By Chris Slater

A friend of mine had been nervous about her interview for a hospital internship. I kept assuring her that it was going to be fine, but she had worked herself into a tizzy worrying about it. When the time finally came, I asked how it went. It had been fine, except for one small detail the interviewer brought up: “She told me I was going to have to take out my nose ring.”

I was shocked: “You wore your nose ring to the interview?!” As soon as I said it, I realized just how dumb that statement was. Having a piece of metal through your nose doesn’t affect your ability to perform a job, but employers often judge employees based on appearances such as that.

It got me thinking. As often happens, it spawned an idea in my head, which in turn led to the creation of a list. Employers worry too much about things that don’t make sense in the long run. At the same time, there are a lot of areas that “the higher ups” need to be focusing their efforts on instead. In this edition of “30-Something,” we’re going to address those, and hopefully change the world. Or, at the very least, crank out an entertaining blog post.

Outdated workplace issue: Tattoos and piercings. I like to think I’m pretty good at my job. I have eight tattoos, and you can see seven of them when I’m wearing short sleeves. They have never once affected my ability to be a journalist, or Pizza Hut manager, or any other odd job I’ve performed in my life. (It did lead to one awkward encounter when I interviewed a 74-year-old small-town mayor: My sleeve came up as I extended my arm to put the voice recorder beside us. “Oh, I see you’ve got a couple tattoos. Were you in the service?” Tattoos aren’t just for sailors anymore.)

What they should worry about: Going paperless. Ironic, I know, for a newspaper reporter to push for less paper. It is insane how much paper a workplace wastes every day. Copies. Faxes. Memos. Printouts. So much can be sent via email. With the advent of tablets and wireless internet access, everything is so portable and the need for paper is shrinking less and less. Today’s modern workplace needs to try and keep up.

Outdated workplace issue: Hair color. When I was waiting tables, a co-worker told me I needed a haircut. I thought about it and decided that he was right. However, I wanted to have some fun with it at first and dye my hair pink. My boss told me I could have pink hair until a customer complained. It took a couple weeks, but we finally received a customer satisfaction survey from the back of a receipt that said my hair was unprofessional. In the corporate world, a customer survey is about as close to the word of #TheLord as one can get, so that meant it had to go. But, why? How is pink or blue hair any different than brown or gray?

What they should worry about: Eliminating pointless meetings. At my last newspaper, we met every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. to plan out the next week’s issue. It was never a big deal for me, since I lived down the street and often walked to work. It was a different case for the sports reporter, who lived 45 minutes away. He would come in for the 60-90 minute meeting, and 10-15 of those minutes would be relevant to him. How easy would it have been to set up a tablet and Skype? Perhaps an email or old fashioned phone call would also suffice.

Outdated workplace issue: Dress codes. Ties are uncomfortable. Shoes that aren’t practical for men and ladies are uncomfortable. There’s a rigidness and fakeness that comes from wearing an outfit just because society has deemed it so.

What they should worry about: Taking better care of employees. To quote a standup routine from Chris Rock about minimum wage, “You know what your boss was trying to say? It’s like, ‘Hey, if I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.” People who support the $15 minimum wage movement, that $15 is an arbitrary number. Basically, they support living wages and better treatment. Long before a CEO worries about whether or not an employee’s hair is a certain color or their belt matches their shoes, they need to be certain that a yearly salary allows their employee to not live in poverty.

Outdated workplace issue: Marijuana. I don’t smoke pot; it makes me paranoid. But, it does a lot of good for a whole lot of people. It helps with pain management, anxiety, depression, and any number of other chronic and non-chronic maladies. We have an opioid epidemic we need to be fighting; let people have a toke here and there and move on.

• • •

What are some issues that you think employers should be worrying about? Are there any issues that you feel your boss(es) harp on too much? Wanna let me know how you felt about my pink hair? Leave a comment, send me a tweet, hit up the Facebook inbox, or send an email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).

By Chris Slater

img_3099Hearing the news of Charles Manson’s death last fall brought a wave of emotions out of me. But not the ones you would think. A famous criminal mastermind who became a pop culture icon had died. And what was I thinking? My mind went to probably the last place you would expect: my kitchen table.

The queue of books on my list to read is long and diverse. Autobiographies are a favorite genre of mine, and there are several sitting around waiting for me, after I finish the one about Tom Petty I recently started: Jordan Belfort, Kurt Cobain, Mick Jagger, and 1970s professional wrestler “The Grappler” are my next reads. There’s one biography I’ve owned since last summer that I’m not sure if I’m ever going to get into. The Charles Manson biography has been sitting on a corner of my kitchen table for months, untouched.

Why? We’ll get to that.

