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Owen Is the Biggest Fucking Asshole I’ve Ever Met in My Entire Life, and He Must Die

Probably the nicest person I’ve ever met in my entire life is a guy we call Grey (short for Greydon), who is nice, open, and accepting of everyone he meets. He’s even genuinely nice to Owen—he’s the guy who got frustrated last Thursday when we all laughed and made him seem like an asshole. I have a class with him on Wednesday nights and another on Thursday afternoons, the same two classes I share with Owen and a number of others. We screenwriters travel in packs.

On Wednesday afternoons, before my night class, I eat dinner with a couple of girls I had a class with last semester, which started as coincidence but turned into a planned ritual. While we shoot the shit, we usually run into Grey, who sits with us and talks until class time. Unfortunately, Owen passed through and noticed Grey. Since he’s probably the only person who’s nice to Owen, obviously Owen felt the need to stick by Grey. He invaded, monopolized, and eventually destroyed our conversation.

As I’ve already mentioned, Owen has an extremely loud, extremely shrill voice that cuts through all sound like a Ginsu knife. We tried to talk over him, and then to talk past him, but eventually we just gave up and sat in uncomfortable silence until the girls rushed off to class (30 minutes early). Put in an awkward position, Grey and I moved on to class, too. One of the things I find really interesting about Grey is that, while he actually is genuinely nice and genuinely cares about the shit Owen rambles on about, he doesn’t find the rambling any less irritating than we do. He’s just better at handling it than people who have no patience (i.e., me).

This, however, leads me to the first time I’ve ever been alone with Owen. I’ve wondered about that moment, because I knew it’d happen at some point. I kept thinking about how I’d handle it. I assumed I’d set him on fire or something, and considering that, I’d say I handled things quite well.

We walked to the classroom, and Grey went on past us to the bathroom (that traitor), so there Owen and I stood. Owen peered through the window to the door at another classmate, Dan, who was sitting at the classroom computer.

“Check it out,” Owen said, “he’s looking at porn.”

Dan was very clearly not looking at porn, but I chuckled sympathetically.

Owen looked me in the eyes, and I immediately stared down at the floor, fearing he would hypnotize me. “Your job is to get him out of the room so I can get his passwords.”

“What?” Of all the stupid fucking things I would have expected him to say, that was not one of them.

“Just go in there and convince him to leave,” Owen repeated. “Then I’ll run in and get his password.”

“Dude, just pay for your own porn,” I said, thinking about adding “Or check out Usenet,” but I figured that would betray the hoary depths of my Internet porn knowledge.

“Come on, it’ll be funny,” Owen said.

“Fuck you,” I said, pushing past him and going into the room. That was the end of our first—and hopefully only—conversation. Since this is the first time in a long time I’ve seriously (as in, not jokingly) said “Fuck you” to anybody, my mind started to race with the possible consequences. We’re always told not to burn any bridges, especially before we’ve crossed them (ugh, I hate metaphors), because it could come back and bite us in the ass. What if Owen was a studio head some day, and his was the only place in town even remotely interested in my script, but then he found out I was the writer and passed and murdered my children and blew up my car? That would suck.

All things considered about Owen, though, I think he has less of a future as a screenwriter than I do (and that’s saying something), so I figured it wouldn’t hurt in the long run. In fact, it made my life a little easier, because now he doesn’t even try to engage me in conversation or say hello to me or anything. It’s kinda nice.

Then, on Thursday, Owen did something unforgivable. And what makes it even more unforgivable is that he didn’t do it to me. In fact, it wasn’t about me at all. It’s about the fact that he’s the biggest fucking asshole on the planet, and even though I have no relation to the incident that occurred (other than being in the room), I feel it’s my personal responsibility to destroy Owen before he tries to destroy us.

Here’s the setup: the assignment last week for my genres class was to write a two-page treatment of our entire idea. This treatment could not, under any circumstances, go over two pages, even though everybody did except one person. Most people were just writing the first act or maybe the first half. A few people—I was one of them—attempted to distill the entire script into two pages (even though they all ended up three or four and were pretty incoherent). My theory is that the term “treatment” was misleading—what she wanted, more or less, was an outline in paragraph form (which is not the same as a treatment).

Owen’s treatment, for the record, was ten pages. He didn’t even try to shorten it (or maybe he did, which is even more frightening). He’s had a history, in this class particularly, of flagrantly defying the actual assignments in favor of doing whatever the fuck he wants. That’d be cool with me if he wasn’t such a dick when everybody called him on his bullshit.

Anyway, our prof had us pair off and read one another’s treatments silently. Then, she left the room, so what did we do? Bitched. That’s what screenwriters do, in case you’re wondering. It’s all we can do in most cases. So we were bitch, bitch, bitching about what a pain in the ass it was to write such short treatments, apologizing to each other preemptively about how illogical they’ll sound when read aloud, et cetera, and then Owen stood up and started scrawling something on the board.

