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6 Tips for Pooping at Work 30 July 2010

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Image from Popsci.com

In keeping with the idea that this blog targets twenty-somethings, it occurred to me that so many twenty-something are new to real jobs–the kind of jobs that don’t involve cleaning company restrooms or getting high in them. So to help ease that transition, I’ll give you some tips.  You can use these the rest of your life. That’s how nice I am.

1. It is okay to poop at work. No, really. Everybody poops, and given that work generally takes up more than half our waking hours, that means most everyone poops at work. Obama works longer days that most folks, so I’d guess he poops at work a lot. It’s also a good way to break up an annoying project, like solving unemployment.

2. Scout the area. Pooping is not a social event until it reaches critical, anonimizing mass of about 4 concurrent poopers. Therefore, be sure to scout your intended restroom before settling in. This will prevent any awkward discoveries mid-poop. In the event you find the restroom occupied, you may choose from one of three options: the quick hand wash (preferred because it makes noise and sets your departure timetable); the unnecessary pee (deeply unsatisfying); or the the mirror check (which leaves the present pooper on edge about your intentions to leave).

3. The Courtesy Flush. Unlike your bathroom at home where no one is likely to walk in as you–what’s another term for this?–evacuate your bowels, there exists a strong possibility of interruption at your office. There, should you reach such a point as seems convenient during your tenure on the throne, you should flush. Even if your nose detects only the sweetest scent of lavender about you, flush. Your nose sucks at assessing your own fragrance.

4. You must not under any circumstances make conversation from the stall. If you are a man and are in a stall at work, there is only one explanation why. You are pooping. You are not peeing because 1) men don’t pee sitting down unless they were confused about whether they had to poop and 2) there is always an open urinal at work. This isn’t the seventh inning stretch. So, anyway, when you start chatting up the guy at the sink, he knows what you’re doing, and he doesn’t want to think about it. And if you like that kind of thing, then talk on the phone and wander around naked at home to get your jollies. No one wants to imagine your half-naked hairy self on a toilet.  Not kosher, dude.

5. Do not take a newspaper–unless you trust in your stealthiness. Yes, all your clothes come with you to the restroom, and yes, they, not a newspaper will follow you to the next meeting, but you simply cannot allow the women of your office to notice the path of the paper. They will not be pleased if they discover its journey includes layover in the men’s room. Will not be pleased at all. With that in mind, you face two options: forgo your restroom reading or learn to conceal the contraband. A happy co-worker is one who lives without knowledge of your role in the Times’s daily rendezvous with the toilet paper.

6. Alert newcomers to your presence. The flip-side of tip two. If you’ve employed tips three and four, it’s possible that the next poor soul to arrive will believe he’s entered a vacant restroom. Not so! He must be alerted to this before he can establish himself in another stall, lest the two of you realize your shared mistake in the eerie quiet that you both refuse to break. Or he might linger and primp, extending your stay. You must alert him, then, without giving away your identity: a shuffle of the feet, a clearing of the throat, a sharp inhalation through the nose. These things should be enough to speed him along.

I’m sure that other tips exist, like the point that no one should apply Axe body spray ever, but particularly not in a stall. But for now, I’ll leave it at this. If you have any suggestions, send them my way.

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Skiing the Bell Curve 29 March 2010

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I haven’t written anything in a week, I don’t think, and although I’m tempted to blame that on something in life that intervened, it won’t work. Yes, topics came to mind, and I even put down 300 words on one of them, but every effort struck me as uninspired so I carried on in the belief that if I couldn’t write something worth reading, then I wouldn’t write anything at all. It’s been too long, though. Perhaps I need a change of scenery, some sights other than these same townhouses and pines that continue to sit outside my window at work… although if the Forest Service is right, the beetle larvae will kill the trees in a couple years anyway. I guess that’s progress.

It’s not that I’m anti-townhome necessarily, but rather that The Seasons, West Keystone’s option for more discerning and spendy travelers, represents the evidently inevitable progression and dilution of skiing into just one of the many activities offered at a full-service mega-resort. Like putt-putt golf on a cruise ship. Well, no, that shortchanges the product I sell, yet it hints at the direction the sport is moving. Open the pages of Ski Magazine (Skiing’s well-healed sister publication) and you’ll notice nearly as many articles and advertisements for Land Rovers and fine dining as you’ll see for mountains and techniques. Page 42 of February’s edition highlights the ice wines of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, and although dessert drinks hold a special place in my heart, I can’t remember the last time I gave much thought to a glass of riesling while on the slopes.

