My Dream Wedding

There’s really nothing scarier in life than revealing your innermost desires for your “Big Day.” Sure, I could share you a Pinterest Board of everything I want, but what fun would that be? I am going to spell it out to you- from the horse’s mouth… I might even make some horse noises if you’re lucky. So for any eligible suitors out there reading this post, if you want to marry me, here is what I expect in my ideal wedding.

The Ring: Needs to be from a vending machine at Taco Bell. I will not accept anything less, the Taco Bell part is important. I grew up waiting for meat tacos at Taco Bell and if I was LUCKY my mom would give me a quarter to buy a ring from the vending machine. The design of the ring doesn’t matter so much- but I will know if it’s authentic. Do not test me.

download-4.jpg

The Venue: A VFW in rural Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska… Somewhere where we can be as far as possible from civilization. Alternatively, I want it to be a dirty ramshackle barn, crucial that it’s not a ‘rustic’ barn… A real one with fresh manure and livestock milling around. Goats screaming like Usher, pigs rolling in their own feces, chickens freaking the fuck out over nothing… Guests will sit on rusty and breaking folding chairs, hay bales if we can find enough in the storage shed. No need for an alter or anything, we can just borrow a podium from the local high school’s speech team.

358AC22000000578-0-image-a-80_1466598236322.jpg

(***person in this picture is also invited)

Service: There will be no service. We will skip right to the part where we ask if anyone objects, I have a feeling someone will object. Whether it be my 7th grade science teacher, Mr. Bale, or a scorned lover from a fling in Vegas, someone will disapprove. (Yes both of those people will be on the guest list.) We will start the discussion segment there and have a civil discourse about my life choices. Ultimately my father, Alex Nicholson, will decide whether or not we can proceed with the union. He will signal this by lighting a torch.

download-5.jpg

Ring Bearer: Will be an untrained pig.

download-6.jpg

Dress: I will find my mother’s wedding dress from storage (without her permission.) It is shrinkwrapped at the moment. I will unwrap it the day of the wedding and wear it as is. NO alterations. If my mother wore it I will wear it. If something rips then we can use clothespins and bedsheets.

Flowers: I’m cool with sending someone’s child into a field for some dandelions, dead dandelions, or just wildgrasses of whatever state we decide to have this in. Maybe we can scatter the feed of the livestock around so we might have a guest appearance from a cow, pig, goat, rats… Maybe we even open up the chicken coop and let them flood in. Idk, just spitballing here.

images-1.jpg

Catering: Sloppy joes, walking tacos and deer meat. Those are the staples. If you are a vegetarian you can just eat the Doritos and lettuce from the walking tacos. We will also have a cookie table. The table will be full of just cookies, I repeat, cookies only. We will buy them from the local grocery chain and put them on a plastic plate. Yes, this does include every possible flavor of those frosted sugar cookies with the sprinkles on them. Yes the powdery ones that break apart all over you as you eat them. Yes, we will EVEN have the different holiday variations… Don’t ask me how we will get all of them but we will. Everyone will really love the cookie table. If I’m feeling spendy, I’ll potentially have Raising Cane’s cater. But if that’s the case I’d feel bad letting the chickens out of their coop.

download-7.jpg

Cake: Would be great if someone whips up a Funfetti day of. I just want to be clear that the topper has both me and my husband on a tractor. I don’t know how to drive a tractor but so help me God I better be on a fucking tractor for my wedding cake topper.

images-2.jpg

Photography: I am going to blow my entire budget on finding the actor who plays the photographer in 13 Reasons Why. I want him to be in character for the entire wedding. I don’t care how much it costs, he needs to be at my wedding. And everyone gets an autographed, shirtless, headshot of him.

download-8.jpg

The Reception: We will have the reception under a white tent near a swamp. The swamp is crucial to the success of the reception. I need there to be insects, I love bugs. I want people to be swatting at them while they eat, perhaps there will even be dead insects in the sloppy joes. Idk, we can only ask for so much. Karaoke machine with only cassette tapes, 90% of the cassette tapes are nursery rhymes. Microphone will have a MASSIVE foam mouthpiece for comedic purposes only but also so that everyone has to feel the person before them’s spit.

download-9.jpg

 

The DJ: I am going to wait outside a high school and see which dude rolls in with his music blaring the loudest. He will be my DJ, he is the most confident in his taste in music. Must play the Chicken Dance and Born In The USA.

download-10

Alcohol: Open bar. Only beverage is bottom-shelf vodka and the only thing to mix it with is Koolaid. Don’t worry, we will mix the Koolaid ahead of time and might even offer a few different flavors, but probably you can expect mostly red and blue because that’s what I like best and this is my wedding.

download-11

Bartender: He is a failed comedian who I found in Boise. I gave him free reign to use the bar as his stage, so you have to all listen to his jokes for the entire night. That’s the price you pay for free alcohol. Your laughter are his form of tips- he understands this agreement.

download-12

Honeymoon: Wisconsin Dells. We are going to stay in a suite at the Wilderness Lodge and we are going to play in the waterpark all day every day. Sex takes a backseat to playing in the wave pool drunk. You will take me go karting at Mt. Olympus and we will dangle the fact that we have our driver’s license over the heads of our child/teen/preteen competitors. We will not let them win. I will get cotton candy. We will probably go to Noah’s Ark and I will call you a pussy for not wanting to ride the slide that some kid died on years ago. Then I will wait in line for it, get to the top, and chicken out but make a bunch of excuses about how I heard it making weird noises and how I totally cheated death.

download-13

Go Ahead, Blacklist Me.