• • •

Ghosting is a trend that has become more popular with the proliferation of social media. You add friends on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and etc. So, obviously, the opposite of that is deleting these people. Doing that without their knowledge and making sure they can no longer find you again — usually through blocking — is known as ghosting.

It’s more than just falling out of touch. It’s different than not liking what somebody posts and unfollowing them on Twitter. It is a concerted effort to make sure that person no longer knows you exist. You essentially become a ghost in their lives.

There are reasons to ghost. Your safety, for one. If you feel your physical safety is being compromised by somebody on social media, there is nothing wrong with disappearing with no explanation. If the guy you match up with thinks an acceptable first message is an x-rated picture and pressures you to reciprocate, then don’t waste any time deleting and blocking.

One thing we have to remember, though, is that these are people. Sure, sometimes they’re rude and disrespectful and don’t deserve an explanation. But, ghosting should be deployed as a last resort. You don’t want to be friends anymore? Talk about it. Work through it. Be a decent, polite person.

When I lived in the middle of Virginia, I began talking to a girl who lived in Northern Virginia, or NOVA as they like to abbrev. She came over a few times to visit and we had a great time. Work schedules and life got in the way of us seeing each other as often as we would like. We went nearly a month without visiting, but still talked regularly. One morning, I sent her a Snapchat message and was confused when I saw the gray triangle that means we are no longer friends. I sent her a text. The iMessage was showing that it wasn’t delivered. I pulled up Facebook and searched her name. I couldn’t click on her profile, as I had been blocked. I could see the thumbnail of her profile picture, though. It was her and another guy, presumably her boyfriend.

It didn’t bother me that she was seeing another guy; I saw other ladies as well during that same time period. It did bother me that when faced with the option of explaining that she was going to become exclusive or deleting me from her life with zero warning, she chose the more drastic and permanent solution.

I ghosted a girl once. I feel like if you’re untrustworthy, you don’t deserve an explanation. I matched with her on Tinder; she was in Huntington and I in Charleston. She was on the heavy side, but it didn’t bother me; I’m not a shallow man. Plus, I appreciated that she had full body pictures in her profile, and not those camera-angle-trickery shots that girls do to appear thinner.

I invited her over. I don’t know who showed up, because she looked to be about 50 pounds heavier than the girl in those pictures. I wasn’t physically attracted to her, and once she opened her mouth and talked to me, I wasn’t mentally attracted either. There was nothing there, and I sat on the couch beside her downing glasses of wine while counting down how long it would take before it was no longer considered rude to ask her to leave (I figured since it took an hour to drive here and an hour back that I would wait at least two hours).

That next morning, I deleted her number from my phone and unmatched her on Tinder. It’s one thing to not have 100 percent up-to-date Tinder pictures; one of mine is from 2014, but I still pretty much look the same. If you have become an entirely different person and don’t have a picture to show that, you’re not being honest. If I immediately can’t trust you, then it’s over.

• • •

Sometimes, there are no explanations, and that’s the hardest to explain. I don’t agree with why the NOVA girl ghosted me, but I see why it happened. I’m sure some may not like how I handled my situation, but they can understand my reasoning.

Shortly after moving to Charleston, I matched up with a 24-year-old beauty who had long, flowing red hair. We met the first time for coffee and sat there for hours enjoying each others’ company.

We had similar interests, and enjoyed a fun month of taking it slow and getting to know each other. She was much less sexually experienced, and a little timid about that as a result. She and I talked about it; I told her if at any point she felt uncomfortable to let me know and we would slow things down.

Her birthday was coming up. I went to the mall and roamed around, trying to figure out what to get her. I thought about a shirt from her favorite show. I found one at FYE. But, I don’t know how sizing works with girls; the chest region was busty and I didn’t know if that necessitated a large, an extra large, a what? So, I decided on something that doesn’t require measurements: a book. I walked into Books-A-Million and headed to the serial killer section, since I knew she enjoyed stuff like that. I picked out what looked like an interesting Charles Manson biography. I sat it on my kitchen table when I got home.

The night of her birthday, she had plans with friends. She and I hadn’t discussed what we would do, but I was plotting some ideas. As I texted her that night, I told her to have fun, and that later she and I would have some fun as well. She responded in a frustrated manner, seemingly taking my innocent comment in a sexual manner; which she was not ready for. I told her that wasn’t the intent. She told me I had been talking about sex too much. I had been talking about it a little, but I didn’t think it was excessive. I told her I would cut back on it.

And that’s the last thing we ever said to each other. We would often go a day or two without texting; so I didn’t think much of it until the fourth day. By one week, I realized something was up. I don’t know why I didn’t check social media sooner. I finally did, and we are no longer Facebook friends.

