Beyond Salary: What Makes a Company a Great Place to Work For?

I began working at the early age of 8.  I delivered Thursday’s newspaper beginning at 4 A.M. with the assistance of my dad (who I now appreciate even more).  I brought in a sizable $30 a month – significant at that age.  From that point on, I usually held some form of work: mowing lawns, scout camp counselor, grocery store stocker (the kind that puts the food on the shelves, not follows people around), restaurants, life guard, custodial work, call centers, acting (I was a Jew in a feature film called Yankles – $3.99 on Google Play), voice work, valet parking, and currently a plans representative at an Insurance company (not to be confused as a salesman).  Needless to say, I’ve held quite a few positions and have worked for a number of companies.

As I’ve gotten older, I have taken notice at what makes a great company to work at.  A decent salary is always appreciated, but how about insurance, fitness facilities, appreciation, and just a good fit within the company?  Although you may be demanding a higher salary, do you feel appreciated and fulfilled within your role?  This has been my limited experience as an employee and how I plan to incorporate this knowledge as a future employer.

I currently work at SelectHealth, a not-for-profit insurance company (how does that work??).  My position is a Personal Plans Representative – no that is not a fancy phrase for insurance salesman.  I help people who have questions about insurance plans and help them navigate through the ACA (Affordable Care Act (for those who view it favorably, Obamacare for those who do not)) as it pertains to them.  I took the job for a number of reasons:

  • I needed a job
  • I needed to pay off student loans before I accumulated more loans
  • Furnish my lavish lifestyle – eating large quantities of Costco churros is expensive
  • Commuting to work signified I was actually an adult and not a useless millennial

The main reason was that the position would educate me on the provisions of the Affordable Care Act as it is critical to my future as a healthcare administrator.

During orientation, I learned that SelectHealth was voted as one of the best places to work in Utah, and had received that honor for the past 8 years.  “What is so great about working at an insurance company?” I thought to myself.  During the past 3 months I have been employed, I have come to realize that no matter the industry, a company can make its employees feel valued and special.

Before I continue, I’d like to talk briefly about a former company I worked for.  I won’t use their name, but will only say that they are known for their aggressive sales tactics and were given an F by the Better Business Bureau.  During their orientation, they boasted a company culture similar to Google: free lunches, gyms (critical at this company), parties, volleyball courts, and free swag giveaways.  In theory, this sounded great and should have been a great place to work for me; out of all those things, I love free lunch the most.  So why was it that in the three months I worked there, my anxiety and dread towards going to work prevented me from enjoying my food and just made me sick to my stomach?

This company’s culture works for many of its employees.  Perhaps I am just an anomaly (along with my two friends who joined me when we all quit together).  We took calls on the phone from both customers and representatives.  Many calls were from angry customers.  These calls would often relate to unfulfilled promises, damaged homes, and the occasional disbelief that a rep was attempting to sell to someone’s parent who has Alzheimer’s.  Anything for the sale, right guys?

What was frustrating was that there was such a lack of communication between departments which created so much confusion and inefficiency.  Even more upsetting was that we were unable to tell off these representatives for their blatant errors and dishonesty because they are “the lifeblood of the company.”  I never felt valued or appreciated for the work I was doing and quit as soon as I had another job lined up.

At SelectHealth, I work with agents and brokers (representatives) who are less concerned with how swoll they can look and more concerned with the wellbeing of those they help (nevermind the fact that most are middle-aged family men).  We still deal with the occasional angry member, but more often than not it is due to uncontrollable circumstances (having to get insurance and the price of premiums, #ThanksObama).  We are trained to be completely open with people and if our plans aren’t a good fit for them, we will refer them to other carriers.  It is common to be thanked sincerely at the end of a call, which offers a sense of satisfaction not found from the previous job.

Aside from job responsibilities, SelectHealth goes to great lengths to ensure its employees are satisfied and happy coming to work.  A full gym is provided to employees at a cost of $2.50 per paycheck, however, they provide additional benefits for staying fit such as $50 per quarter.  Even more convenient is that the gym is nearly empty now since most people have given up on their resolutions to be fit (please see Realistic New Year’s Resolutions).

What has impressed me the most is the executive team at SelectHealth.  They realize that each employee makes a difference and contributes to the success of the company.  During my orientation, an executive member came down to speak with us new hires and joined us for lunch.  From her busy schedule, she took 2 hours to come have an enjoyable conversation with new employees.

A few weeks after I began, I received a letter in the mail.  It was directly from the CEO and President of SelectHealth welcoming me to the team. Yes, it was a printed letter that is likely a template for everyone.  But it was addressed to me and personally hand-signed at the bottom.