For a while I was really afraid to post stories about working in TV because I was concerned that I’d “blacklist” myself if I pissed off the wrong person. While that might be true, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t care anymore and some stories are meant to be told. This one isn’t even that bad, considering this woman made my life a living hell for about a year.

My first year working in Los Angeles as an “Executive Coordinator” entailed a lot more personal work than I expected. And very little Executive Coordinating. I was a glorified Personal Assistant at best- I didn’t make enough money to live on because my rate was laughably low (I believe it’s the current minimum wage, which is under scrutiny) and I was restricted to “40 hours per week” even though this still required me to promptly answer text messages, calls, and emails 24/7. And if you’re asking why I didn’t claim those hours, it’s because my boss extensively reviewed my work hours every week and occasionally argued me down if she thought the number was too high. Did the same thing for my gas mileage tracker, which I never lied on but was still accused of tracking my commute miles.

I genuinely believed this job would fast-track me on to becoming a television writer’s assistant. I was one of the many aspirational 21 year olds who believed the false promises made to them by unhappy people at the top who resent them for “being the future of the industry.” I trusted this person who claimed to see potential in me, I invested myself fully in this job even though it made me miserable and wasn’t remotely close to what I wanted to be doing with my life.

This silly story sticks out in my mind, just to give you an idea of how out of touch I was with reality. And maybe it will make you realize how out of touch with reality you are too. Because if you don’t see anything wrong with it, something is off.

My boss asked me to watch her two dogs on a Sunday in Beverly Hills while she went out and had fun with her friends. My ex-boyfriend and I decided we’d make a morning of it and go out for breakfast at Hugo’s in West Hollywood. Granted- I probably spent all of the money I earned in that day on my meal at Hugo’s… Not because Hugo’s is expensive but because that’s truly how little money I made. (Can I also note that I had no health insurance, PTO, government holidays, literally zero benefits other than the occasional free lunch that I had to pick up for myself and all others in the office in the heart of Beverly Hills where parking is basically a hazing ritual for the new folk?)

Anyway, at Hugo’s I ordered this intriguing frittata called the “Go Green Frittata” it was a massive GREEN egg bake with quinoa, kale, and other various green ruffagey shit. This was back when I was desperately trying to be skinny by eating nothing and prancing on ellipticals a few times per week. The thing was gargantuan and tasted mostly revolting but I ate it all. Would highly recommend that no one ever allow themselves to eat anything bright green for breakfast. You’re asking for a weird day. 

imgres-1.jpg

(this is an actual image of the frittata at Hugo’s)

I was nursing a bit of a hangover because what else do you do when you’re 21, new to Los Angeles and your boyfriend is pretty much the only friend you have? You get hammered and lament your life choices. You also starve yourself slightly so that it takes less alcohol to get drunk and you can save money. On this particular morning I had the kind of hangover that came in waves of brief, sweaty, panicked, nausea. The kind I now can cure with my bff edible marijuana and an alarmingly long nap. 

We went back to take care of the dogs and watch a little NFL. Boyfriend had to be at work later that afternoon so I would drive him and then come back to the house. I felt my stomach get that cute little nauseousness so I spent the majority of the morning napping while he gave me emphatic highlights from the games we cared about.

When it came time to drive him to work, I was fully ill. At this time I was dealing with severe digestive problems and had no way of predicting how my body would react to unfamiliar foods. Almost every meal gave me trouble- but not this kind of trouble. Not Go Green Frittata trouble. I was sweating and could barely speak as we drove the 5 minutes to his office. He was concerned, because anyone who knows me knows that it’s an issue if I go 5 minutes without speaking. I pretended to be fine even though I could feel that unmistakable lump forming in the back of my throat, the one that firms up the esophagus in preparation for a boot and rally. 

Once I dropped him off, I genuinely worried I wouldn’t make it back to her house without barfing all over the interior of his new Ford Fusion. 

As I was rounding the corner onto my boss’s street, desperately gasping for air and blasting cold air conditioning breeze on my sweaty face, my cell phone rang and it was the boss.

