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Outdated workplace issue: Tattoos and piercings.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Outdated workplace issue: Hair color.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

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).

By Chris Slater

I’m laying in bed one morning a couple summers ago as my phone rings. It’s my mom. I’d better answer, or I’ll never hear the end of it.

After we exchange pleasantries and get the basic information out of the way, there’s a pause. I fill it with information I learned a couple days earlier: “Did you hear Kelly is pregnant?”

kelly1My mom squeals with excitement. Kelly is my old high school and college girlfriend. The first girl I dated, first girl I held hands with, first girl I kissed, first… well, you get the idea. From the age of 15 until 23, we were together and inseparable. At that point, talking to my mom on the phone, Kelly and I were both 29 and friendly.

I knew what was coming from my mom, and luckily she can’t see me roll my eyes over the phone.
“Oooohhhh, that could have been your kid,” she blabbered on. “You know, this is probably the closest I’m going to get to be a grandmother. Why don’t you want kids?”

I would tell you the rest of the conversation, but it’s at that point I stopped listening.

• • •

I’ve been a bit of an anomaly with my friends and loved ones, in the sense that I’ve never wanted to get married or have children. I don’t know if that’s a selfish thing. I’m not one of those “career first” hyper-motivated types. I’m literally the laziest, least-driven person in the history of people. I’m honestly shocked every day that I get of of bed.

Maybe it is selfish? I don’t like living with other people, and I don’t like kids. Does that sound selfish? I guess if you look at the broad idea of marriage, it’s a good thing. Why wouldn’t I want to split all of my bills, get a tax break, have a warm body to cuddle with on a cold night, and so on? Then I actually look at what I’ve experienced in my life, and I don’t know if I’ve ever interacted with a married couple who was truly happy and enjoyed their lives together. I’m sure they exist somewhere, but I’ve only seen divorce, anger, and resentment.

With that said, I’m never one to assume. You know what they say about people who do that. In this space, we’ll look at the pros and cons of marriage and having kids. Maybe it’ll change my mind.

Marriage

Pro: Tax Break. Depending on how the arrangement works, you could wind up either paying less to the government, or getting more back each spring. I’m a fan of money.

Con: Somebody is always there. When you’re married, you live with another person and share a bedroom with them. Their stuff will be in the bathroom next to yours. Just seems like a lot of clutter to me.

Pro: Wedding presents. There’s going to be a ceremony with all eyes on you. There might even be an open bar. And, people will buy you stuff. Probably not stuff you need, but it’s still better than nothing.

Con: You probably can’t have sex with other people. Most people in a traditional marriage believe in monogamy. ‘Til death do you part (or until you get a divorce). That means you are beholden to that one person for the rest of your life (or until you get a divorce). That doesn’t seem very fun.

Pro: Split the bills. It would be nice to only pay half of my rent each month. Somebody else contributing funds to the overall bottom line is a great idea in theory.

Kids

Pro: Continue your lineage. Ancestry dot com is pretty cool to look at, and you wouldn’t want to be the reason your family tree ends.

Con: They’re so loud. Like, really, have you heard loud kids? They’re the worst. Crying, happy, excited, scared, it’s always so loud.

Pro: Somebody to do chores. I’m sure my mom was so excited when I was old enough to start vacuuming the carpets and scooping the cat litter. And, I wouldn’t mind laying back and relaxing while somebody else took out the trash.

Con: Germs. Kids will touch anything, and then touch anything some more. They eventually get old enough to wash their hands regularly, but even that isn’t a given.

Pro: No more prying. People telling you to have kids finally leave you alone.

Con: Responsibility. Kids are a lot of work. And time. And money. And energy.

• • •

kelly2In February 2017, I was living in Luray, Virginia and working at the newspaper there. I had applied at the newspaper here in Charleston. So, I came in for the interview – spoiler: I got the job – and then spent the weekend with my mom in Princeton.

She was asking about Kelly and if I’ve seen the baby. I hadn’t seen Kelly since one night in 2014 when we randomly walked past each other on Mercer Street and caught up for a few minutes. We text often enough to know what’s going on in each others lives. She had previously sent me a few pictures of her baby and told me to forward them to my mom.

I send Kelly a text letting her know I’m in town and if she wants to bring the baby over so my mom can see it.

Kelly comes over with months-old Elizabeth. She and I tell old inside jokes from college while my mom holds the baby and talks about how amazing and beautiful it is, even though it’s just sitting there being a baby.

My mom again talks about how she’ll never be a grandmother. Kelly agrees with her. And so do I. I’m going to be a content old man living a solitary, childless life. And I couldn’t be happier.

• • •

Do you have kids and think I made some good points? Married and think my views are insane? Or just an undecided person who thought I made some good points for and against both? Let everybody know. Leave a comment on the blog, find me on Facebook, slide into my DM’s on Twitter, or send me an email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).

