flandersJosh Friedman, whose purported screenwriting blog is actually just an excuse to make up pseudonyms for our mutual acquaintances, recently wrote about almost bailing on an assignment because he didn’t want to drive to Santa Monica.

While that may sound ridiculous to most readers, I can relate. I increasingly share his Life’s Too Short principle, particularly when it comes to dealing with westside traffic.

His attempted solution is smart, but runs into a vexing problem:

Agent’s Assistant calls Producer Friend’s Assistant and says I want to convert Santa Monica meeting to a lunch. The assistant explains that this is not possible as Producer Friend’s Fancy Boss wants to “pop his head in the meeting.”

As far as I know, “pop-ins” are strictly a Hollywood phenomenon. Basically, the powerful boss who is too busy and important to have a sit-down meeting with you has several goals with this maneuver:

  1. Confirm that you are an actual person who appears sane.
  2. Establish dominance over the junior executive.
  3. Be able to say, “I met with Josh Friedman last week…”

Just this morning, I survived a pop-in. They’re not always bad.

But what can be very frustrating is the Pop-In That Never Comes. Here’s how it happens.

The meeting starts. You talk about the weekend’s movies. Executive says, “Fancy Boss will be popping in at some point.” You say, “Great.” You talk about the project. You make decisions. Someone takes notes. Everything is going well.

And at just the moment the meeting should be over, Executive realizes that Fancy Boss has never popped in. She goes to check on Fancy Boss, to see if he’s going to be able to stop in. Yes? No? Two minutes? How soon will he get here?

(You hear this conversation while you’re sitting in the Executive’s office, wondering why every single person in Hollywood has that big fat CENTURY book on her shelf.)

Executive comes back and apologizes, saying “Fancy Boss is running late, but he really wanted to meet you.” At this point, you’re officially screwed. You could demur and say that you have to get back to feed the baby (note: babies are handy excuses), but there’s no question that all the positive mojo has now been lost in a sea of awkwardness.

What usually happens is that just as you come up with your excuse, Fancy Boss swoops in, shakes your hand and then hurries away. The total encounter takes less than 30 seconds. And then you get a call later from your agent saying, “Fancy Boss said he really liked you…”