I answered the line knowing I’d be in trouble (and she’d just keep calling) if I didn’t, and she immediately started barking demands at me. My stomach gave a violent churn as I hung up on her and made a drastic swerve to the side of the road in this bougie Beverly Hills neighborhood. I ran to the sidewalk, fell to my knees, and proceeded to vomit a massive green mound of quinoa, veggies, eggs and shreds of pancake. I’ve never thrown up so much in one sitting in my entire life. I can almost guarantee you a curious dog or a lucky raccoon made lunch out of it later that day.

imgres-2.jpg

(Another gentle reminder of what the frittata looked like to begin with)

I stared into the vomit for a minute and realized that this was probably going to be very representative of my time in Los Angeles. Laugh at me if you want- but this was a profound moment. Here I was… Amidst million dollar homes in one of the world’s most famous neighborhoods, finally “pursuing my lifelong dream”, but actually just staring into a pile of my own bright green vomit. Hollywood, where (if you REALLY want it bad enough) your dreams come true… Right???

I got back in the car fully knowing my stomach was not emptied and the storm hadn’t cleared. But that didn’t matter- I had hung up on her.

“I’m so sorry- I had to pull over the car and throw up. What did you need?” I asked

“You actually threw up? Wow, good thing you weren’t driving my car.” She said, then quickly moved on as if I’d told her that I just sneezed on the steering wheel while driving. As if it wasn’t Sunday and I wasn’t spending my “free time” trapped in the apartment that had come to feel more like a prison than an “office.”

It was this moment where I realized that as much as MY life revolved around HER, I ceased to exist in her mind when I wasn’t doing something for her. I wasn’t a human to her. I was means to an end, something she could take advantage of with no remorse. There was no part of her that considered coming home early to relieve me of dog sitting so that I could go home and rest. There was no part of her that felt guilty that I spent the remainder of the day vomiting violently (and surprisingly painfully) into her various toilets while my boyfriend helplessly texted me from his office.

Tell me that this is what it takes to be successful in Los Angeles. Tell me that you have to “work in the trenches” before you can ever EARN the opportunity to do what you love. Tell me that I deserved to be emotionally abused and manipulated for a year, which amounted to approximately nothing other than teaching me never to trust what someone promises you. Tell me that I deserved to feel like I was never good enough and that I’d made the biggest mistake of my life by moving out here.

You can tell me any of that, I don’t agree with you. I don’t think I ever should have been treated that way and I don’t think ANYONE deserves to be treated that way. Yet this is just one tiny story in a catalogue of experiences I’ve had over the last four-plus years out here. And I’m just one person. There are hundreds of you out there still accepting this treatment because you believe some day you’ll get the chance to do what you love.

Consider if it’s really worth it. Consider the long term implications of this mentality. I wish I had stood up for myself sooner. I wish I had realized that no matter how shitty someone treated me that didn’t affect my personal worth. I’m still a writer, I’ll always be a writer, and no one can tell me otherwise. Please, if you’re going through anything similar, remind yourself that you’re worth more.

20140519003455036401.jpg

(And for the love of all that is good in this world, please do yourself a favor and NEVER order this food item)

7jy5vkei76oy.jpg

Not a relevant image but it makes me giggle.

Insecurity Manifesto

On February 9th I remember feeling particularly horrible. It was one of those days where I didn’t necessarily know why I was so upset, but everything seemed to set me off. The biggest emotion I experienced was intense insecurity, just being incredibly unsatisfied with myself. I felt alone, afraid, and beaten down.

In the New Year I’ve tried to make it a priority to escape from these lows by finding strength within myself. I haven’t been great about that, I rely a lot on other people to help me out. It’s ok to depend on other people, but it’s essential to have a sense of stable security from within. On February 9th, I wrote up a “manifesto” of sorts to remind me of the things I wanted to change that were causing me to feel insecure.

I never planned on sharing this, but I’m feeling confident today. Very confident. I have worked on maybe 4 or 5 of the bullets on this list and I already notice progression in myself. While maybe this is a cheesy Seventeen-esque list, I figure if I can get some value out of it maybe someone else can too.

I have made progress with some of this, but there are several things on the list that I blatantly disregard on a daily basis. Change comes slowly but surely, and I’m optimistic. Oh did I really just say that? I feel optimistic? What a breath of fresh air!

Take a look at my list, and decide for yourself. You can follow mine, or you can make one for yourself. You don’t need to tell anyone, you don’t need to make any promises, just refer back to it once in a while to remind yourself what matters. Remind yourself what gets you to that negative place, put those reasons on your list and attack them.

Let’s fuck shit up, I say!

My Personal Insecurity Manifesto

  • I vow to communicate clearly and express my needs without fear
  • I vow to not invest time worrying about what people mean, but rather will listen to what they say
  • I vow to demand respect from a partner, sexual and romantic alike
  • I vow not to let the way a man treats me define how I go about my day and feel about myself
  • I vow to value myself and celebrate my strengths
  • I vow to stop calling myself an idiot when I make a mistake
  • I vow to stop apologizing when I’ve done nothing wrong
  • I vow to start taking the advice I would give to a best friend in my same situation
  • I vow to stop making exceptions for behavior that bothers me
  • I vow to stop placing my personal worth in the way others view me
  • I vow to stick to my priorities and quit shifting them to accommodate other people
  • I vow to recognize when I’m spreading myself too thin and make an effort to lighten the load in any way possible.
  • I vow to stop projecting my insecurities into my interactions with other people
  • I vow to acknowledge when I’m feeling lonely and learn to be okay with feeling that way
  • I vow to enjoy myself and be fully present when I’m with friends, not letting my mind drift to negative places
  • I vow to stop being so hard on myself when things don’t go the way I want them to
  • I vow to use my mistakes as learning experiences, rather than replaying them in my head over and over.
  • I vow to actually take action on my insecurity rather than pushing it aside
  • I vow to stop giving in to my vices to numb the pain I’m feeling
  • I vow to be patient when I slip up
  • I vow to make my self confidence a priority in my life

1e41dbef9f7146248e5088fe4ed7b892.jpeg

My 90 Year Old Grandpa Runs a Greenhouse and I Can’t Even Write a Damn Blog Post?

