Chapter 7: Riding With the Devil, Part 1

Startup Beatdown

Chapter 7: Riding With the Devil, Part 1


Sean Etin drove his car like he lived his life – with the ped­al to the floor and a reck­less dis­re­gard for every­thing around him.  I had the ter­ri­fy­ing dis­plea­sure of rid­ing with him a few times, and each time I got out of the car, I would want to get on my hands and knees and kiss the ground (mixed with the need to throw up on it).  Sean Etin would dri­ve as fast as his car could go, no mat­ter what the road (it was not uncom­mon for me to swerve to the side of the road as I came to and from work, as Sean Etin zipped through his own neigh­bor­hood, where his own chil­dren played, at 60mph).  He would bob and weave his way through traf­fic, nev­er using his brake and nev­er EVER using his turn sig­nal (which is a big pet peeve of mine).  On one-lane roads, he would prac­ti­cal­ly ram the cars in front of him, stick­ing to their bumpers like glue, even if he were already going way over the speed lim­it.  He would then impa­tient­ly honk his horn as if to say, “Move out of the way!  I’M dri­ving.  ME!  Sean Etin!”

The first time I ever rode with him, I was sand­wiched in the back seat with a bunch of oth­er employ­ees, as Sean Etin drove us to the train sta­tion, where every­one would trav­el to New York (except me and Hemp­stead, who had to dri­ve the cars back).  On the way there, Sean need­less­ly cut some­one off, and at a red light, the woman in the oth­er car pulled next to us and gave Sean the finger.

Hey, Boss­man, I think you made some­one angry,” Joel said, as he point­ed to the woman.

Oh real­ly?” Sean Etin remarked.  “Watch me make a new friend.”  And with that, he rolled down his win­dow and began yelling at the woman.  “Hey lady!  You have some­thing you want to say to me?  HELLO?  Don’t you want to be my friend?  Roll down your win­dow, lady!”

The woman did not roll down her win­dow, and tried her best to keep her eyes for­ward as Sean Etin made cutesy (in this case, cutesy = hor­ri­fy­ing) faces at her, tilt­ing his giant head down, rolling his eyes up, purs­ing his lips and putting one of his sausage pinkies to a cor­ner of his mouth.  “What an ass­hole,” I thought to myself, as Sean swiveled around, look­ing at each of us for val­i­da­tion that what he just did was the fun­ni­est thing in the world, his red pota­to face beam­ing with joy.

Sean Etin drove an Escalade, which suit­ed him per­fect­ly.  It was the biggest, heav­i­est, most-expen­sive SUV on the road.  It’s 8‑miles-to-the-gal­lon says to the world, “I can afford to piss my mon­ey away, and the envi­ron­ment isn’t my prob­lem – it’s yours!”  I have since noticed that, like dogs, cars can say a lot about their own­ers.  Escalades are for the rich and extreme­ly aggres­sive.  To this day, I have yet to see an Escalade use its turn sig­nal.  Seriously.

The Etins, of course, owned two Escalades – one for Sean and one for She­lia.  Dur­ing my time there, Shelia’s Escalade was replaced by an Escalade of the same mod­el and year, but a dif­fer­ent col­or.  They also owned a pick­up truck and a two-seater Lexus sports car, which nev­er left the garage.

Well, that’s not entire­ly true … the one time I saw it dri­ven, I was in the pas­sen­ger seat.  It’s (sur­prise!) a crazy sto­ry.  It goes like this:


It was lunchtime at Seashel Pro­duc­tions and, being the stingy per­son I am, I brought my lunch in a brown paper bag, which was wait­ing for me in the com­pa­ny fridge.  I was on my way to the kitchen to eat it, when Sean Etin barged into the hall­way from the pri­vate side of his man­sion, which we worked out of.  It was extreme­ly rare to see Sean enter this side of the house any time before 5:30 (at which time, he would order his employ­ees to stay late on most days) and any time he appeared before then meant trou­ble for the per­son he was look­ing for.

Just who I want­ed to see.  Dan­ny, you need to come with me to Washington.”

When?” I asked.

’When?’  Now!” he said, amazed at my stupidity.