In all, it is the depiction of skiing as one facet of a lifestyle complete only once accompanied by golf-filled summers and a home on a cul-de-sac, not as an individual pursuit. Notice the language involved: “I am a skier,” not “I ski,” or “I enjoy skiing.” When we talk about skiing, then, we illustrate that it defines who we are, not what we do. That a sport can figure so largely as part of an identity ensures its durability, certainly, but perhaps at the expense of progress. And while I understand that the demographic figures indicate that the Land Rover-driving, town-home-vacationing types account for nearly all the money spent around here, I will not bow to the idea that these five-day visitors in any way advance or even sustain the sport. Money cannot replace vision, and the opportunity cost of every new condo is the terrain that could have been.

Or, as is the case of Crested Butte Mountain Resort near Gunnison, the Forest Service’s decision to kill a proposed expansion will probably work in the opposite direction, forestalling construction on any new condos. CBMR’s Snodgrass Expansion would have opened hundreds of acres of intermediate terrain rounding out a resort known almost exclusively as an experts-only, so-steep-I-just-wet-myself-a-little Shangri-La.The resort’s owners had argued that CBMR would survive if the new area opened–the dearth of blue runs had pushed skiiers to tamer mountains and visits had continued to fall. Otherwise, who knew how CBMR would fare. I can guess, however. Without miles of cruisers, without Breckenridge’s benign, well-groomed reliability, CBMR will not attract the crowd that reads Ski Magazine. And it won’t attract their dollars either.

At the same, time I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the progress: fat skis and hike-to terrain, the trickle-down from the experts, backcountry explorers and young skiers unsatisfied with carving. Innovation lies at the margins, even if the money doesn’t. When the Baby boomers retire, can we place our hope there? 

I know it shouldn’t bother me that a resort might die for lack of unchallenging terrain–after all, the bell curve applies just as well to skiing as it does to everything else–but it does. The cash has settled at the top of the curve, not at the tail with the ski bums, and so long as that remains the case (that is, indefinitely), the mega-mountains will cater to the median.

Stand strong, A-Basin. Stand strong.

So you wanna be a ski bum? 11 February 2010

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Browsing the forums at epicski.com the other day, I ran across a young soul from Midwest looking to spend a year ski-bumming between high school and college. That year in the mountains he assured the the forum crowds would not temper his ambitions for college and would not lead him down the path of alcohol and drugs (loose women of course do not exist as a temptation out here because women barely exist at all). My response follows, and although it’s focused on the opportunity to ski-bum right out of high school, the principles involved remain the same. Our peer groups help determine our trajectories in life.

Euripides,

As someone who’s currently ski-bumming or ski-semi-professionaling or whatever it is I’m doing, I’d tell you to perhaps wait it out. Grad school can wait in ways that a college degree cannot — mostly because a satisfying life doesn’t require post-graduate education. Should you find yourself enamored of the ski lifestyle after four years of college, you can sleep more easily knowing that you have x major and y GPA to place on your resume when you look to hop out of it. But if like so many folks you find that your several months prior to college have extended into more than a year, you’ll find it more difficult to get back into the game. Best to fall behind later rather than sooner. 

If it’s all helpful, then, I’m 23 now, recently degreed from an East Coast liberal arts school after growing up in the Midwest, and have no earthly idea what exactly idea what I want to do with the next ten years of my life. I do know, however, that selling ski vacations isn’t it. And at the same time, I know that I love the more immediate pleasures of chasing the hundred-day year and of ogling awesome gear on Tramdock. Perhaps this strikes you as ideal — and perhaps it is.

But I caution you that ski bumming will change your worldview. The friends who surround you make your decisions regarding college, alcohol and drugs easier and more acceptable, I’d imagine. They support you and your values and shape your expectations. Leaving college, I also left my own support group of friends secure in their positions as management consultants and political analysts. These people had pushed me to excel, leaving me with the certainty that only a high score on the LSAT and an acceptance letter to a top-14 law school could lead to a fulfilling life. And just days into arriving in Summit County, I realized that, no, studying for the LSAT would not play a part in my winter plans. I had left my (obviously pretentious but still wonderful) group of friends for another set of folks with just as much passion an energy… for everything but career ambition and advancement. 

I’m not saying, Euripides, that you will lose sight of your intended future — in fact, I’d guess that a year in the mountains will bring it into better focus — but rather that the people who come into your life will force you to reevaluate your priorities. We are social creatures after all and we play to the expectations of our peers. Right now the college path might seem like the most natural in the world, but when you find yourself surrounded by other intelligent people whom you respect and yet who have, oddly enough, made life decisions antithetical to those you would have made yourself just months ago, you begin to wonder if those plans you’d felt so certain about still make just as much sense as they once did. Get the degree first. Then, when yo can turn down career-track offers, do the ski bum thing. Best to keep your options open.