After almost a month of radio silence on here, I didn’t think my first returning post would be about my grandpa’s horticulture habits but… Here we are. It’s the only thing I could get excited about on this Friday afternoon. I know it’s St. Patrick’s Day but can I just admit that I don’t give a shit? I’m not even a little bit Irish and frankly my European genes resent this holiday on principle.

Let me give you the scoop- I thought it was a thing for EVERYONE’S Grandpa to have a massive garden full of vegetables in their backyard. I thought that was just what grandpas did… Pop Pop had his… and my Opa had a massive swampland surrounding a ramshackle barn filled with uncategorizable paraphernalia, there had to be a garden in there somewhere right? The obligatory grandpa garden?

Pop Pop lives in Wisconsin in a podunk village called Greenville. The most exciting things happening in this village are A.) Anything pertaining to the Green Bay Packers B.) The massive Costco a couple miles down the road and C.) Tractor style lawnmowers (both in practice and as a concept.) Wisconsin is booger-icicle cold for 75% of the year and for the other 25% (I really had to think about those percentages… Math is hard for me) so humid that your tears of anguish mix with with your sweat and blood to form an unrecognizable fluid that even renowned doctors don’t have a word for.

In case you haven’t gathered- this is not the ideal climate for gardening. Unless you’re really into pine trees and other coniferous fare (Pop Pop is not into that type of fare.) Pop Pop was in the Navy and he doesn’t take no for an answer. He also worked at a meatpacking plant back in the Upton Sinclair days (I’ve asked him how accurate that hot dog description was and he wouldn’t tell me.) Pop Pop will defeat mother nature while still maintaining a Midwestern Charm that makes him such a threat to society. Pop Pop scoffs at impossible, because really, nothing is impossible for Pop Pop.

I was the pickiest eater in the world when I was younger, I blame it on not having a sense of smell but honestly I was just a finicky turd. I’d pretty much only eat pizza, chicken tenders and peanut butter. Somehow, though, Pop Pop got me to eat green beans from his garden. And when I say this I mean the man literally got me to eat the entire pod raw and covered in soil. To the point where my mom was like “Is that even healthy?” And Pop Pop told her it would help my immune system and make me big and strong (jokes on you, mom, he was right!) I didn’t really like the taste, I just really wanted Pop Pop’s approval and I hoped that someday I could inherit his garden AND rare coin collection.

“How does Pop Pop’s garden survive the winter?” You’re wondering with concern…

You probably figured Pop Pop didn’t think about that… But what did I tell you? Nothing is impossible for Pop Pop. He spits on “impossible.”

He turned his entire basement into a greenhouse. If you didn’t know it was Pop Pop’s basement you’d think it belonged to a serial killer, an aspiring and confused surgeon, a museum curator who takes his work home with him, or really anyone who feels the need to hang fluorescent lights from every inch of their ceiling in hopes that they will stimulate the growth of another lifeform by providing synthetic sunlight. I don’t really know why Pop Pop trusted us kids to go down there back in the day, because all we would do is take running leaps onto his plant wagon destroying everything in our path. Except the plants. Somehow.

Today I got a text from my mom letting me know she’s planting in the basement garden to prepare the seedlings for spring harvest. She told me they’ll be cleaning out 75 pots whilst listening to soft classical music (AKA Pop Pop music.) Pop Pop has every detail about the garden plotted in a tattered looseleaf notebook that only he can read. Not because it’s in code, but because his handwriting is so horrendous that he’s the only living human who can interpret it. He keeps this precious notebook locked safely in his “Coin Room” a room that my brothers are often dragged into for unsolicited rare coin lectures. My dad goes in willingly and is secretly lobbying to inherit the coin collection (even though he’s not blood related.) A battle for another day I suppose. Just beware… I see you, Alex.

In all seriousness, I’ve been complaining about not having any inspiration to write for weeks now. I claim that writing is my passion and I want to make a career out of it. I claim it comes naturally to me and that I’d do whatever it takes to succeed with it. But I just went a month without posting to this blog, with no valid excuse for it. I’ve been the prototypical “uninspired writer” with the insufferably cliched “writer’s block.” And if I’m being totally honest, I’ve felt pretty damn insecure about everything I almost posted.