Flo, who was going to join me in the kitchen, inter­ject­ed.  “Dan­ny just start­ed his lunch break, Sean.”

Well, I have an extreme­ly impor­tant meet­ing that starts in forty-five min­utes, and if I miss it, I’ll nev­er get anoth­er chance to meet with this guy.  Dan­ny, I’ll treat you to lunch on the way back, but we need to go NOW.  Meet me out­side in three minutes.”

He marched back to his side of the house and Flow gave me a “sor­ry kid” expres­sion before she made her way into the kitchen.  I sighed deeply and made my way down the spi­ral stair­case and wait­ed for Sean in his driveway.

I had to accom­pa­ny Sean on a trip to DC once before.  That time, he pulled me and Joel from what we were doing and threw us in his Escalade, where he harangued us on all the things that need­ed to be done.  In the forty-five min­utes it took to get him to his meet­ing, he didn’t stop list­ing ran­dom tasks (in ran­dom order) in the rapid suc­ces­sion of machine­gun fire.  “I need some­one to write Marc Las­seter.  We need to get ‘round to titling the new Goo songs, and it needs to get done yes­ter­day!  Find the con­tact infor­ma­tion to Col­in.  He’s a child actor.  Maybe his name is Kevin.  Nab­ul­la needs to come in tomor­row and work on the phones.  Enter into the Web­by Awards, and make sure we win!  Bring me the head of … “

I furi­ous­ly scrib­bled down as much of what he said as I could, but I was only able to get about two-thirds of every­thing down.  Lat­er, I copied what I wrote in an email and sent it off to Joel, who, as far as I could tell, nev­er got to work on a sin­gle thing Sean mentioned.

Sean’s upchuck­ing of tasks wasn’t why we rode with him, though.  He actu­al­ly had us accom­pa­ny him to DC so we could dri­ve his car back (She­lia, who was in the city, would pick him up when his meet­ing was over).

So, with a note­book in hand, I was pre­pared to write down notes on the way there and dri­ve his car on the way back.  This plan was strength­ened when Sean rum­bled out of his house and asked me, “which car should we take?  The Escalade or the Lexus?”

The Lexus,” I quick­ly said.  Rid­ing in an Escalade was one thing, but dri­ving one was quite anoth­er.  I imag­ined myself in the driver’s seat, bar­rel­ing down a steep decline, smack­ing old ladies and dogs and rolling over oth­er cars like a mon­ster truck, me slam­ming on the brakes to no avail.  No, dri­ving an Escalade wasn’t for me.

The Lexus?  How do you feel safe in that thing?”

It’s your car!” I thought very hard, but did not say.

Well, okay.  If that’s what you want …”

So, Sean Etin and I got into his Lexus.  He entered in the des­ti­na­tion in his nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem (with some dif­fi­cul­ty – either men­tal­ly or due to the sheer size of his fin­gers) and we drove off.  I had lit­tle hope that Sean’s com­ments on the Lexus being a less safe car would mean he would dri­ve more care­ful­ly, and he did not exceed my expec­ta­tions, peel­ing out of his neigh­bor­hood and mak­ing a left turn at a stop sign with­out stop­ping (and pos­si­bly speed­ing up).

Unlike the last time I rode with him to DC, I had no need for the note­book.  From the moment he began dri­ving until the moment we reached DC, Sean barked and honked on his cell phone’s blue­tooth head­set.  He made about five or six calls in rapid suc­ces­sion.  He would sim­ply end his call and dial the next per­son with­out say­ing a word to me.  This made the ride slight­ly more pleas­ant, though there were numer­ous times, as he swerved and sped and near­ly rammed his car, where I thought to myself, “this is not how I want to die …”

It was inter­est­ing to lis­ten to him work on the phone.  On one call, he was the rag­ing brute I knew so well.  On anoth­er, he was charm­ing and affa­ble.  On anoth­er, he played dumb.  It remind­ed me that he didn’t get rich by bul­ly­ing mil­lion­aires out of their milk mon­ey.  He owned an abil­i­ty that most suc­cess­ful peo­ple pos­sessed – he could change his per­son­al­i­ty to suit the envi­ron­ment.  This is an abil­i­ty I sore­ly lack, own­ing only two basic per­son­al­i­ties – the sil­ly goose and the qui­et creep.  Nei­ther have been ter­ri­bly help­ful dur­ing the course of this job (or in any aspect of my life, upon fur­ther inspection …).