And, hey… thanks for reading.

By Chris Slater

The first thing that hit me was the smell. It wasn’t horrible, but this guy’s apartment was definitely too small for the three large dogs that lived there with him. I could tell he cleaned, but it wasn’t enough to mask the smell of damp fur.

“Why am I even here?” I thought to myself. Oh yeah, I’m here for the reason I do most dumb things in my life: a woman.

He comes into the kitchen, where I’m awkwardly sitting at the table. “I’m ready for it,” he said. I hand him a $20 bill. “I’ll be back in a minute,” he tells me.

I sit there staring at my phone, trying to avoid looking at the three dogs eyeing me suspiciously. Finally, he comes back. The dogs seem relieved. He hands me a small plastic bag. I don’t even smoke pot, and I can tell this is garbage.

Again, I question myself as I drive home. Why? Oh yeah, trying to impress her.

• • •

lurayLuray, Virginia is a fun town to visit. It looks like it would be a fun town to retire in and settle down. There are the Luray Caverns, there’s a thriving triathlon and bike races, the scenery is wonderful, and the people are nice.

I don’t like to run or ride bikes, I don’t like to go hiking, and I have no desire to wander around a giant hole in the ground. The 15 months I spent there working at the newspaper were very challenging in terms of making friends and finding ways to spend my time.

With Tinder, everybody interesting was an hour away, either in Harrisonburg or Winchester. So, when I found a beautiful 24-year-old on Tinder who was 1 mile away – which meant right in town – I was excited. We matched up, and began talking. Turns out she had just moved to Luray for a job from Texas. So, she and I had that in common at least; we both had come to this small town from other places, although my 4-hour trip from West Virginia was much closer than her trek.

We begin texting and are hitting it off well. I’m instantly attracted to everything about her. “Smitten” to use a word that nobody says anymore. We meet for the first time at her house. She gives a very fake-sounding and hollow “Hugs!” as she wraps her arms around me. I later found out that was her greeting for people she wasn’t close to, just kind of a way for her to appear bubbly.

She smoked pot, and I didn’t. But, she said she felt weird if she did it by herself, so I agreed to partake with her. It hit me harder than I expected, but I tried to maintain my cool, as we sat on her couch to watch Rick Moranis in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

After a while, I excuse myself to the bathroom. I start washing my hands and think about how the night is going. The water feels good on my hands. I’m trying to calm myself down from my altered state, but also thinking about how fun the night is going. Then, a moment of terror: “How long have I been washing my hands?!” Now I’m panicking, worried that I’ve been standing at the bathroom sink for 20 minutes.

I decide that I’m going to just walk out and play it cool. She doesn’t notice anything. Once we become closer, I ask her about that night and if I was in there for a long time. She tells me it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; just a little paranoia on my part. She also agrees with me when I say I shouldn’t smoke with her anymore. She’s running out of her “Texas supply,” and asks if I know anybody. I do, and I tell her I’ll get on that later.

• • •

50300789613__e1c8f947-a07e-4e40-88dd-02927a055d53We had been hanging out for about three weeks; we mostly just sat in her apartment and watched “Rick and Morty,” or “Black Mirror.” She cooked pasta for me one night, and I made tacos for her once. I used my only real “move” that I know: I casually made conversation about candy, and then brought her favorite candy with me the next time (Sour Patch Kids).img_0215

She is upset that Christmas is coming up and she is so far from her family. Christmas is her favorite holiday. She has a tiny, fake Christmas tree up in her apartment; it’s like three feet tall. I quickly hatch a plan. One of these nights when she is asleep, I’m going to sneak in some presents and put them under her tree.

img_0217I go to Walmart and pick up a bunch of cheap stuff; I’m mostly going for things that are rectangle shaped and would look good in wrapping paper. I also got her some candles, gloves (she didn’t need any when she was in Texas) and some wine glasses (since she had lost hers in the move). I spent like $30; it was nothing crazy.

I took her out on our first official date. We went to the fancy restaurant in town, and I spent way too much money. The police chief from the next town over was there, and he knew me from town council meetings. I think he was excited to see me outside of “work.”

We go back to her place, and she follows her normal procedure of toking up and turning out. She fell asleep on the couch, and I quietly brought in a bunch of Christmas presents. And then I went home. I woke up to a text message from her telling me I didn’t have to do that. I played dumb, and implied that it was Santa.

inkedimg_0221_li

inkedimg_0222_li
inkedimg_0223_li
inkedimg_0224_li

We agreed to meet up later that night. I really have no clue what happened next. I didn’t hear from her for a couple days after that. I accepted her excuse of getting called into work out of town and forgetting her phone. I accepted it until things stopped adding up. I felt like I was being lied to, and I needed to know the truth.