Pop Pop is 90 years old. For the last 10 years my mom and her siblings have begged him to stop gardening. They don’t want him to get injured walking down the steep stairs to the basement (they’re VERY steep, no joke I’ve fallen down them several times.) He assures them that he’ll tone it down, but he continues to sneak in there day after day to tend to the glorious Wisco Greenhouse he’s worked tirelessly to perfect. The only time Pop Pop won’t garden is when he PHYSICALLY CAN’T.

Yet, here I am. Living in Los Angeles, spending hours on Reddit saving memes to a folder on my desktop at work called “Dank Memes” and sending them to my friends on iMessage. Here I am buying Kombucha on tap for $4.00 at work and still living with myself. Here I am getting stoned, eating an entire pint of ice cream and watching the Bachelor on Tuesday nights to feel better about my life. Here I am, afraid to write about things that matter because of how I believe people will react.

All of us unmotivated pieces of shit need to live like Pop Pop. Pursue your passion until your body refuses to let you do so anymore. And even then, keep doing it and do it well. There’s no excuse for giving up on something that you claim to love doing. If you really want to be successful you have to devote yourself to doing so. No more of this month long gap bullshit. No more fear. Chips Are Back in Town.

And as Pop Pop loves to ask “Whaddya say to that!?”

72453_167209396639054_2652415_n.jpg

The man, the myth, the legend… And the woman who constantly keeps him on his toes.

 

My Cover Letter

Hi potential employer,

My name is Katrina Nicholson, sometimes I go by Stanley Kovack. Why Stanley? Well, it’s a nickname I gave myself last year. Sometimes I use it as my alter ego at bars when creepy guys hit on me, it’s also a nice way to scare off guys who I actually am interested in. Anyway, I’m applying for the open position from your website because someone sent it to me and I feel a sense of obligation to myself. I might take a few minutes to do some research on your company, but I probably won’t.

I attended college at the Boston University College of Communication, which was awesome because they accepted my 3 on the A.P Statistics test and I never had to take math again. Taking math in college was something I legitimately worried about for years, I barely squeaked by in high school because I would get angsty about not understanding so I’d just write poetry in the back of the room. Yes, the teacher noticed and no, the poems were not good. Can send samples upon request, but we’re both better off not rehashing that.

Below is a list of my insecurities and fears:

  • I’m nervous you will feel the crusty calluses on my hand when we introduce ourselves and you’ll think I don’t use lotion. Unfortunately, lotion can’t fix these.
  • I try really hard to raise my voice a few octaves when I interview, but really my natural tone is pretty low and potentially unsettling.
  • I’m definitely sweating all over whatever chair you have me sitting in. Even if it’s not warm in the room.
  • When you ask me to tell you about myself, I’m never sure if you mean me personally or my job experiences. I usually will go for a hybrid, which makes me very uncomfortable.
  • I probably tower over you in my heels, if you’re a man I’m sorry but also not sorry that you feel emasculated. Get used to it if you plan on hiring me.
  • I’m not really actively afraid of anything, but I definitely don’t want to be murdered brutally or get Zika virus.
  • I’m afraid people judge me when they learn I am a cat owner.

While the above list may seem lengthy, I can assure you there are some benefits to hiring me. I’m a stickler for proper kitchen etiquette; I hate seeing injustice in the employee refrigerator. I am very territorial about my food, which actually makes a lot of sense from an evolutionary perspective. If you can’t protect your own food, how can you provide for your family? Survival of the fittest, Darwinism, etc. I feel that someone has stolen from me I will go absolutely insane and embark on a manic witch hunt that takes no prisoners. Trust me, you do not want to fuck with my kombucha because I already hate myself for spending $3.50 on it.

As far as work experience, I’m a drifter. I take on new identities on a daily basis, sort of like the Pokemon Ditto. Pokemon is relevant again with the emergence of Pokemon Go, so maybe you’re familiar with this reference since you might have tried to play at one point. What I’m trying to tell you is that I will change my personality so that you like me, I will be whoever you want me to be.

Want an IT guy? I’ll show up an hour late and act annoyed at every request you have, I’ll also make sure to condescendingly ask if you’ve Googled the problem yourself.

Want a sassy receptionist? I will make sure to answer the phone with a brisk “Hello this is Katrina- can you hold for just a brief moment while I attend to someone else for a 14 minutes?” Even when there is no one else on the other line.

In need of a workaholic executive who can close ANY deal? Consider me Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary.

If you want me to be myself, I can assure you that you will get a confusing blend of all of the above. I’m sort of like that soda we used to make when we were kids and bored at a restaurant- I’m a mix of literally every soda on the machine to the point that it’s intriguing but also revolting. That’s why I’m applying to this job actually- because no one else wants to drink me and I’ve been sitting on this table for weeks! (I really don’t even own a chair!)

I know you don’t want to be reading this, I don’t want to be writing it either (it’s funny that we still do it anyway!) I’ll leave you with a few things you can expect from hiring Katrina Nicholson: results, murderous stares from across cubicles, and LOTS of pity laughs (for me.) I’ve been referred to by managers in the past as the “caboose” of the team: part of the train, but the last and least important link that could derail without anyone else being affected (or even noticing!)