Sean Etin didn’t get off the phone until we were already in DC.  He prob­a­bly would have con­tin­ued his calls until he was open­ing the door to his meet­ing, but there was a sit­u­a­tion.  In addi­tion to hav­ing trou­ble pro­gram­ming the nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, he also had trou­ble fol­low­ing its direc­tions.  Every time Sean Etin made a wrong turn, the machine would recal­cu­late, only by the time it did, Sean (not a patient man by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion) would already be mak­ing anoth­er wrong turn, and the machine would pause again to recal­cu­late.  “Stu­pid, fuck­ing machine,” Sean Etin mut­tered.  He looked at the clock on his dash and saw me from the cor­ner of his eye.  “Dan­ny, you had bet­ter get me to this meet­ing before I’m late.”

Not being the one dri­ving or a nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem myself, I thought it was an odd threat to make, but I nev­er­the­less took it seri­ous­ly.  I did not want to dri­ve back with this man if he had missed his meet­ing.  What was I sup­posed to do, though?  I didn’t know the DC area and I didn’t know where we were going.  What I did know was that not help­ing him meant trou­ble I did not want to deal with.  I looked at the nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem.  While the screen was still frozen, recal­cu­lat­ing (or pos­si­bly just giv­ing up), our posi­tion on the screen was still there, as was the gen­er­al direc­tion of our des­ti­na­tion.  “Turn right here, Sean,” I told him with as much author­i­ty as I could muster.  I didn’t know exact­ly where we were going, but I knew that our des­ti­na­tion was to our north and west.  I promised myself, as I con­tin­ued to direct him to the gen­er­al area of where he need­ed to be, that I would nev­er sound unsure of myself and nev­er have him turn around.  Any sign of weak­ness and I was done for.

For­tu­nate­ly, in head­ing him blind­ly in the right direc­tion, I spot­ted the street we were sup­posed to be on.  “Turn left here and just keep going ‘til we get there,” I said, feel­ing pret­ty good that my gam­bit paid off and that I didn’t give a crazy, vio­lent, very large man a rea­son to take his anger out on me.  I, of course, got no ‘thank you’ nor did I expect one.

Sean pulled his car to the side of the build­ing, ille­gal­ly stand­ing his car in a yel­low-marked load­ing zone right in front of the entrance.  He was exact­ly on time.

I was set to dri­ve his car back to his home, but Sean said some­thing that changed my plans.  “Stay in the car and dri­ve it around the block if the police ask you to move.  I have satel­lite radio.  Feel free to check it out.  I don’t know how long this meet­ing will be – fif­teen min­utes, an hour – but this should keep the cops from ask­ing you to move the car for a while.”  And with that said, he reached into the mid­dle com­part­ment of his car and pulled out a hand­i­capped sign, which he attached to his rear view mir­ror.  “I took it from my mom,” he explained.  The sit­u­a­tion and the word­ing of his expla­na­tion were so despi­ca­ble that I have no idea how I was able to keep my con­tempt of him from reach­ing the sur­face.  Per­haps it did, and he sim­ply didn’t notice.  At any rate, I couldn’t wait for him to leave the car so I could lis­ten to some sooth­ing oldies on his XM.  In fact, I hoped to God that his meet­ing would take over an hour, and God, that iras­ci­ble scamp, com­plied, but not before this happened:

Uh-oh,” Sean said, as he was get­ting out of the car.  “Looks like I’m run­ning out of gas.  You’re going to have to leave the car off.”

And with that, he was gone.

