I’ve been focusing on playwriting for the past year; with the exception of my friend’s monthly Shakespeare reading series, I haven’t done much performing at all, and haven’t even been auditioning with any real regularity. I still think of myself as an actor, however, and an Equity actor at that. It’s true for most of us; we view our union status as a source of pride and a thing of intrinsic value, regardless of how we might feel about the union itself (which is a whole other subject I’ll tackle one of these days), and regardless of the current status of our careers. I might not be using my union card for anything other than gaining entrance to the Equity lounge, and the occasional complementary ticket to a showcase production, but I’m immensely grateful that that piece of plastic is there in my wallet.
I’m not sure if the piece of plastic feels the same way, however.
Earlier this year, while at my college union, the various cards in my wallet spilled out onto the ground as I was purchasing a refreshment. (I mean, c’mon, it was reunion.) It was night, and I had a moment’s panic as I reached down on the grass, fumbling for these plastic shards that govern our lives. I scooped up my credit cards, and my library cards as well, and resumed my revelry, certain that I had avoided catastrophe. Unfortunately, a few days later – back here in the city, several hundred miles away – I reached into my wallet for my Equity card, and it was nowhere to be found. Presumably, it had been trampled into the lawn on a field in Central New York, and was not to be recovered.
This isn’t the end of the world. If you’re a paid-up Equity member – at least here in New York – you can get a temporary card assigned to you at any time if you need it. It’s paper, and it starts to disintegrate right away, but if you need it, the membership services desk will issue it to you on the spot. For months, I used that decaying piece of paper for all of my professional needs. It helps that I’ve memorized my member ID number; many of us aren’t even aware of it, at the corner of the card, but the way audition sign-up rules work now everything is keyed to that number, and it helped to be able to explain exactly what that warn-out blur on the card was supposed to be.
New physical cards are issued every six months, upon receipt of our biannual dues payments. My new one came about a month ago, a lovely shade of pumpkin-spice orange (everybody loves pumpkin spice this time of year), and I was delighted to tear up the disintegrating piece of paper and have a real card again.
I had it for about a week.
And then, one day, I went to look for it and it wasn’t there. There was no reason, no mishap – it was just gone. And so I went to that membership desk on the fourteenth floor, and got a temporary paper card again, for the second time this year.
And then the pumpkin spice card materialized. In a dresser drawer I’d already repeatedly checked. After a week, it was simply there again. So I put it in my wallet, and kept the paper card in the dresser, just in case I needed it again.
Which I did a few weeks later, when the pumpkin spice card vanished again.
I reverted to the paper card for a few more days, after which the pumpkin spice card, once again, rematerialized – this time in the pocket of a coat which, once again, I’d repeatedly checked over the past few days.
So now I have my pumpkin spice plastic card, my temporary paper card, and a gnawing sense that the universe has been trying to tell me something all year. The question is – what? That I should rethink my career choice? Or that I’ve been working too hard? Or that our present horrific reality – you know they’re teargassing children, right? – makes it impossible to concentrate on anything for more than five minutes at a time? Or – or –
What was I saying again? And where the heck’s my card?