What running a red light taught me about Producing.

I used to deliver pizza for Domino’s Pizza.

That was my high school survival job (aka how I afforded to take my high school sweetheart to Riverside Park and Billy Joel concerts).

It was a pretty cool job back then, actually.  You were making cash money, and spent most of the job cruising the streets in your car, listening to your favorite tunes (of course I was blasting the complete symphonic recording of Les Miz while my co-workers were listening to MC Hammer).

One day, I was cruising down Pleasant Street in Southbridge, MA with two pepperoni pan pizzas in the passenger seat, singing along to “The Confrontation” at the top of my lungs (That’s right, Jason Segel and NPH – I can play both parts simultaneously!).

And I ran a red light.

That’s right.  You think texting and driving is unsafe?  Try Les Miz-ing and driving.

I can joke about it now, but it was pretty scary, and I came about 10 feet away from getting blindsided from a car coming the opposite direction.  That’s right.  Just a couple of seconds difference, and I wouldn’t be blogging to you today.  And the world would never have had The Awesome 80s Prom.  (Oh those poor girls from Long Island!)

It was scary enough that after the honking that woke me up from my Les Miz hypnosis, we both pulled over.  And I was panting pretty hard.  I think the pepperonis were scared right off the pizza.

And then I heard a door slam.  And two massive, tattooed and POed dudes wearing the same color bandanas stepped out of their car (back in the day – Southbridge had been known to be a little “gangy”).  I thought about rolling up my window. I thought about calling the police – and then remembered cell phones weren’t invented yet.  I thought about driving away.

And then I stopped panting, opened my door, stepped out and walked right over to their car before they could even get to mine.  And before they could even open their mouths, I said . . .

“I am so sorry.  That was 101% my fault.  I had my music too loud.  I am so so so very sorry for scaring you like that.  I just screwed up.  Are you two ok?”

They stopped.  Stammered.  And then said, “Uh, yeah.  We’re ok.”

“Seriously, I effed up.  Man, I am so very sorry.  So sorry.”

(Remember, I was wearing a really ugly blue/orange Domino’s shirt and 10 cent hat.)

“Well . . . uh . . . well . . . be more careful next time.”

“Of course. I’m actually going to drop this order off and then take a break.  I’m sorry.  Actually, would you like these pepperoni pizzas?”

They refused the pies, got back in their car and went on their way.

And I went back to my car and started panting again.  I had escaped death.  Twice.  (Long Island girls rejoice!)

How did I do it?

I knew I effed up.  I knew I was in the wrong.  So I did damage control and issued a preemptive strike of an apology before they had a chance to get really, really mad.

As a Producer, you’re going to screw up.  As a PERSON, you’re going to screw up.  Man, I’ve effed up about seventeen times already this week (that’s number is probably around seventy times if you ask my new bride).  But what I’ve learned is to check my ego and understand that making mistakes is part of being human.

So if you run a red light, don’t come up with excuses, or blame it on someone else.  Suck it up and say you’re sorry.  That’s the only way that you’ll be able to get everyone on your team to “deliver.”


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  • Ed Katz says:

    Great post, Ken.
    And glad you were okay!

  • Bryan Austermann says:

    Love the shout out to Riverside Park!! #WesternMass

  • Jennifer says:

    And sometimes its helpful to apologize even if its not your fault, its nobody’s fault! I’ve had situations where the room could not move forward to solve a problem until blame was placed. I took it on and then suddenly the idea were flying on how to solve the problem!

  • Katherine says:

    Thanks for the good reminder of a Rule for Life, Ken.
    Ego is usually the root cause of problems – even moreso than money!
    We saw Tail!Spin! last night. Oy, the trouble those politicians’ egos caused!

  • Kevin McMullan says:

    Sadly, in this self-entitled world, those two words seem to have disappeared from our vocabulary, especially in customer service. And yes, they are two of the most powerful words any customer service representative (do they exist anymore?) can learn.

  • Cash Tilton says:

    I call it The Pre-emptive Grovel. It’s a strategy. Most people find me quite forgivable after it. And even if whatever incident that occasioned The Pre-emptive Grovel wasn’t my fault and was entirely beyond my control, and I was feeling completely powerless and at the mercy of the universe–taking responsibility restores my feeling of power and vastly improves the rest of my day.

  • Andrew Husmann says:

    I don’t know if you’ll ever see this as it is three years after the original post but… I also started out delivering pizzas in high school but it was in the pre-dominos era… and in the late 70s making 60 bucks in four hours after school was incredible. I had several driving jobs in between shows in college and well into my 20s…(including a Teamsters job working for the studios)…but a trip to New York
    (I saw nine shows in eight days) at age 25…changed my perspective and I had to stop driving and focus on Theatre. I made less money for a while… But I was a lot happier… And a year later I got the first national tour of my favorite show…I didn’t miss driving… And LA traffic was getting unbearable. ????????

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