I remem­ber find­ing it amus­ing at the time.  I was near­ly three months into my job, and was well used to the ridicu­lous abuse that I went through.  Of course I’d be left sit­ting in an ille­gal­ly parked car with no pow­er in the mid­dle of DC … “It’s just anoth­er typ­i­cal day at Seashel Pro­duc­tions,” I thought to myself …

With­in min­utes, I found my sit­u­a­tion to be much less enter­tain­ing.  It was just past high noon, in late August.  The sun was shin­ing bright­ly direct­ly above the car and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  It was over one hun­dred degrees out and for those of you unfa­mil­iar with DC sum­mers, the humid­i­ty is such that you feel like you’re con­stant­ly walk­ing through thick spi­der webs heat­ed by a blow dry­er.  Sean Etin’s tiny sports car soon became an oven, and with­out pow­er there was no air con­di­tion­er.  With no radio, I had no way of enter­tain­ing myself oth­er than men­tal­ly count­ing the degrees going up.

I was sud­den­ly wish­ing that Sean’s meet­ing would be of the fif­teen-minute vari­ety.  That amount of time I could stand, but a sol­id hour in a bak­ing car – I didn’t know if I’d survive.

Fif­teen min­utes passed.  Then anoth­er fif­teen.  The heat and the bore­dom were get­ting to me.  I searched Sean’s car for some­thing to occu­py my time, but the only thing I found was a nov­el­iza­tion of the ‘Xmen 3’ – a movie I hat­ed to begin with.  I threw the book back, hop­ing that I wouldn’t become bored enough to read it, when it hit me – I still had my cell phone!  With my spare time, I could call up some old friends and catch up.  So, I called up some friends – peo­ple I haven’t spo­ken to in months or even years.  Nobody picked up.  Per­haps they didn’t rec­og­nize my num­ber.  Per­haps they did rec­og­nize my num­ber.  Most like­ly, they didn’t pick up the phone because it was Tues­day after­noon and they were at work (and prob­a­bly at a job that did not trap them in cars).  With the sev­enth call, I closed my phone and angri­ly threw it in the buck­et seat next to me.

It was now a full hour since Sean had left me in his car, and my sweaty shirt was now act­ing as a bond­ing agent between myself and the uphol­stery.  I had a brief moment of clar­i­ty and men­tal­ly kicked myself for not think­ing of it ear­li­er.  I put the key in the igni­tion, turned it and rolled down the win­dows.  Hor­ri­bly hot air sucked out of the car, replaced by slight­ly less hot, but stick­i­er air.  It felt great, but I need­ed more.  I stuck my arm out the win­dow, let­ting the slight­ly cool­er air dry some of the sweat on my fore­arms.  I let my hand jut awk­ward­ly out of the car for a few moments, enjoy­ing the sen­sa­tions, before I rest­ed my arm on the out­side of the car.  I could swear I heard the siz­zle of burn­ing flesh as my arm made con­tact with the out­side met­al of the car.  “Aaahgh!”  I pulled my arm back in and rolled up my sleeve.  A red­dish pink welt was appear­ing where I con­tact­ed the burn­ing met­al.  “Oh, that’s it,” I said, putting the keys back in the igni­tion, rolling up the win­dows, blast­ing the AC and flip­ping to the oldies sta­tion on his XM radio.

You didn’t have to be so nice,” I sang along, “I would have liked you anyway …”

I enjoyed the cold jets of the air con­di­tion­er and the radio for fif­teen sol­id min­utes.  The oldies had done the trick and I calmed down.  The last thing I want­ed to do was to have Sean come back and find that his car was out of gas.  He had been gone for near­ly an hour and a half and I fig­ured he had to be com­ing back soon.  I had decid­ed, in case he didn’t, that I would ration air con­di­tion­ing and radio.  I’d leave every­thing off and open the win­dows for twen­ty min­utes.  Then, for eight min­utes, I’d pull up the win­dows and turn every­thing on.  It seemed more than fair, I thought.

So, with renewed vig­or, I attacked my cell phone, call­ing every name in my address book.  (If you were my friend at the time and I had your num­ber, yes, I did give you a call).  Nobody picked up, but my mom, who was at work.

