Being a cast member on a movie set wasn’t exactly what I’d expected. I wasn’t sure what to expect since my experience with working on a film was drawn entirely from the media. Even subtracting 95% of what I thought I knew to align with reality, I thought something should be happening. I guess it was, if you were one of the stars or co-stars. Or even had a talking role.


But extras? Which is what I was, though these days the term “extras” is out of favor and “background performer” is in. Whatever you care to call us, we got shuttled from set to set, fed lavish buffet breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Everyone chowed down with extreme prejudice.

Otherwise, we waited. And waited. Then waited some more. While we waited, we had to be silent. Don’t annoy the stars. Don’t be in the way. Don’t go anywhere — including the bathroom — without permission. Permission was from one of the dozens of assistants, those attractive young people running around with headsets and clipboards.

It was confusing, tiring, and dull. You never knew if someone might decide you or your group were needed in a scene, but even if you were never in any scene — entirely possible — you had to act as if you were about to be “up” any moment. Your presence or absence was (apparently) life or death. On a movie set, it turns out everything is treated like life or death. It’s a Hollywood thing.

It was mid-November. Night in Lowell, Massachusetts.  I hadn’t worn enough layers and I was cold. My feet hurt. Not to mention my back. I needed to pee. I was bored.

old favorite books

The director was on the 128th take. Before the night was done, he would exceed 250 takes of this scene. It was the turning point of the plot. It included every member of the cast except a bunch of us “background performers.” No matter. We still had to be there. Just in case.

I wondered how much money I was going to make, just standing around. I didn’t think it was going to be enough especially since it seemed unlikely this would be the night Hollywood discovered me. I wished I’d brought a book, though in the dark I wasn’t sure if I’d have been able to read. That was when I noticed the woman. She was standing just off to my right, leaning against a street light. It looked like she was reading, but whatever it was she was holding wasn’t a book. Something else. It had a light attached.

I sidled over.



“You’re reading? What’s that? I’ve never seen one.”

“It’s a Kindle.”

“OH,” I said, things clicking into place. “I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never seen one before.”

She looked up and smiled. “It’s wonderful. I don’t know how I lived without it. I can bring books with me everywhere, as many books as I want. See?” she said, and she began to show me all the cool stuff it could do. Like being able to bookmark passages, get definitions of words and phrases. And carry a whole library with her in just this little thing no bigger than a paperback.

I held it, turned it this way and that. “You know,” I said. “This might be exactly what I need.”

Certainly my bookcases at home were bursting at the seams. Anything that let me buy books without finding someplace to put them sounded like a really good deal. And this thing would let me take books everywhere without hauling a trunkful of paperback. It seemed a good idea. But the price was still too high for me and I wondered if I would like a book that didn’t smell like ink and paper. It was convenient, but it lacked ambiance.


Nonetheless, that conversation stuck in my brain. Long after the movie — in which I did not appear, though I had one scene which was cut and left on the editing room floor — had faded into memory, I remembered the lady with the Kindle. When the new generation of Kindles was released and the prices dropped, I bought one.

Then I bought one for everyone in my family who reads books. And I bought another one that plays movies and audiobooks and checks email. Finally, I got an even newer one that does the same stuff, but better and faster. And bigger, lighter, and takes (and sends) pictures.

I can’t imagine life without my Kindle. I don’t want to. I’ve got hundreds of books, audiobooks, music, everything on it. It goes with me everywhere.

A week or two ago — don’t remember exactly when — I had to read a paperback. It was heavy. It was awkward. I couldn’t hold it in one hand. And where was the light?

This may sound like no big deal. Just another toy, one more electronic gadget. But it isn’t. It was a game changer. Finally, I could travel with a whole library of books. Audio and print. I would never again run out of reading material, no matter where I was in the world.

Kindle and iPad

I’ve gone through four or five iterations of the Kindle experience since. By now, all my friends have them. Many of us have several, in different sizes and styles. I can’t imagine reading without them.

And finally, after my most recent upgrade to the next to the latest version of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ super tablet, I gave my iPad to my granddaughter (hers was pretty beat up and mine has 64 gigs rather than 32, like hers). After I got the newest (for me, but there is an even newer version available and probably will be yet another generation shortly), I had no further interest in the iPad which had always annoyed me anyway.

So everyone is happy. Skyping and reading and listening and watching … all because I met a lady when I was briefly (very briefly) a movie extra in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Watson, the game is on!

Categories: Books, Computers, film, Humor, Kindle, Movies, Technology

Tags: , , , , ,

21 replies

  1. What I would be afraid of is – what if your reader goes dead or they decide to take away your library. Books may be heavy and cumbersome but they concreted they are there on a shelf somewhere.


    • Unless Amazon goes belly up, in which case we have more problems than loss of a library, ones ebooks are there. I download batches to my device so I don’t have to go looking for my next read, delete them when I’m done to make room for more. I’ve got thousands of audio and regular books on Amazon’s servers. I would need another room — maybe a whole other house — to fit them.

      Before the Kindle, I had to take a suitcase of heavy books with me when I traveled. Now, just one slender reader. Kindles do not quickly run out of juice, but you have to recharge them. You have to recharge everything these days — phones, cameras, you name it.

