Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Losing My Tanning Bed V-Card

What is particularly pleasing about going to a tanning bed? I’ve always pondered this question and have been strongly against ever stufing myself into one of those terribly hot, cramped quarters. So, this made me 22 years old and still a tanning bed virgin.

Why was I so against it? One summer, my mother was going to some tropical island down south and needed a “base tan,” meaning she didn’t want anyone to see how translucent she was. Going to a tanning bed a few times a week for 15-minute intervals, she claimed she then had skin problems. Her legs had seemed to become permanently chapped, and thus she had to use lotion more frequently. To me it sounded like what could develop into something more serious, and I have never wanted to risk getting skin cancer. I’m worse enough when it’s 95 degrees and sunny - I sometimes forget to wear sunscreen. I’m not completely paranoid; I just didn’t understand the point of voluntary skin cancer.

One night last month, my stepsister and I had just returned from gallivanting at the mall. Driving back, she subtly asked, “Want to go to the tanning place? The irst visit is free.” She had already paid for a month’s worth of visits to the “fryer,” and she knew I had been curious about it. The only reason I agreed is because it was free. What could honestly happen to me in one visit?

Walking inside the newly-opened establishment, I peered around and a bronze-faced, blond-haired lady noticed my puzzlement. I was a deer caught in the headlights; I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. My stepsister, having already been acquainted with the procedure, told the woman that I was new. I had to pick up two little eye gadgets so that my retinas wouldn’t be sizzled out of my sockets.

Sitting and waiting for a room to open up, I spaced out and stared down the aisle. The tanning rooms were on both sides, all full of naked bodies in mechanisms that remind me of giant clams. As I waited, the lady gave me suggestions on how long I should go for my irst time.

“Personally, I think it would be good to go for about seven minutes,” she said so matter-of-factly. “You have a very fair skin type.” I agreed, and she said if I wanted to jump out before then, all I had to do was press a button inside the bed that turns it off.

A room opened up, and after the bed had been cleaned and wiped down, I was escorted inside. Never before had I gotten naked in a public place, besides the doctors ofice. Luckily, the rooms were very private and spacious. I got undressed, applied some weird lotion that I had been given for free, implanted the eye goggles and slowly crawled into the blue illuminated machine.

I began to sweat profusely; my back was slippery against the glass bulbs, and beads were dripping down my face. It was deinitely not for the claustrophobic, but I am not; oddly I was rather relaxed. Seven minutes felt like two, and I opened the shell of the bed feeling like nothing was different.

It wasn’t till the next day that I noticed how burned I was. My face was lushed, my upper body was a bit scorched and I was quasi-darker than usual. The real “fun” didn’t occur until about a week later, when I began to peel like a snake sheds its scales.

Weirdly enough, it was a rather calming experience; in the winter especially, relaxing in a heated bed is just as good as it gets. I could never be a slave to the tanning bed; but maybe once in a blue moon I will go for seven minutes in heaven. In reality though, I enjoy the skin I’m in, and I don’t think an overly-bronzed look would suit me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

True Life: I Worked At McDonalds

The unemployment rate is on the rise everyday. As more individuals are laid off, many barely making ends meet as it is, where can they honestly turn these days? People will practically do anything to make life affordable and provide for their families. High school and college students require money for paying rent, car insurance, phone bills and tuition, among other things. Not everyone can land their dream job, especially when they don’t yet carry the credentials nor have the connections to do so. With our current economic situation, you take what you can get and suck it up.

Is it really that painful, working at a fast food restaurant such as McDonald’s? It’s rather simple, and can be a great opportunity for individuals seeking to expand their leadership and business skills. Many who work there long term end up becom- ing managers or can go on to create their personally owned enterprise of McDonald’s establishments. Is there money in that? Of course; most store owners have made decent lives for themselves and are very respected within their communities. With any major company there is always a chance to advance; that is, if you have the commitment and willpower to stay on track.

Sadly, the “stereotypical” McDonald’s worker is seen as lazy, unintelligent and incapable of advanced skills. This couldn’t be more untrue; in fact, these are the people who deal with more hardship and inconsistency in their lives then people who can completely bypass a fast food job in general.

McDonald’s can be demanding in more ways than one. Take socialization for example: since the key objective is “Fast, friendly service with a smile,” the public has a high expectation for their quick, cheap meal. With most on the run, they expect instant gratiication; if this is not met, most grow very impatient and can be rude. Once the employee puts on that uniform, they become a commoner. This doesn’t always give them the respect they deserve as a person. Employees deal with the crabby, insulting people who just don’t understand how much it can suck for them, the workers who have to grin and bare the customers’ needs and remarks. This applies to any customer service job, whether you’re a waiter, a supermarket cashier, and even a hairdresser! If someone is dissatisied, employees have to give them what they want. The customer is always right, correct?

During my short few-week stint at McDonald’s over winter break, I was subjected to the annual SOR, which is when a McDonald’s representative comes in to do an inspec- tion. Everything must be perfect because the store is graded on cleanliness, quality and performance. Prior to the visit, each of us individually had extra cleaning jobs and duties to be prepared for the visit; I even had to be ready for answers to questions such as, “What was the target rate of customers during lunch hour?” Seems ridiculous to most, but it is very important and crucial to the business. It was taken very seriously by most, as even the store owner was present, and our general manager was obviously nervous and eager to please. Hard work paid off in the end, as all of our scores were in the mid 90s. My co-workers and I were showered with praise, and then work continued in the same format it had always been in.

In retrospect, I have saved up a decent amount of cash for my next semester at college. If it will help me financially, why should I be embarrassed about having worked there? We’ve all had jobs that we’ve been embarrassed to tell our friends about, but why should we care what they think? And more importantly, if they would make fun of you, are they really worth keeping around? Even if you’re working a job that you know isn’t the greatest, it will shape you into a stronger individual that is more akin to understanding the ups and downs in life. For those who don’t experience it, well, they’ll just continue to be ignorant; but let’s be hopeful that won’t become a true statement. As the father in Calvin and Hobbes always tells young Calvin after doing jobs he despises, they just simply “build character.”