Ski Resort Living 8 February 2010

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More than once after it became clear I’d be heading Colorado my friends wondered if I’d come home for Christmas or MLK weekend. Or ever. “No,” I told them. “The nature of the job means that I don’t really get to take time off. But I am living in a vacation destination after all–maybe you should come visit me.” And thus far, they’ve fulfilled that end of the bargain. College buddies Weeks, Bell and Cottrell came out this weekend for a quick romp in the snows of Keystone, Breckenridge and Vail, and for the most part they spent their time alternately gaping at the scenery and greeting it head-first: too many faceplants in the powder, I guess. Former roommate Brett will arrive in March for more of the same.

But at the other end of the bargain is a life perpetually confined to this resort world of rental properties and Christmas lights that have yet to come down. I’m beginning to think nothing will dislodge them save a sudden onset of of Mardi Gras cheer, and even then this will remain a place of transients, faces seen once at a bar or on the lift. It’s about this time of year, too, that the niggling differences between this and real life begin to pop up. Just one of the twenty-somethings that staff the reservations call center lacks a college degree; a couple more have completed post-graduate education. And everywhere else the sons and daughters of what are predominately well-to-do families are spending these first 12 or 18 months of their degreed lives removing snow and picking up trash, generally for fewer than $10 an hour.  The economist in me sees an enormous, probably outsized, value placed on the snow which hasn’t exactly arrived in abundance this season. Why else turn down a secure office job to scrape ice off the stairs at 7:45 this morning? What’s the marginal value of those powder days? Tens of thousands of dollars, evidently.

But when you’re here on vacation you miss that; the trip hinges on the snow and the bars and just how quickly and painlessly you can check into your room. Who attends to those matters doesn’t, well, matter. That’s not a plea for recognition but rather an attempt to highlight the key difference between the ski resort and any other player in the service industry. At the moment I can think of no other sport that sustains an entire population on the promise of another day of play. No one sacrifices for golf. Surfing maybe. Has anyone chanced a job offer to spend another day on the racquetball court?

No.

Perhaps the ski industry takes advantage of us. We don’t receive holiday pay. We don’t get vacation. Sometimes we work six day weeks. But in the end, we ski. And every year, that promise draws thousands of folks like us to resorts around the country. So, Ullr, please send snow. We’re paying for it.

Today’s Phone Call 23 November 2009

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Phone call from today:

“Welcome to Keystone Reservations, my name is Andy. May I have your name please?”

“Ted”

“Thanks, Ted. How can I help you today?”

“Yeah, I’m on the River Run Gondola, and it’s not moving.”

“Umm, you’ve called Keystone Reservations…”

“Then give me the number for mountain operations. This thing’s stopped.”

“All right. Hold on just a sec while I find the right place to transfer you.”

“Oh, nevermind. It’s moving, now.”

“Is there anything else I can help you with today, Ted?”

“Give me the number in case it stops again.”

“Oh okay. [number].”

::click::

Oh noes, humanity.

Something Else 19 November 2009

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So I guess I’m supposed to add something new, something about how life in Colorado has surpassed all my expectations. Instead, you’re getting an entry that follows an evening at the bar — perhaps that’s more in line with the typical life of the ski bum out here. There’s no snow to speak of yet, so we’ve occupied ourselves with drinking and talking shop. Like today, about the guy who seemed most upset that he’d been priced out of the market even though he’d been coming to Keystone for the last ten years. “It’s supply and demand,” I pointed out. “Rising demand has pulled up the prices for three bedroom condos. It’s a shame you can’t find your typical rate closer to $400 a night.”

And of course, he grew livid. “Yeah, that’s how it works. Demand means more than ten years of coming there. You don’t give a shit about your customers.” An interesting point. Maybe we (Vail) don’t (doesn’t) give a shit. So here’s the thing — and I’m trying to tie this back to humanity somehow — is that kind of loyalty worth a discount? If you’ve been coming to Keystone for 10 years, at seven times a year, should the reservations department cut you a break? It’s a tough call.

On the one hand, you can say sure, the money you’ll make off that customer in the future will more than make up for the loss on those few days. But at the same time, you’re offered a gamble. He’s been coming here for ten years after all, so will this one setback sour him on the Keystone experience forever? Or at least long enough to matter? Evidently, our office bet against that possibility. Meeting the demand for rooms around Christmas struck management as more important than mollifying one disappointed guest. So you have that.

It present a curious situation, though. Vail’s The Man around here; the company runs the show in Summit County, so while it’s hard to feel sorry for the enormous corporation from the outside, it seems so much harder to discount its position on an individual basis. The dollars at stake don’t just go to executives. They fall into the pockets of the lifties and dining services folks, and yes, the vacation coordinators as well. So as much as it’s trendy to hate Megacorp X, it’s equally important to consider that Megacorp employs a bunch of folks who depend on its continued profitability. I know I do.