Guess where I am,” I said to her.  My mom worked in DC and as it turns out, I was about fif­teen blocks away from her.  I told her my sit­u­a­tion and silent­ly wished that she could take care of every­thing.  I imag­ined her march­ing over to my boss’s meet­ing, giv­ing him a piece of her mind, grab­bing me by the arm and tak­ing me home.  Some­times, it sucks being an adult.  “He left you in the car for near­ly two hours with­out air con­di­tion­ing?  It’s a hun­dred degrees out!  You wouldn’t do this kind of thing to a dog.  I real­ly don’t like this boss of yours,” she said.

Me nei­ther.”

If he doesn’t come back soon, and you’re bored, give me a call.”

That was all she could do.  “I will,” I told her.  I hung up and con­tin­ued down my list of peo­ple to call.  Nobody picked up.  Twen­ty min­utes had now passed and I rolled up the win­dows and turned on the car.

I say Geor­gia,” I sang along, “Geor­gia …”


By the third hour, I found myself read­ing through the first few chap­ters of the Xmen 3 novel­la, which only remind­ed me of how much I dis­liked the movie.  I hadn’t heard a word from Sean Etin since he left and I was grow­ing more and more mis­er­able.  I had for­got­ten that I didn’t get to eat lunch, and my stom­ach was now strong­ly remind­ing me.  I had con­sid­ered get­ting out of the car and get­ting food.  There was a hot dog cart in the far dis­tance, but I decid­ed not to leave the car.  For one thing, I knew that the sec­ond I was out of the car’s sight, Sean Etin would come out, and dri­ve home with­out me, teach­ing me a les­son about aban­don­ing my post.  Or, the police would come and write him a tick­et, which I would have to pay.  The point is, I knew my luck, and I knew leav­ing would cause me added grief.  Besides, Sean Etin owed me a lunch and I was going to make sure I’d order as much food as possible …

As these thoughts were run­ning through my head, a police car slow­ly drove towards me.

Yes!” I thought.  “I’m ille­gal­ly parked.  They’ll order me to move.  Then I can find a gas sta­tion. And find a nice shady spot some­where.”  I threw the worth­less book to the side and looked hope­ful­ly at the approach­ing squad car.  As they slow­ly crept by, I looked into the win­dow, try­ing to make eye con­tact with them – try­ing to con­nect with their minds and souls.  “Ask me to move,” I silent­ly implored them.  “Help me!  Save me!”

They avert­ed their gaze and rolled past Sean’s car.  “Arrest me!  Come back!”  But they were gone.  I guess I could have cel­e­brat­ed the fact that had I left the car when I want­ed to, there very well could have been a park­ing tick­et writ­ten, but I’ve nev­er real­ly been a glass-is-half-full kind of guy.  Instead, I cursed Sean Etin’s mother’s hand­i­cap sign, cursed myself for not being sharp enough to take it down in time, and gave an espe­cial­ly invec­tive curse for Sean Etin for sim­ply being the kind of man that he was.  Then I turned back on the car.

     “Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on …”


By the fourth hour, I was seri­ous­ly won­der­ing if Sean Etin would ever come back.  I was begin­ning to won­der if some­thing had gone awry.  Maybe his mas­sive body gave out on him.  Maybe he was mur­dered by some­one he had wronged in the past (per­haps he had left this per­son in a car for four hours …).  Or, maybe he had been the one to do the mur­der­ing.  This seemed more likely …

I had decid­ed to do some inves­ti­gat­ing.  I called the office.  Joel picked up (which was a very rare occur­rence).  I didn’t care that I hat­ed him almost as much as I hat­ed Sean – I told him about my sit­u­a­tion, empha­siz­ing the fact that I was stuck in the car for over four hours and that I wasn’t allowed to use the air con­di­tion­er (which I didn’t tell him I was using any­way).  He had sym­pa­thy for me, and I hun­gri­ly took it.  “That’s messed up, man,” he said, chuck­ling a lit­tle.  “Wooo …”

I asked to speak to Flo, who had the best chance of know­ing Sean’s sched­ule.  Joel con­nect­ed her and I imme­di­ate­ly told the sto­ry again.  Flo was too much of a pro­fes­sion­al to ever bad­mouth her employ­er over the phone and in front of oth­er employ­ees, but I could tell she sym­pa­thized.  “Hang in there, Dan­ny,” she said in her south­ern drawl.  I asked if she knew when Sean would be out of his meet­ing.  She didn’t.  Sean did, indeed, state that he didn’t know how long his meet­ing would take, but by men­tion­ing fif­teen min­utes and an hour, cer­tain expec­ta­tions were made – the main one being that I wouldn’t be in the car for over four hours.  I asked Flo to call my cell and keep me informed if she hears any­thing, and hung up.

