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Worst Day Ever
By Wendy Miller

Recently a friend asked me, "What was your worst day ever?" I have to say that I really thought about it for a while. Maybe I should pick the day that I found out I had cancer and within moments of the diagnosis my mother turned to me and said, "Oh good, maybe you'll lose some weight." No, that's just too darn obvious.

Maybe I should pick the two-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, the day I got a clean bill of health. The day I rode my motorcycle home to celebrate and on the way got in a near-fatal accident and fell into a coma for a few days. No, that's actually kind of funny in its irony and I'm here to talk about it so who gives a fuck.

So, skip all the near-fatal cancer/head injury shit, I want to write about my worst day ever in television. After all, television is far more interesting than anything that ever happens in a hospital. Unless it's television set in a hospital and then you usually have a winner. Except, of course, for After M.A.S.H. But enough about that.

I was in Chicago working freelance as an associate producer for the most popular talk show in the history of the world. I don't want to drop any names but it rhymes with The Moprah Linfrey Show. See if you can figure it out. My duties included researching show topics, finding guests, field producing, coming up with show ideas (remember the Hot Dog Diet, anyone?) and assisting my assigned producer in any way I could. It was a fun place to work if you like colitis. Anyway, we were doing an episode called "Would You Risk Your Life For A Stranger?" and during the taping I was hanging out in the booth trying not to get fired. That's my usual motivation.

The show was between acts and the Executive Producer, a very frighteningly powerful woman, was running through the teleprompter to see who was the next guest. As I stood in the back of the booth I thought I noticed a mistake. I was pretty sure the name on the teleprompter was not the next guest, but actually someone who was scheduled to appear much later in the show. So I took a deep breath and with a very weak voice from the back of the booth I said, "Um excuse me, Frighteningly Powerful Woman, um, I think that's, um, the wrong name in the prompter."

Frighteningly Powerful Woman reeled around and screamed, "Get the producer in here now!!!!!"

So, as one who knows how to take an order, I ran out of the booth and down the hall into the studio where I saw the producer standing. I ran right up to her and without pause said, "I think there's a mistake in the script and Frighteningly Powerful Woman needs to see you in the booth right now!"

I then looked over and saw that the producer was in deep in conversation with the Host of the show and I had interrupted them. Badly. Nobody did that. Ever.

The producer reeled around and glared at me with the entire Chicago fire in her eyes while the Host looked at me in that "who the fuck is this crazy girl interrupting me during a break in the show that I own in the studio that I own on the city block that I own?"

It was at that point I wanted to die. For real. Forget all those actual brushes with death that I previously had, at that moment I was hoping I really would die on the spot. In that glare-filled split second I realized I should have waited until they had finished talking and then oh-so-casually pulled the producer aside to tell her that Frighteningly Powerful Woman wanted to see her in the booth. But I didn't. I just didn't.

So the producer excused herself from the most popular talk show Host in the history of mankind, and went to the booth. I walked 15 paces behind her and stood in the hall trying not to get fired. Moments later the producer walked out of the booth and with tears streaming down her face she screamed, "Don't you ever do that to me again!!!"

With that, she walked back in the studio and I went upstairs and packed up the few things I had on my desk. At that point I knew I would not be invited back to the Moprah Linfrey Show.

For years I dwelled on this moment. How could I have been so stupid? How could I have been so inappropriate? I was going to be persona non grata at the Moprah Linfrey Show. Now I had a sworn enemy in the television industry who would go out of her way to destroy me any chance she got. You know how the mind wanders.

Flash forward many years later. I was Executive Producing several TV shows for a network ironically co-owned by the talk show Host herself. One afternoon I came across the phone number for Frighteningly Powerful Woman and gave her a call. We chatted for a while and then I told her that she was part of my worst professional mistake ever. When I recounted the story she said, "Well didn't I tell you to go out there and get the producer right away?"

I said, "Yes, you did."

She then asked, "Well, was the name in the teleprompter really wrong?"

And I said, "Yes, actually the name was wrong and the producer had to fix it."

Frighteningly Powerful Woman then said, "What you did was not a mistake at all. If the prompter was wrong and the Host read it that way we'd have to go back and reshoot the show, which is a massive ordeal and the Host would have been very, very unhappy. Whether the producer knew it or not, you actually saved her ass."

With that I took a deep sigh and released years and years of guilt. I finally realized that on what I thought was my worst professional day ever, I actually saved that crying producer's ass at the Moprah Linfrey Show. I risked my life to save a stranger.

But I bet she still wants to kill me.

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