A girl friend of mine had been clothes shopping at a Ventura Boulevard boutique when she heard a woman screech:
“Do you know who I am?”
Those six words strung together into that semi-famous phrase might one of the most repugnant questions in the human experience. At least in my opinion. It is generally used by the famous and powerful as a last resort argument. Somewhere, somehow, the user is not getting his or her way with someone who is clearly not aware that he should’ve been on bended knee and kissing both ass or ring.
As it turned out, my girl friend knew the face, instantly identifying the offending young actress with a simple glance. Unfortunately for the comely sales assistant, she hadn’t a bloody clue that the famous pixie with the bad case of the me me me’s had recently starred in a short string of successful teen comedies. The circumstances that led to the actress feeling as if she wasn’t getting her due, followed by that six-word invective, remains a mystery. Yet the fact that it occurred—and still occurs every hour or so somewhere in Lalaland—is something that never fails to escape me.
Oh. Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand the why of it. Throughout history, the entitled class—those self-appointed and otherwise—have always found ways to put voice to their pettiness. What did Lord Actin say? Absolute power corrupts absolutely or something with the same resultant meaning. That said, I wonder what kind of success it would take to turn me into Monsieur Turd of the Month? Could I become such a loathsome self-licking ice cream cone that I myself might be found to unleash a do you know who I am?
And, hey. We all know it’s not just that one phrase. There are other equally distasteful versions.
Does that asshole know who I represent?
Obviously, that ungrateful bitch doesn’t know who I’m married to.
Excuse me, maybe you didn’t know my sister runs this movie studio.
The examples for self-entitlement go on and on. I’m sure you can think of more than a few to add.
I recall receiving a phone call from a huge producer I was developing a movie with. He opened the conversation without saying hello, complaining out-of-the-box about a movie star’s manager he was being “forced” to share credit with.
“Does he know who I am?” blasted the producer through my receiver. “Has he seen the movies I produced? Does he have a glimmer how much I get per Goddamn picture?” As if that wasn’t enough to convince me of his omnipotence, the producer topped his rant off with “I’m (first name withheld) fucking (last name withheld!”)
“Yes you are,” was all I could think to say in the moment, still feeling soiled for having to validate the insufferable SOB in order to get on with our business.
Perhaps it’s the humility of being a screenwriter. But in those circumstances where I could’ve used it, I never have.
To wit, others have asked:
Why didn’t you tell them who you were? Or ask them if they had a clue? It would’ve been so much easier if you’d dropped a bomb.
The answer is because I’m not an asshole. Or to be more accurate, because I try not to be an asshole. I’m human. I fail as often as I succeed. In fact, I have, on occasion, been known to be called an asshole. I might even have been deserving. But still, dropping that six-word bomb is one of the ultimate asshole moves. Even if it were to mean I receive my desired short-term result. Because no way, no how, do I walk away without somebody calling or forever thinking of me as the asshole who said, “Do you know…”
Still. There’s that temptation. Not to ask do you know who I am? I’m not remotely close to famous. I have, though, written famous movies. And with that comes a certain cache beyond the tinted windows of Lalaland.
For example, for the sake of my Lucky Dey novels and other book and film research, I’ve spent miles of time with police officers. And I must say, no less than fifty percent of them have suggested to me that if and/or when I ever find myself jammed up with a traffic violation or worse, I find some way to drop a couple of my movies into the conversation. Especially Bad Boys and Die Hard 2. Cops love those movies and might be way more inclined to let me off with just a warning.
So far, I’ve never tested it. And why would I? In my mind’s eye, doing as much would land perilously close to vomiting up that do you know who I am? pile of offense.
More importantly—or karmically—I’m certain if I were ever weak enough to test it, it would backfire so spectacularly it would end up only proving useful for another amusing blog which ends with me getting a load of egg on my face.
One of my personal mantras is that there are only two types of people in the world: shitheads, and shitheads who try hard not to be. I work to be the latter. Kudos to you for the same.
Thank you for not being an asshole! Us nobodies appreciate it!
Being nasty is definitely one way to be remembered. Like you I’d rather be someone people would like to engage with more than once.
Wordsmith Doug, you are a deep being and writer. Your blogs, aside from teaching writing with great mastery, teach how to live life and be free of some of its unnecessary and overwhelming loads, without sounding preachy and pious. Thanks so much.
Two harmonic notes from the “real” world … I was working on a house when the appallingly entitled owner called a local restaurant for a reservation. The first available one was nine at night. This was high summer in a premier destination resort community — a weekend in August. Every reservation for a normal time had been booked for a week and every normal person knew that. So of course she played the “Do-you-know-who-I-am” card and the girl quite honestly said “No.” The lady growled, “Let me speak to your manager!” The girl said, “That’s my mom. Hold on, I’ll get her.” Mom was equally unimpressed. “I’ll never set foot in your restaurant again,” this laughable harridan threatened. Mom said, “Promises, promises,” and hung up. Lovely. But she didn’t get to see the hilarious tantrum afterward. The other moment — another girl, this one just out of college and working the reservations desk at the local airline. Fog had closed the airport and all flights were cancelled. This tycoon couldn’t stand it. “I have MEETINGS in NEW YORK”, he bellowed. The girl tried to explain that fog really didn’t care about his meetings.He interrupted her with — you guessed it … “Do you know who I am?!” And she came up with the best response ever. “Have you forgotten, sir? Do you need a doctor? Do you have a driver’s license? Your name should be on it.” Perfect — and executed with a perfectly straight face. Feel free to use, as necessary.
Ego. One night, Jonathan Winters was on the Jack Paar show, along with a relatively unknown young guy from South America who also did comedic impressions. Paar put them on against each other, first asking Jonathan to do an impression, then the younger man, who was clearly uncomfortable at having to compete that way, responding slower and slower to Paar’s unwelcome requests. Paar bumptiously urged him to comply, saying, “Come, come, I’m a famous American star.”
Winters shut Paar up in two seconds, saying with a heavy accent: “In-a my country, you steenk!” The Latin comic started laughing hysterically; Paar laughed till he wept. The two comics relaxed and joked back and forth until Jack recovered enough to introduce the next guest.