverbial ankle and proverbially fallen off of the catwalk into the crowd. I slowly stood up, looking as cool and business smart as possible, and sauntered back into the second row where Sheena sat patiently waiting for me to stop making an ass of myself.
The two competing teams took turns standing in front of first a new yellow Beetle, and then a new black Beetle, performing their commercials. After about an hour the teams had finished performing, we had finished our requisite audience shots, and it was time to leave. Everyone stood up and started filing out the doors when the production assistant pulled Sheena and me aside.
“Would you stay behind so we can shoot some additional material with you?” she asked.
“Of course,” we said. Aha! I must have nailed the dead-eyed catwalk fashion model impersonation after all! My TV debut was going great!
Back in the parking lot, the director asked us to stand in front of Lavern’s bus and tell him what we thought about each team’s performance. After explaining how corny we thought Team Apex was, the director had one more request.
“Okay, okay. Now we want you to look into the camera and say ‘You qualify, Beetle up!’ can you do that?” We were supposed to point at the camera with both fingers when we said “you qualify”, and then transition to two thumbs up when we said “Beetle up.” And all this after I had just gotten done reprimanding Team Apex for being corny.
“You qualify, Beetle up!” we echoed.
“CUT! You were pointing while she was doing the thumbs up. Can we roll it again? Pointing first, then thumbs. ACTION!”
“You qualify, Beetle up!” we repeated.
“Wait, wait, I messed up again,” Sheena cried. “I pointed, but my thumbs were up at the same time like little guns. Let’s do it again.”
“You qualify, Beetle up!”
The last time everything went perfectly. We were in synch like a well-tuned boyband, our fingers pointed in harmony to the rolling camera, and then deftly transitioned to the thumbs-up position to the backdrop of our cheesy smiling faces. Our TV debut. Let’s just hope that the footage is lost in a building fire and never sees the light of day.