I had left my coat in her car after our date. So, I needed it back. She told me she was busy and asked if she could drop it off at the newspaper office. I told her to drop it off at my apartment; I would come down and grab it, and she could continue with her plans. When she texts me that she’s arrived, I grab that $20 bag of subpar pot and walk out to meet her. I trade the bag for my coat. She didn’t have any money, but I told her it was cool. She opens her arms and I hear a fake-sounding “Hugs!” I’m back down to that level, apparently. As she walks away and tells me we need to do something together soon, I know that I’m never going to see her again.

• • •

I spent the next few days being very sad, as one is prone to do. I hadn’t texted her for a few days. The plan had been to spend Christmas with her. She didn’t have anybody to be with, and my family was four hours away. Christmas Day, I’m moping around my apartment alone. I decided to text her. I have to be on her mind, right? It’s Christmas and she has a bunch of presents under her tree. I’ve sent much-riskier texts without any hesitation. But, as I stared at the words “Merry Christmas” on my phone, I felt such a nervousness about hitting send.

I hit send. Then I waited. And waited. Of course she never responded. She was done with me.

I’m sure we’ve all been in those situations. What do you do when the other person doesn’t like you back anymore? Can you do anything? How do you heal the hurt? I’ve found three options that help.

Time

There’s no way you’ll immediately feel better after a breakup. You need more than days, and likely more than weeks. It might take months, but hopefully not years. There is no set system for when one feels better. But, the pain eventually gets lessened with time.

Keep busy

My mistake was to sit around the apartment and mope. Keep your mind occupied and you won’t have time to think back on the previous relationship. Exercise, consume yourself with work, video games; anything that stimulates your mind and keeps you busy is necessary directly afterward.

Positive relationships

Yeah, it may not have worked out with this person, but you’ve got somebody else in your life. A friend, parent, co-worker, there are people with a positive attitude who can be there to take you out of your negative doldrums. Smiling is contagious; if there’s somebody is around who can have a wine and movie night, or just a fun dinner, or casual conversation; any little bit of positive thinking helps.

• • •

There’s no set way to get over somebody. We all work at our own pace and need our own ways to cope with heartache and sadness. What are some of your ways? Let me know in the comments, or hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or shoot me an email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).

The introduction: What is 30-Something?

img_0729

By Chris Slater

Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m the writer for “30-Something,” the newest blog for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. A little about me: I’ve been a lifelong resident of West Virginia for roughly 30 of my 31 years. I spent 15 months working at a newspaper in Luray, Virginia from late 2015 to early 2017. (If you’re wondering, Virginia and West Virginia are essentially the same, with the main exception being that Virginia has an obsession with the Civil War… which is weird, because… you know… they were on the wrong side.)

I’ve been a writer all of my life. The first time I realized that words could be powerful was in the third grade. Mrs. Beverly gave the class a simple assignment: write the funniest story, and our laughter would judge the winner. I crafted a tale about a time I fell down a hill and got the loudest reaction. After that, I was hooked.

Two things stick out from the night I went to Ravenswood High School in 2000 for a tour and to pick out ninth grade classes: for the first time ever I saw a little person, and I also signed up for my first journalism class. The next year, tenth grade in Princeton High School, was when I fell in love with journalism and realized it was what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

Life isn’t always a fairy tale; things don’t always go the way you would prefer. I spent way too much of my 20s wasting my potential, being a manager at Pizza Hut and waiting tables at Outback Steakhouse. But, I eventually woke up and went out to make something of myself. That’s still a work in progress.

My journey has taken me to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, where I’ve been a copy editor since March, checking grammar and designing pages. I always want to be the best at everything I can do. I want to contribute to the team and “maximize my minutes,” to throw out a sports cliché. In fact, it’s the main reason I left my last job in Luray; I kept asking if I could help out and do more, and kept getting told no.

I started writing some op-eds for the Gazette opinion page. Mostly about politics. And I started reading the opinion section closely. I noticed a trend here in my newsroom that also seemed to extend nationwide: the editorial voice of the newspaper wasn’t talking to me. It wasn’t talking to a 31-year-old man, and it surely wasn’t talking to anybody younger.

Now, don’t get me wrong: people of all ages need to pick up the Gazette-Mail, as well as any other local or national paper. The news is all-ages friendly; you definitely need to be reading that. But, young people in the area didn’t have a specific home for just their issues and concerns. And, that got me thinking. And, plotting. And, starting a blog.

That’s the goal behind 30-Something. This is the home for all issues that Young America cares about. In the forthcoming posts, we’re going to be talking about life, love, sex, relationships, careers, LGBT rights, women’s issues (#metoo), money, social media, body image, style, politics, drugs, mental health and more.

Join me here, once a week, as we take a look at all of those issues. I encourage reader participation, either here in the comments, on Facebook or over at Twitter, or send me an email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).