“What the fuck is he writing?” my friend Maria asked me. I shrugged; it looked vaguely Klingon-esque to me, and knowing Owen, writing in Klingon probably wouldn’t have been out of the question.

Finally, he left, and we could read what he wrote:

Be back later, needed to
find a quiet spot to read.
— Owen

“That fucking asshole,” another classmate said.

“Who’s gonna erase it?” Fellow, who’s also in this class, asked.

“Fuck him,” my friend Mark said. “Leave it up there—let him have us fun. But we should all be really silent when the professor comes back.”

This idea amused us all, and so we were completely silent. Of course, what was funnier to me was that she neither noticed the note on the board nor that Owen was gone. The prof was in the middle of talking when he showed back up, looking very smug and pleased with himself. He immediately looked disappointed when all she said was, “Take your seat,” and then continued talking.

For the most part, what we did in class on Thursday was read our partner’s treatments aloud. Then, we’d all give them feedback, which was pretty tough to do for the people with “full” treatments (i.e., not just first acts), since they made very little sense (mine included). We got through it, but Owen got us off to a rocky start.

Owen volunteered to read his partner’s treatment first. And off he went, reading it dryly and ploddingly, which instantly makes the listener think this is the most boring thing in the history of the spoken word. Then, the listener usually zones out. I tried really hard not to, just to spite Owen. Plus, I didn’t really know if he was doing it intentionally or not at first. Everything he says is extremely tedious and boring, but usually when he reads, there’s at least slight animation. I thought maybe the problem was that he was reading somebody else’s work.

Then, he was tripped up by the word “security,” which he pronounced “seh-CUE-teh-ree.” I found that extremely baffling, and I would’ve figured he just fucked up the word if not for the fact that he spoke so slowly and methodically, savoring every single word. I thought it was really fucked up, but then I recalled Owen’s lengthy discourse on the subject of British spellings and how much cooler it is than American English, so I thought (in my infinite cultural illiteracy) that maybe that was some weird British pronunciation of “secretary” or something.

I came to realize that that was illogical in the context of the treatment, which was all about a security guard. Plus, our professor realized shortly after “seh-CUE-teh-ree” that none of us have heard this particular student’s ideas. He was absent the day we read our character bios, so we were clueless as to what the story was supposed to be about. She had the guy pitch his character, and then told Owen to read. Instead of picking up where he left off, Owen started from the beginning.

“Seh-CUE-teh-ree” was no mistake; he pronounced it in exactly the same way the second time. In fact, he nearly tripped himself up and pronounced the word correctly the second time around, but he stopped and re-pronounced it.

All of us looked around at one another. This was Owen’s intent, although the reason we were doing it was not. He was thinking, I’m sure, that we’d be aghast by the poor spelling and snickering at the other student’s misfortune. Instead, we were thinking, “What the fuck is his problem?”

Randomly throughout the reading, Owen would make eye contact with his audience. It’s something they teach you to do in Fiction classes, but they don’t teach you to do it the way he did—he practically stopped reading, and went up and down the rows of people, looking at every single one of them. One of the guys muttered, “What the hell was that?” after the second suspicious round of Eye Contact for Sociopaths.

This weird eye contact thing reminded me of two things, if you’ll allow me to digress for a moment:

  1. During my first year of college, when I was a music major, I had a professor we called The Martin. The Martin is positively the strangest guy I’ve ever met (stranger than Owen, even). He has all sorts of puzzling quirks, like arbitrary outbursts of unnecessary profanity, a lot of weird tongue action, and a completely over-the-top style of piano playing (which involved a lot of animated head-tossing and swaying). One day, we were practicing intervals, so we all crowded around the piano to watch the person playing the intervals. I had to take a shit, so I disappeared for awhile, and when I came back, The Martin winked at me.

    “Why the fuck is he winking at me?” I wondered, but then I noticed that he looked at whoever was standing next to me and winked at him. Then he went to the next person down the line, who was looking at the piano. The Martin waited for this person to look up and make eye contact, then winked and moved on until he’d winked at everyone. What the fuck?

  2. When I was in high school, we were required to take an oral communications class. Nobody wanted to take it, but everybody had to. One guy, Deion, used to do the following during every single speech he gave: he’d talk for awhile, trail off, have literally nothing else to say, and then take about three steps forward, turn around, and look at the clock on the wall behind his head (the only clock in the room) to see if he’d hit the time requirement yet. If not, he’d take three steps back and try to bullshit, then move forward again to check the clock.

    I guess it was the weird grandiosity of that gesture that made me think of Deion while watching Owen—Owen went going up and down the rows, and we’re sitting at conference tables so he can’t just see everybody by turning his head, so he was pushing back in his chair or leaning really far forward to make sure he made eye contact with everyone.