We had one small “tiff” via text, something that could have easily been remedied with a little communication. She decided to instead throw away the nearly two months we had spent getting to know each other and vanish from my life.

There is a time to ghost, and there is a time to handle a situation like a mature, responsible adult. And I get that sometimes people don’t know the difference. That’s why “30-Something” has you covered. Below, you’ll find a handy flowchart on whether or not it is appropriate to ghost. Share it with your friends. You’re welcome in advance.

ghost-flow-chart

• • •

Thoughts? Comments? Care to share a story of how you ghosted or did the ghosting? Want to commend my sick graphic design skills? Leave something in the comments, PM me on Facebook, DM me on Twitter, or EM (email message) me over at chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com.

By Chris Slater

When my mom was helping me move into an apartment in Luray, Virginia back in 2015, she pulled out a small picture frame and gave me a puzzled look. She held it up, looking for an explanation. In the frame was a dirty-looking $1 bill. I shrugged and said, “Oh, it’s nothing. Just something I felt like keeping.” I didn’t feel like explaining one of my deepest personal motivators to make something of myself and my life. She sat it down without any follow up questions, and then began going on about how I needed curtains and that my walls needed painting.

dollar
We need to go back. [Insert Sophia voice] “Picture it: Princeton, West Virginia, 2012.”

I was 25 years old and in the midst of my “woe is me” phase. Things weren’t going great. I was getting the occasional freelance writing gig here and there, but nothing consistent or fulfilling. I had just ended my glamorous life of being a manager at Pizza Hut and was now entering the glamorous world of waiting tables at Outback Steakhouse.

pizzaI eventually got pretty good at it. I could have been a great server, but I hated the job. So, I became lazy. I realized that I could operate at like 60 percent and still be a competent server and make enough money to pay my bills. I worked smart, not hard, so I didn’t exert myself any harder than I ever needed to.

When I was still new to the job, and not quite as jaded, I had a table of four people and two babies. Six, as some would call it. Two couples, and they both each had a small child. In my chit-chat with them, I found out that the two men were coal miners. I wasn’t experienced enough for a red flag to go off in my head.

What I later learned, when looking at what we call “good customers” and “bad customers,” there are two kinds of people who stick out as particularly bad: religious people coming to eat Sunday lunch after church, and coal miners. A lot of it is based on their attitude and how much money they leave as a tip.

These two coal miners were running me around, not really being pleasant to me, and pressured me to break a rule for them: you could only order one alcoholic beverage at a time, but they kept on me about letting them each get two beers at a time. Appetizers, main courses, desserts, drinks: they got a lot of stuff. Their bill was more than $150. They paid, they left, and I breathed a sigh of relief since that stressful situation was now over. I had worked hard, earned my money, and hoped they understood that.

If we’re going by the traditional rules of tipping, I should have expected somewhere between $15 and $30 as a bare minimum. If they really liked me, then I should get more. I was never a greedy server; I would have been happy with $15 or $20.

As I was cleaning the table, I saw a blackened, crumpled up bill to the side of a plate. Excited, I sat down in the booth and picked up the bill. The elation was gone as I realized it was $1. For all of that work, I received a coal-stained, one dollar bill.

I went home that night and thought about my place in life. I stared at the dollar bill and wondered what I was doing with myself. That dollar made me angry. It made me hate myself for what I did; waiting tables is really whoring yourself out in a non-sexual way for money. I was putting on this fake persona and pretending to be happier than I was, just so people would throw some money my way. I did that, and these people didn’t even hold up their end of the bargain after the services were rendered.

I like to use my anger to motivate me. That’s what I decided to do here. That dollar bill was going to stay with me forever. I literally framed it. Every single time I looked at that frame, I got angry and motivated to do something with my life. It took longer than I wanted, but it eventually happened. One of my personal goals in life was to one day be able to look at a server and say “I know what you’re going through,” and not “I’m going through the same thing.”

A lot of people stick around in jobs like that, and life situations that they’re not happy with because they lack motivation. I could have easily gotten stuck in my pattern of “feel mopey, wait tables, self medicate with a bottle at night, repeat the process.” Instead, I put the bottle down, kind of, and began feeling less mopey. I formulated my end goal and what I wanted, and then I went out and made it happen.

In college, Dr. Parker introduced me to the P’s — proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance. That’s a fancy way to say figure out what you want to do and make a plan so it will happen.

Anybody can do it. You can do it.

• • •

And that’s where we leave it for this installment. How did you motivate yourself to achieve a goal? Does using your anger seem like a good technique or borderline unhealthy? Do you have any other suggestions for those needing help? Leave a comment, throw me a tweet, get at me on Facebook, or send an email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).