      Anyway, I still have a few thousand books and that’s AFTER giving thousands to libraries, schools, and senior centers. I am SO grateful NOT to have quite as many books. I wish I could find homes for a couple of thousand more!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve had some our books from my childhood. It would be so difficult to get rid of them. Not ready for that yet.


        • I still have my kid books, as well as my son and grandaughter’s. But all the the miscellaneous fiction we’d never read again not to mention a lot of our college text books are (finally) gone. Problem is, libraries will ONLY take hard cover books. Senior centers and hospitals, though, they are very happy to have anything. Also, you might consider childrens’ wards at local hospitals. Especially the cancer wards where kids have to stay sometimes for months at a time. They might really appreciate the gift and you can feel good about giving books to kids who will genuinely appreciate them. So will their parents!

          My son was in the hospital in Israel for months one year. Reading to him save both our sanity.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great story on how you and your kindles came to meet. Handy little gadget agreed!


    • It was a memorable way to be personally introduced to a gadget. I’d actually seen the inventor on TV and been unimpressed, but that was a very early Kindle and they changed a lot in a really short time. AND the prices went from “You’re kidding, right?” to “Hey, I can afford that,” very fast 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Probably your last chance for fame and recognition,but we found each other as a compensation. I would be lost without my Kindle today, just take your book with you and upload a new one wherever you are. I cannot so much agree with your iPad comments. I love my iPad. Perhaps not for blogging purposes to write, but to read wherever I am in the apartment and keep up with things. I wake up in the morning in bed and grasp for my iPad and have a browse before rising for breakfast. I love my iPad.


    • I am one of those weird people who have never liked the Mac interfaces. I just don’t. I gave the iPad my best shot and used it for months, but I never liked it. I like the Android interface. I like Windows. I don’t like Macs. I’m sure there must be something wrong with me. And mind you, I’ve owned at least 5 Macs and 2 iPads over the years. Garry hated his and wouldn’t use it. Maybe it’s just we are more comfortable with other interfaces?

      I love my Kindles. Especially during the many times I’ve been in the hospital, they were like medicine and really made me feel better. Especially for the heart surgery. Even though I couldn’t focus for long, the half hour here and there was very comforting.


  4. I’ve started to read on n tablet but it is a little large for my handbag so maybe I need a Kindle for that. What I need at present is a comfortable pair of headphones so I can enjoy music on the bus.


    • I can only wear full ear headphones. Those little ones fall right out of my ear. But the big ones are very comfortable with great sound. Probably not good on the bus, though.

      The new kindles are light, easy to use, and the prices are way down. They don’t have very loud speakers, so I gave in and bought a little blue tooth speaker to use with it – which is great … and inexpensive. I have a pretty big kindle, but they are making a lot of sizes now. Don’t get anything smaller than 7 inches. The six inch ones are too small. If you lived nearby, I’d give you the one I never use. Oh well. It probably wouldn’t work down there anyhow. I’m not sure we have the same current and plugs for charging and stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The ear bud things fall out of my ears too so I probably will try to get bigger headphones. Really big ones would be impractical to carry around though I guess. It’s not a priority but I might look in the January sales same goes for the Kindle. My bus journey to Hobart is over an hour although I don’t go often now. We do have different power and plugs – 240 volts plus postage is so ridiculously expensive I would never expect anyone to send me stuff from the USA. I do appreciate the thought though 🙂


        • They make over-the-ear models (Sony makes some nice ones that aren’t expensive) that fold up quite small for portability. The big ones are better — great for listening at home — but I agree, are a little bit much for traveling around.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Left on the cutting room floor!?!? What a cruel game Hollywood is. I’m surprised they didn’t make you non-appearing background performers regurgitate the complimentary buffet and even wipe your mind of being introduced to the Kindle on top of this travesty!


    • I did two of these and Garry did maybe four or five before we decided even if Hollywood DID call, this was too much like work … and really BORING. Maybe if you have a big role it’s different, but for us, it was a lot of standing around watching the director cut the same scene — I kid you not — 258 times. In a row. And I earned less than $100. Garry earned four times that because he’s in AFTRA. Union members get paid much better. The food was great. Apparently food quality is a BIG issue on movie sets. Actors have been known to refuse to work if the catering isn’t up to snuff. They let us keep the food.

      Hollywood people are not like us. They are genetically different.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It was a great learning experience for me. I actually thought I might become the next “mature” star discovery.
        I enjoyed meeting many of the other extras and hearing their stories. I also loved some of the encounters I had with stars like Tom Cruise (SHORTER than me), Cameron Diaz, Mark Wahlberg and others. Some were nice, some not so nice.
        The hours were too much like the hours during my working days in TV News. Too many damn takes. We got it in one or two takes on the news beat and our acting was better.


  6. I don`t know what I would do without my Kindle and my Kobo too. I am thinking of getting a Kobo for my grandson (he could borrow epub books and pdf files) and it may encourage him to look up words he doesn`t understand just by highlighting the word. Travelling on public transit I no longer panic when I finish a book before I get home…just click on another novel:)


    • Ebooks and ebook readers have changed the world. I don’t even want to contemplate a world without them! On vacation, in the hospital, in waiting rooms… what a difference they have made!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Correction: We were “background artists” in those films. The work definition has been upgraded by those “in the know”. All else remains the same including those who dream of stardom.




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