Would love to come in for an interview, can even bring along some collectibles that I’ve been meaning to get appraised to see if they’re worth anything! I’ve always wanted to be on Pawn Stars.

Best,

Katrina Nicholson
Below is my headshot in case you want to put a face to the name. FullSizeRender-1.jpg

 

What it Was Really Like to Work at Valleyfair

For those of you who don’t know me too well- you might not be aware that I spent the summers of 2011 and 2012 working as a Ride Operator at an amusement park in Shakopee, Minnesota called Valleyfair. The reason this is currently relevant is because apparently they’re building some enormous ride that everyone is jacking off over.

A lot of you seemed to think my post on Facebook about Valleyfair trending was a joke. It was not a joke. (It sort of was, but keeping in tone) In fact, I had a nightmare last night about working at Valleyfair again. In the dream the “Swings Ride” (which at the time I think was known as Charlie Brown’s Wind Up) broke down and people fell off their swings onto the ground. I was riding the ride with my extremely overweight friend. The operator didn’t properly “balance” the weight so we broke the entire thing. It was a very optimistic dream filled with love.

Anyway, since it has been a few years and I don’t live with the perpetual fear that I might end up working there again, I decided to share a few nuggets about Valleyfair that are etched into my memory forever and regularly give me nightmares. For those of you who also worked at Valleyfair- feel free to send me your horror stories and maybe I’ll make a compilation of the aggregated “Best Of.”

This is all true to the best of my memory. Any inaccuracies are simply due to time passed. Also anything about death is just me being morbid. 

GETTING YELLED AT FOR SITTING

At Valleyfair sitting is not okay. It is an indication of laziness and a lack of professionalism. On one specific “ride” (Snoopy’s Bounce House) we also had a fitness challenge.(Not a real one, but one you realized in your hours of forced introspection.) This ride was in direct sunlight for the majority of the day, with no shade and no wind. The summer I worked in this section was one of the hottest summers in Minnesota and at one point our humidity index was worse than the rainforest.

“Operating” the bounce house was really not operating anything. It was just setting a stopwatch and making sure the kids didn’t kill each other. In order to watch the kids you had to crouch down and look through the door while they had the time of their lives (idiots.) Notice a key word in that sentence- crouch… Not sit. Kneeling was also acceptable. But if your ass touched the ground… You were as good as dead.

You might be thinking “Okay, what’s so bad about that?” And I thought the same thing at the beginning. But I need you to imagine what it would feel like to hold that position for up to 2 hours (4 hours if your Team Lead was a dickwad, we’ll get to that later) in direct sunlight on a black, rubber surface while wearing oversized MENS khaki shorts and an enormous, not breathable blue MENS polyester button up. You start sweating immediately, then your sweat drips onto the rubber and makes it slippery. (I am a sweaty woman, I play sports.) Your thighs start shaking, but if you kneel your knees start burning and you have to choose which pain is easier to tolerate.

I used to give up and sit, but my supervisor always found me and threatened to write me up.

VINDICTIVE TEAM LEADS

In any area, the Team Lead position was highly coveted. You chose which ride everyone in your area was at and for how long they were there. It was a complicated position so far as juggling the grid and making sure everyone got a break, you also had to train other employees on new rides to make sure they understood how to operate it. You were basically the manager of your area.

If your Team Lead didn’t like you, you were absolutely fucked. They’d leave you at your ride for hours, give you the worst break timing, and be stringent on all dress code rules. You’d ended up quitting, getting fired, or dying.

I wasn’t qualified for the Team Lead position (which I will explain in the next story) so I had to really fight to stay on the good side of whichever Lead I was placed with. I really didn’t experience any issues with my Leads except for one time, where a Temporary Lead who I thought I was cool with asked me which ride I wanted to close at. Closing at a ride was important because you wanted to choose one that wouldn’t be too crowded and also one that you hadn’t already been stuck at all day. In addition, most people had their favorites and least favorites for one reason or another so you wanted to steer clear of your least favorite because you knew you were stuck.

This Team Lead knew I’d been stuck on the Frog Hopper “Kite Eating Tree” all day and had a hellish experience with a little girl riding over and over again. It was a joke that everyone gave me shit for- I was DONE with the Frog Hopper and would do anything to avoid it. I obviously didn’t mind getting placed there at least once per day, but the days when I spent hours at it really fucking irked me. I told the Team Lead I would literally go anywhere but there and be completely happy. Guess where she put me for the last 2 hours of the day? Thanks, bitch.

GETTING SHIT FOR MY MENTAL HEALTH RESTRICTION

During my first season at Valleyfair I worked “normal” hours. Normal hours at Valleyfair are anywhere from 60 to 80 hour weeks with one day off if you’re lucky. They often times force you to O-C which means work from open to close, and on the late nights that means being at the park from 8:30 am to 11:00 pm. (I think one year they actually stayed open to midnight but I could be wrong.)

“How do they get away with this?” You might be asking

“Aren’t there labor laws in place for this sort of thing?” You might also inquire.