End of anecdotal digression.

There were two other words he pronounced oddly during his extremely boring rendition of this guy’s treatment: “parole” (PAH-ruhll) and “rotary” (rah-teh-REE). He was intentionally sabotaging the quality of this guy’s treatment by reading it in a dull, slow monotone, but not only that—he was highlighting spelling errors by intentionally mispronouncing words. I couldn’t fucking believe it, especially since there were three misspellings in a three-page treatment; granted, there should be none, but three is definitely not enough to make a federal case about, especially at Columbia. Honestly, I’ve read 30-page scripts that were crippled by spelling and grammar problems to such a degree that the scripts were incoherent; even then, I spent a single sentence on it in my written critique: “Desperately needs spell-checking and proofreading.” It didn’t need any more than that, and I most certainly wouldn’t have highlighted the spelling errors while reading it aloud.

The treatment I had to read that day had one single spelling error (it said “his” instead of “him”), and you know what I did? I crossed out the “s” and wrote an “m” above it. And read it like a normal person.

I’m a huge stickler for spelling and grammar*, and I’m also well known for blunt criticism (although I always highlight the good before the bad), but even I don’t think it’s appropriate to openly mock and humiliate somebody—even Owen—for something like that. Especially when it was arguably the least of this guy’s troubles, what with the whopping three spelling errors and the fact that the content of the story was perfectly clear. (There may have been a ton of grammar errors, but if there were, Owen didn’t do a very successful job of pointing them out in his reading, aside from saying things like, “He wonders why he needs such a large manual for a quotation simple close-quotation job,” which isn’t even erroneous.)

“Well,” the professor said after the tense, horribly awkward reading, “what did you all think?”

“I think it could have used some more proofreading,” Owen said smugly. I wanted to jump across the table and pound him to death with my enormous, heavy backpack.

“Yes, I think you made that clear,” the professor said. She was clearly not happy with him, which I thought was awesome. She should’ve reamed him out right there, but she didn’t even have to, because it was so clear from her tone and what she just said (and what she’ll say in a minute) that she was pissed.

“I had trouble following it,” Grey said.

“Well,” the professor said, “it’s always difficult to fully digest something after only hearing it once—”

“Especially when it was read that way,” Mark said. Before Owen could try to ask what that meant, Mark asked, “Would you mind if I read it again?”

“Please do,” the professor said.

And so Mark re-read it, slightly more animated, much more clearly, without highlighting the occasional spelling errors. It’s probably not surprising that after Mark’s reading, the idea actually both made logical sense and seemed like an interesting start to a script (he had just written his first act).

The thing that I’ve been struggling with for the past day is why, why anybody would do something like that. It’s not funny. It wouldn’t be funny even if Owen was the well-liked class cut-up and the kid who wrote the treatment was some fuck we all hated. If, for a real-world example, Mark had read Owen’s treatment very dryly, pointing out all the spelling and grammar errors, it still wouldn’t have been funny. True, we all hate Owen, but that’s still just plain mean and not at all funny.

Even if it were slightly funny, Owen has to know that nobody likes him. People try very hard, but they can’t even fake that they like him; they just try to ignore him, because if you can’t ignore him, you’ll end up beating him with a shovel. This is not me talking for myself—this is the attitude of everyone who has ever met him, including teachers. He’s that unlikable.

During the break, I went out to the stairwell with Maria and watched her have a smoke. Usually I stay in the classroom during breaks, but this class is the exception: (1) we’re in basically a poorly maintained storage room, so it’s always way too hot, and (2) I might end up alone in the room with Owen, and that can never, ever happen.

As Maria and I were walking back to the room, we ran into Grey, who looked unbelievably pissed. I’ve never seen him mad before, and it was sort of creepy. When he gets mad, you know something really awful has happened (or will happen).

“I’m gonna shoot myself in the head,” Grey said.

“No, don’t,” I said. “Then who’ll shoot us?”

“Well, I could shoot all you guys first, and put you out of your misery, and then turn the gun on myself,” Grey said. “That’d work.” Believe it or not, none of this sounded nearly as “jokey” as it might read.

“Or you could just shoot Owen and save the bullets,” Maria suggested.

“Bingo,” Grey said, then pushed past us. “I need water. Desperately.”

So, there you have it. Owen managed, purely by being the fucking dickhead he naturally is, to alienate the only person who was legitimately nice to him.

Which means, of course, that he’s a prime candidate to head a studio someday.

*Except on the blog, which is 98% first-draft stream-of-consciousness “conversational” stuff that is posted as soon as I finish writing it, without even a second glance. Trust me, even if I have spelling errors/misused words/grammar issues, it benefits you, the reader, because if I went through and started proofreading, I’d edit out most of what you’re reading for content reasons. [Back]

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  • damn you sir, I thought we were your social life!@#

    teenwolfie 17 years ago Reply Link

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