Tag Archives: Work

It was 20 years ago today…

13 Jun

On this day 20 years ago I was sitting on a folding chair on a tennis court wearing a cardboard hat. It was commencement weekend at UCLA and after a hard fought five years I was being released out in to the wild with a newly minted degree in American Literature & Culture. This was a new major that popped up the year before and I jumped on the chance to avoid having to take that final Chaucer class. The ceremony was long, a little boring and they didn’t call out individual graduates just majors. Being a newly introduced category we were skipped over when the different departments were being called out. The woman next to me immediately burst in to tears about it and asked if this means we weren’t graduating. We tried to assure her everything was going to be alright but a few minutes later she broke free from our row and went running to the podium to tell them we had been overlooked. Her actions made me immediately think maybe I hadn’t chosen the right major but it was too late to change that now. What can you do with a degree in American Literature & Culture? Turns out it’s not a highly in demand field of study and it was basically go be a teacher or take your bachelors and find something completely unrelated but still requiring a degree. I wouldn’t necessarily tell someone not to study literature, I had a great time but I would ask them what their end plan was and to set expectations that they are not likely going to need to call on what they’ve learned about post modernism prose in their day to day life.

As I sat on the tennis court with my mortar board shielding out a bit of the late afternoon sunshine I thought about my early days on campus when I found out the tennis center had an elevator that would take you to the top of the stadium and out on to the road by the dorms. UCLA is built on hills and if you lived in the dorms you can genuinely use the phrase “I had to walk to school uphill both ways”. Everyone living in the dorms had impressive leg muscles.

UCLA was never on my horizon for schools, I always thought a kid like me was better suited for UC Berkeley or the Claremont colleges. After a visit to Berkeley I knew it wasn’t the place for me, Claremont seemed like a nice fit but was far too expensive. I had a modest stack of acceptance letters and UCLA was somewhere in the middle of the pack. At some point I just thought it was the easiest option and at least it was a place that had a name that people recognized. My sister went to a small private school in upstate New York the following year and to this day when she tells people where she went to college they ask if its “teller school for Wells Fargo”.  UCLA was geographically close to where I grew up but my only visit prior to Orientation Week was the ill fated Morrissey show at Pauley Pavilion a year before – which was at night and ended up in a riot.

UCLA Hat

I went on to love my time at UCLA and I spent most of my five years working at the Cooperage in the student union and the concession stand at Pauley. The 90s were a spectacular time to be there – the sports teams were on a hot streak, bands would come through campus some times and the Taco Bell on campus offered a 99 cent 7 layer burrito that would sustain you most of the day. At the restaurant I learned how to chop lettuce correctly, use a Hobart machine to make hundreds of pounds of pizza dough, why you should always turn the slicer off when you clean it (it wasn’t my hand that was sliced open, I’m not that misguided), how to change out soda syrup, how to wrap a giant burrito without splitting the tortilla and the fine art of patience in customer service. The Coop was open to anyone and we had our fair share of weirdos coming through the door like the guy who wanted his chicken strips fried again, the customer that came in looking like he was on an ancient trek across a frozen tundra complete with plastic flocked bunny banks hanging off of his walking stick like they were his fresh kill and finally the man that always wanted his change in dimes. If you tried to hand that customer any coin outside of a dime he would toss it back at you rather forcefully. Learning how to deal with these difficult customers was the greatest skill I took away from my time on campus.

So my suggestion to anyone thinking about pursuing a degree in the arts? Go for it but make sure you get a job on campus that will teach you how to handle the world outside of North Campus.

 

 

Terminal 3

23 Mar

Just a shade over 10 years ago I walked away from a job I loved because it was getting too painful to watch what we had built up start to crumble around us. I was offered an opportunity to work with a friend and I jumped at the chance. That company didn’t work out but before a year had passed I found myself at a small family run company that would put me on the road a few times a month to Northern California. I was new to sales and was excited about the possibility of all of the free Southwest flights I was going to rack up. Ahhh yes back in the day when 10 or so trips to Sacramento would equal a free flight to see my friends in Nashville. Before long my trips started to take me to San Francisco which made me very happy because I could take Virgin America! New on the scene and with routes to San Jose and San Francisco I would take them whenever I could to spend some time with the brand.  With mood lighting and unexpected treats like these sweet pinback buttons they had a very loyal customer.

Virgin America Pins

Last year Virgin America was sold to Alaska Airlines and this morning I woke up to the news that this lovely airline would soon be gone. As most of my travels take me overseas now I haven’t flown VA in quite some time but I was looking forward to their new Nashville route. I’ll have to try to take one last trip before it’s all gone and bask in the soft purple mood lighting and think about all of those mad dashes made through security when running late for the flights, the fog delays, Pringles on demand, flirty chats with other passengers using the seat messaging system and so much more.

57,863 Miles

28 Feb

Last week I climbed in to my Mini and started it up to have the cold weather warning alert pop on to the controls along with the mileage 57,863. I sat there staring at the numbers for a minute thinking of everything that’s happened during those miles. I bought the Mini while working at a company that was based in Encino and had me making my longest commute of my working life. Within a few months that company would start to implode upon itself with the owners relapsing in to their addictions and I made the decision to walk away grabbing my last paycheck not knowing what would happen to me next.  I came home that day and took a look around at my apartment and wondered how long I would be able to stay there as I wouldn’t be entitled to unemployment.  I had a vague promise of a temporary job with Virgin Galactic on a data entry project that would help keep me going until I found permanent work. It was a chance to work with some old colleagues and my way in to a company I had wanted to be a part of for nearly a decade. Having spent the bulk of my working life with another Virgin company, oddly enough starting off as a data entry clerk I was familiar with the brand and always regretted walking away before. On my way to Mojave for my first day orientation I was hoping with each passing mile that it wouldn’t be my only trip. I must have done an amazing job on that data entry because I’m still with them now and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Those miles include so many trips to Mojave but they also have a lot of adventures packed in there. Trips to Indio for Coachella, Las Vegas with friends, that one weekend we drove to San Francisco then down to San Diego in the span of three days chasing great music. Early morning drives over the canyon to the Kings Head to watch City play and now to the Rec Room from Long Beach where I now live.  The supporters club that was started by a few stray fans has now grown to this giant loud group and I couldn’t be prouder of it.

Sitting outside that gas station in Mojave with the winds whipping around me as I was tucked safely inside the car staring at that number I felt content. The next morning I would stand out on the edge of a runway and watch a beautiful spaceship take another test flight. My life isn’t perfect by any means but it’s pretty good at the moment and I’m looking forward to the next 60,000 miles.