Yes, there are labor laws. But no, they do not apply in some ways to seasonal employment. Don’t worry though- we got one half hour break, which was ferociously enforced using a swiping system. If you worked one of those insane 12-hour shifts you got two half hour breaks. I think.

No one liked this- but many people willingly put up with it. The people who didn’t put up with it, quit. I think I did it for the first two or three months of my first season but I started to go insane. I had a preexisting condition that was exacerbated by the long hours and mental strain. At one point I completely broke down in the middle of a shift and had to go see my nurse practitioner from high school. (Mental breakdowns in the middle of a shift happened more than once, not just to me.)

She was horrified, to say the least, and wrote a note to my management restricting me to 40 hours per week. Granted, 40 hours is a HUGE cut compared to what I was working… But I would not have made it through the summer without some restrictions.

I was frequently picked on by other employees for this. People hated me for leaving earlier than them, for having an extra day off (wow, two days off is almost like a normal weekend?), for not ever having to O-C, for sleeping regularly… ETC. I just wanted to be alive, and I didn’t think this job was worth dying for… (And the only way to collect your bonus of 1 extra dollar per hour on a minimum wage rate of 6.75 was by finishing out your contractual obligation… So that was another huge incentive.)

Technically, isn’t this workplace harassment?

A MANIPULATIVE “STUDY ABROAD” PROGRAM

One of the best experiences I had at Valleyfair was getting to know the international students who came from all over the world for a “Study Abroad” experience. Valleyfair markets itself as a language immersion program with the opportunity to make friends, memories, etc… have fun.

What this program REALLY is, is a way to exploit cheap labor and make people feel indebted to VF. During my first year there were several people in my area from Bulgaria, my second year there were more people from China. Many of them did not speak much English and had a hard time learning the manuals/instructions for how to operate the ride. They also had a hard time communicating with the rude and impatient guests. They were thrown into, what I imagine, must be a terrifying and traumatizing situation. It was for me! It MUST have been for them.

On a few occasions they would fire the international employees, leaving them essentially trapped in Valleyfair housing (they call the housing dorms, but it was really more similar to a prison) without a job in a foreign country. I remember one person was fired then went on to get a job at McDonalds and bragged to all of us how much better it was working there. At McDonalds.

I made some really cool friends from China. I miss them- if you’re reading this I hope you all are doing well and never come back to Valleyfair! I still have this ornament they gave me, it’s hanging in my room in Minnesota, along with my burnt Valleyfair nametag.

GROOMING REQUIREMENTS

I sort of understand why amusement parks have grooming requirements. At least, I understand why they require you to wear a uniform and nametag etc. Valleyfair had very strict policies that were enforced so stringently it was astounding. I actually managed to find one for Cedar Point, which is owned by the same company, and as far as I can tell it is identical to the one I received. See below:

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.20.38 PM

Some highlights, for those who don’t wanna read the above:

  • The specificity of the male haircut. (Also, no ‘extreme’ hairstyle)
  • Women can only pin hair back with a ‘plain barrette’
  • No facial hair, unless it’s a mustache that does not extend below or beyond the corners of the mouth or below the upper lip.
  • Sideburns may not extend past the bottom of the ear.
  • Female nails should be no greater than ¼ inch length beyond fingertips
  • Only nail polishes that are ‘complementary to an employee’s skin color’ are permitted
  • Visible tattoos are strictly prohibited (unless you cover them with makeup or bandages, I remember one guy had huge ankle tattoos he used medical wrap to cover, he looked like a wounded soldier in the civil war…)
  • One ring per hand is permitted- no thumb rings.
  • Heavy and/or beaded necklaces, dangling bracelets, fabric/fiber jewelry, as well as any body piercing (with the exception of TWO EARRINGS THE SIZE OF A DIME PER LOWER EARLOBE) are not in keeping with the Cedar Fair image and are therefore not permitted…

I want to let you know- regarding that last bullet- that I got my cartilage pierced at the beginning of my second season, and spent the entire time hiding it from my supervisor. He saw it on several occasions and told me to take it out- and told me that I would be written up for wearing it. But I spent 30 bucks on that stupid piercing and really didn’t want it to close up. I put a bandaid over it a few times, even though that’s also against the rules. Whatever, either way it’s gone now.

 

Take from all of this what you will. I don’t know how many people will read this, but for those of you who wonder what it was REALLY like to have a summer job at an amusement park… It’s nothing like Adventureland. It’s like this. You spend your long, lonely, days figuring out how you can make time go by faster so that you don’t have to deal with the monotony of hating your life with such a burning passion that you contemplate throwing yourself in front of the slow moving rockets on Snoopy’s Rocket Express, but are afraid to do so because you might survive and end up getting written up or fired, making that extra dollar per hour you work so hard for, futile.

I’ve had shitty jobs in Los Angeles. I’ve had emotionally abusive bosses and ridiculous hours. But the worst job I have ever had was Valleyfair. I don’t know why anyone would choose to spend their summer there. I don’t know why anyone would choose to build a career there. I frankly wish this place didn’t exist anymore, because it used to be my favorite place to go as a child/teen and now every time I think of it I want to vomit all over the nearest human being. Cheers friends!