I then called my mom again.  “You’re still in the car?!?” she asked in dis­be­lief.  I told my mom my sit­u­a­tion.  “Have you tried call­ing him?” she asked me.

What am I sup­posed to say when he picks up?  Where the hell are you?  I’ve been wait­ing in your car for over four hours?  He knows this.  I think it’ll only get him mad, espe­cial­ly if I’m inter­rupt­ing an impor­tant meeting.”

Well, you your­self said that you don’t know what hap­pened to him, and it has been four hours.  You should call him and say that you’re con­cerned that some­thing might have hap­pened to him.”

I guess that … might work.”  The only thing I was ques­tion­ing was my believ­abil­i­ty in pre­tend­ing to care about him.

My mom end­ed up stay­ing on the phone with me, keep­ing me com­pa­ny while I wait­ed in the car.  She told me about the legal cas­es she was work­ing on and read me lawyer-relat­ed jokes that were for­ward­ed to her work email.  Forty-five min­utes flew by with my mom on the phone, and when I hung up, I decid­ed to fol­low my mom’s advice and call Sean Etin.

I took a deep breath and dialed his num­ber.  One ring.  Two rings.  Three—

Hel­lo, what is it?” Sean Etin barked.

Yeah, Sean, it’s Dan­ny,” I said, try­ing hard not to sound meek, but prob­a­bly fail­ing.  “I’m call­ing you ‘cuz it’s been a while since you went in there, and I was get­ting … concerned.”

You were get­ting ‘con­cerned?’” Sean Etin asked, con­temp­tu­ous­ly.  “What do you think could hap­pen at the dentist’s that would war­rant con­cern?  ‘You were get­ting con­cerned.’   Real­ly.”

I was going into shock.  He was at the dentist …

I’m going to be done soon.  Is the car still in front of the building?”

… yeah …”  He was at the god­damn dentist …

Good.”  He hung up.  The phone stayed at my ear.  He was at the moth­er-fuck­ing den­tist.  He had me wait in a car for five hours with no pow­er, in oppres­sive heat, while he was at the dentist …

     I closed my phone and turned on the car.  “Big girls doe-wont cry-eye-eye.  They don’t cry.  Big girl­lls don’t cry-eye –“ I turned the car back off.  I wasn’t in the mood for music and I no longer felt the heat (though, to be fair, the sun was begin­ning to set at this point …).  He was at the dentist …


I lat­er told my dad about my mis­ad­ven­ture in the car.  “Why didn’t you move the car any­way?” he asked.  “Bet­ter yet, why didn’t you show some ini­tia­tive and fill up his car for him, so you wouldn’t have to bake in there.”  The answers to those ques­tions are, “I don’t know.”  It seems incred­i­bly obvi­ous now, but those thoughts nev­er occurred to me while I was in the car.  Maybe it was because my brain was pret­ty fried from the heat with­in a half an hour.  Or, maybe, it’s just because I’m not the kind of per­son that thinks that way.  This could be the rea­son why, in my opin­ion, I’ve tak­en more job-relat­ed abuse than any­one I know.  Most peo­ple would have dri­ven some­where else and lied about it, or filled up the tank, or bashed Sean’s fat face in with a tire iron.  Not me, though.  When the fight or flight response is sup­posed to kick in, I sim­ply take it, hop­ing only that, when all is said and done, that it makes a good sto­ry at the end.


Any­way, this was how my worst week at Seashel began.  I still had the ride back to deal with and a cou­ple of oth­er bad things that hap­pened to me, but that’s a dif­fer­ent sto­ry (the next chap­ter, in fact).  But, need­less to say, I nev­er did get treat­ed to lunch …



Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.