Thirsty Thursday: Everything I know about business began with milkshakes

You might think that worn out is all you’d get from flipping burgers for a job. It’s true the work was hot, hard and unglamorous. But it bought me a Volkswagen

copyright by vovan

copyright by vovan

Beetle and a college diploma, and it gave me an accelerated lesson in work leadership that plays into every day as a freelance writer/editor. I started as a milkshake maker and left as an assistant manager at age 19.

When McDonald’s came to my town, there was no other place where a kid could earn $ 1.65 an hour plus a coveted fringe benefit: She was entitled to one sandwich, one order of fries and one beverage of her choice per shift, preferably while watching a film from the Basic Crew Course.

On its surface, the six-film course taught how to run all the work stations, step by step, but at its heart were the company philosophy called “QSC” – quality, service, cleanliness – and the principle called “hustle,” as in “hurry. ”

Hustle, hustle, hustle, the manager shouted during busy times, clapping his hands for emphasis.

The rules seemed endless. Your uniform had to be clean, your hair had to be pinned up, your smile had to look sincere, you got docked for being even a smidgen late, idle moments were to be filled with wiping and polishing.

To this day, I know how to ensure a hamburger cooks all the way through by pressing it to the grill with a spatula.

I also know that customers – and editors — require friendly cultivation, and that “thank you” is a magic phrase More

Rachel Dolezal and me

I know first-hand what it’s like to embellish your ancestry. I did it myself with a box of hair dye. Don’t get me wrong: I’m no Rachel Dolezal, the Spokane  Puerto Rican Flag2civil rights activist who says she’s black but might be white. I really am of Puerto Rican ancestry, no DNA tests needed, and I have the family and the family name on my birth certificate to prove it.

What I don’t have are the predominant physical features associated with Puerto Ricans. The only part of me resembling J Lo is the hips. And this, for a while, caused me great worry about fitting in by fitting the vision of what a Puerto Rican should look like.

Now I like to say that God makes some cookies pop out of the oven lighter than the others. But at the time I wanted to join Hispanic professional organizations, I also wanted to hide my light skin and light hair.

I didn’t grow up around Latinos in the Detroit suburbs. As a child, I had no concept of the visual stereotype. My relatives, light or dark, were all More

Steal fiction technique for better nonfiction writing

Nonfiction writers often believe they have nothing to learn from fiction. Fiction is entertainment, they say, and they deal in truth. Nope, no fiction for them.

It’s too bad, because straightforward just-the-facts style does little to hold a reader’s attention. It doesn’t even work for attention; it just sits there, self-important and expecting to be read. Fiction, on the other hand, is written for the senses and not only the five we usually think of. It’s also written for the sense of surprise, the sense of discovery, the sense of connectedness. That’s what makes a best-selling novel more compelling to read than a fix-it manual.

The craft in nonfiction writing comes from assembling words in ways that compel a reader to continue. For this, good nonfiction writers borrow from fiction, and good nonfiction writers read good fiction to pick up and appreciate technique.

Some fiction technique that’s beneficial to nonfiction writing:

Vary sentence length to control speed. Surprisingly, freight trains travel in long sentences. They start and stop in short ones. When you need to slow down for clarity, use short sentences. Short sentences are good, too, for emphasizing energy and drama. (Sometimes this technique is called “syntactic symbolism” – the construction reflecting the desired impression on the reader.)

Place words for emphasis. Strong words belong at the beginnings and ends of sentences and paragraphs. Of those two, the stronger position is the end because that’s where punctuation causes the reader to pause.

Seek original images in metaphor and simile. Everybody knows love is blind, but not everyone knows that love is a comfortable bed of nails.

Show, don’t tell. Use anecdotes to introduce and illustrate ideas and situations. People like to read about other people.

These are only a few techniques that a nonfiction writer can borrow from fiction, no matter whether she’s conveying information or creating an experience. Places to learn more: “Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer” by Roy Peter Clark (Little, Brown and Co., 2008) and “Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style” by Virginia Tufte (Graphics Press, 2006). Both are available through booksellers in real life and online.

Be a good tourist

The end of school ushers in the season of tourists. I’m supposed to love tourist season because it supports the mountain economy, but it is largely unlovable. It is

This is not a boat.

This is not a boat.

like the wackadoodle factory unloaded its inventory of leftover wackadoodles without a dumping permit. Here, then, are some tips to the flatlanders on going native in the mountains.

  • It’s OK to take your beverage cans and bottles with you. The forest will be OK without them. In fact, the beer box you want to leave in the grass will make a handy carrying case for them until you get them back to a recycler.

    Nope. Not a boat.

    Nope. Not a boat.

  • Wild water birds aren’t really into radio-controlled boats. That’s why they keep flying away when you steer your boat near them. How’s this for an idea? Instead of chasing great blue herons, chase other radio-controlled boats! You could even put imaginary pirates on yours to commandeer another boat. You can’t do that with a heron.

    Boats. Chase 'em!

    Boats. Chase ’em!

  • Crossing the double-yellow line on the highway could seriously ruin your day. There is traffic on the other side, and it’s headed toward you. Take a personal challenge to keep your 6-foot-wide SUV in the 12-foot-wide lane between the double-yellow and the white lines.
  • It is true that driveways are made for parking, but that means your own driveway for your own parking. When you park in someone else’s driveway, they just might fire up the Bobcat and go across your hood a few times. (Seriously, it’s really expensive to get your car towed up here – like $100 for a two-mile tow because of the liability on curvy mountain roads. Then it’s another several hundred to bail your car out of car jail.)
  • It’s acceptable here to say “thank you” when someone holds open a door for you. We may run chainsaws and wear work boots, but we also know common courtesy – which is why we held the door.
  • When you see a sign saying “one way” and the arrow points toward you, it means don’t go there. The arrow is not singling you out as an exception.
  • If you need to stop the car to take a selfie, please pull to the shoulder of the highway to do it.
  • Parking in the middle of the road is uncool, and no amount of arguing that the road looks like a driveway will get you off the hook for blocking fire trucks, ambulances and other vehicles. Only getting out of the way and paying the $600 fine can do that.
  • When you go home, please don’t take our rocks and trees with you. Nature carefully curated all the elements that decorate the forest. She will give you some of your own down where you live.

C’mon up, have a good time, but do remember that when you come to the woods, you’re inviting yourself into our home. Please respect it.

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February 2023