11401128_10204287292843895_8739832050032657474_n.jpg

Damn, I sure looked cute though.

I Almost Exploded//Got Burnt Alive

In honor of Fearless Friday, I am gonna go ahead and nominate myself. Because the world is out to get me and it’s Friday the 13th.

I don’t know how to put this lightly, but my car caught fire yesterday. I’m not gonna sugar coat it, I almost died. The mechanic who saw the burnt up fuse box inside the hood of my car told me I was “lucky to be alive.”

What can I say? One moment you’re sitting at a shitty valley Car Wash during your lunch break innocently texting your best friend about her farts and the next second you’re walking out of the office to move your street parked car. You see it from afar, realize the headlights are on for no reason and you are 100% fucked. You then maybe turn your car keys to try to start the car and it makes the desperate clicking sounds of a tired battery. At this point, you’re sweating because you wore inappropriate clothes for the Southern California climate… You realize you are a sheltered white girl from the Midwest. You realize you know nothing about car maintenance. You don’t even know how to spell maintenance without using spell check.

Luckily, I looked like a damsel in distress. Even though I was wearing an oversized men’s thermal shirt and Chuck Taylors. A vaguely attractive man in his mid-thirties pulls over in his massive white pick-up truck to help me jump my piece of shit car. He just so happens to be a professional electrician. This sounds like the start to a bad porno. Sorry to disappoint, he was a little too short and it didn’t go in that direction.

He put the jumper cables on my car, sparks flew up… He said my car smelled like shit. Good thing I can’t smell!?!?!?! He told me the battery isn’t the problem. In his professional electrician opinion, I was fucked.

Triple A showed up this morning at my place of work. (I have one of those now, I have a job.) This time they think THEY can jump start it. He opens the hood of the car.

“Wow, this smells like shit!”

Thanks bro. He asks me to have a sniff.

“I can’t smell. Uh, I… I don’t have one-” I offer

“Nah don’t worry it’s nothing crazy just stick your face down in there.”

“Sir, I was born without a sense of smell.” I reiterate

He laughs his ass off.

He fucks around with various car parts that I don’t recognize, eventually frees open what I now know as the “FUSE BOX.” It’s where all the electrical shit in your car goes down. When he opens it up, we quickly discover that part of it was burnt to a crisp. Literally fried the fuck up.

image2

(IMAGE OF THE INFAMOUS FUSE BOX)

“This shit caught fire!” He essentially says “You’re lucky the whole car didn’t explode.”

Am I lucky sir? Am I lucky that the entire car didn’t explode? Because part of me thinks the car should have exploded and left me with third degree burns… I’d be an unrecognizable husk of a person and I’d finally have to discover my “inner beauty” and stop living off the benefits of being a young attractive white woman. Maybe, sir, the car exploding would have been the best thing to ever happen to me.

So we’ve established that I’m lucky to be alive, my car is fucked, and neither Mediocre Looking Electrician Bystander nor Triple A Man can do a thing to help me. Time to get the Tow Truck Man.

Tow Truck Man has to disassemble my gear shifting mechanisms so that he can put the car into neutral to get it onto the tow truck and to the shop. Tow Truck Man caught me taking a picture of him for Snapchat and definitely thinks I’m into him. I must reek of pheromones.

image1

So I left my car in the care of a complete stranger who vowed to take it to the auto repair shop. I called the auto shop to see if they got my car, because I can’t go there because I am a WORKING CLASS CITIZEN. The men at the shop laughed their asses off and told me they’d need to do at least “15o dollars worth of labor to figure out what the fuck is wrong with it” and that they’ll have to “tear shit apart.”

I’ll tell you what, I just got settled into my new apartment on Wednesday. I never even SAW my apartment yesterday because I am trapped in the San Fernando Valley of Death and Despair. My cat thinks I’ve abandoned him. I have bruises all over my body from moving furniture (and various other extracurricular activities.) I look like a giant parasitic worm attached itself to my anus and is sucking out every cell of my shit covered soul, little by little, growing stronger with each bit of me it consumes. It continues to use that fecal power to destroy my life. IN ADDITION to eating my soul via my butt.

I’m just kidding. But I think it’s pretty hilarious that my car caught fire and I didn’t die. Big shout out to David Valbuena for rescuing me from the valley today. Still no word on my car repairs. But the good news is that my dad did some research and found out that there were some factory recalls because the Buick LaCrosse caught fire and killed people a few times. Might have been a good thing to know. I’ve been driving around a fucking ticking time bomb for the last 3 years. Glad that the lord himself and satan almighty chose Friday the 13th of 2016 to attempt murder. There is a GOOD CHANCE my car is UNSALVAGEABLE. Which is super convenient considering I spent a good chunk of change that I don’t have repairing it last month.

In summary, who wants to help me buy a new car? I’ll let you pet my poopy death worm.