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A few weeks later around Christmas time, I received another letter in the mail.  This time it was a Christmas letter signed by all the executives of SelectHealth.  As you can see, it isn’t a very personal letter, but I won’t hold it against them since they did this for over 1,400 employees!  How much simpler would it have been to forward a “best wishes” email out to every employee instead?  This attention to detail makes me appreciate the time (and likely cramps) that went in to these letters and appreciation for every employee.

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At the end of the year, everyone received an email explaining that due to the excellent performance of Intermountain Healthcare/SelectHealth throughout the year, each employee would be receiving an end-of-year bonus dependent upon the number of hours worked.  In a world full of executives receiving millions of dollars in bonuses and inflated salaries, how many companies can boast that their CEO receives the same bonus they do?

All of these small examples signify to me how much the company values its employees and the lengths it will go to in order to prove so.  Obviously, each person will determine a great workplace based off of different variables.  Maybe salary is the only factor or perhaps it is job security.  For me, a great workplace comes from receiving praise and appreciation for the work you are doing and knowing that the company appreciates each and every employee; not just those at the top.

PS – I am writing this post during a redeye flight on Southwest Airlines.  I had never flown with them before, but heard how enjoyable and different the experience was from other airlines.  Some things worth mentioning:

  • I tried trading in my pretzels for one more bag of peanuts, what I got was the stewardess dumping a handful of peanut bags on my tray and enthusiastically say “Have four more!”
  • Their safety announcements:
    • “In the case of an emergency and the oxygen masks drop down, please place the “I can’t believe it’s not butter” cup over your mouth first and then any children with you. If you have multiple children, choose your favorite child.
  • Due to unassigned seats, being able to go clear to the back and stretching out on the empty seats beside me

It takes a great company culture to be able to pass the positivity on to its employees.

 

How my Education Nearly Prevented me from Getting a Job

competitive

Is the title stretching things a little bit? Perhaps.  I could always find some sort of job if I wanted to.  What I am referring to was the ability to secure a relevant job/internship within my chosen degree of finance.  Some may take issue and point out that I just didn’t try hard enough or blah blah . . . “American Dream” . . . blah blah “lazy.”  They could be right.  But I believe that for the time and effort I spent submitting applications for finance internships and the placement rate boasted by the finance program, I should have been able to at least interview for a position.  Instead, I proactively went a different route that has paid dividends since then (finance joke).

Before I go off and make it sound like I am ungrateful for my education, let me make it clear that I do value the learning experience I had at BYU and that I gained a quality degree at low cost.  They know that as well, which hasn’t stopped them from asking for donations.  That also hasn’t stopped me from poking fun of my Alma Mater and its unique culture.  Except in Leonardo DiCaprio’s case, sometimes it’s fun to poke the bear.

Halfway through college, I found myself on the waitlist for the finance program.  I hadn’t been accepted into the business program so I was considering alternatives in the meantime: “An economics major sounds smart, but I hated the class,” or “humanities would be simple, but I want to be able to provide for myself in the future.”  Through some higher power, I was accepted from the waitlist.  In the back of my mind, this didn’t make sense.  Due to an unforgettably enjoyable, yet underachieving freshman year, my cumulative GPA had been brought to the minimum acceptance parameter.  Besides writing an awe-inspiring essay, how did I get into the more competitive and specialized finance program rather than the more simple and general business program?

Around this time, I allowed phrases such as “divine intervention,” “meant to be,” and “#blessed” to float through my head.  I did well in most of the classes. Most classes I understood the material.  A few classes, I feigned understanding like the rest of the class and relied on the curve – very unrepresentative of what I had actually learned.  I probably would have gotten more out of an Ancient Greek Poetry class through a Humanities major.

From the start of the finance program, we were encouraged to begin applying for internship opportunities early.  I would submit at least two applications daily for various positions that opened up on the school’s career board.  Teachers and faculty encouraged students to attend information sessions for visiting companies and “network” with those individuals.

I never much cared for these meetings.  Out of a full room of 60 students, half were there to network, the other half waited patiently for the food at the end, and a few people realized they were in the wrong place, but were too polite to leave during the presentation.  These meetings usually ran late due to the stalwart networking students deciding to ask brownnosing questions on everyone else’s time.  Those students will deny it, but everyone knew what they were doing.  The students there for the food were usually disappointed when they discovered they had wasted another hour that week for cheap Little Caesar’s Pizza and were another step closer to dying of heart disease.

Out of the dozens of applications I submitted, I heard back from roughly half of the companies; and that was only an automated message telling me that I was not being considered for the position.  I was competing with students who considered a 3.95 GPA to be a disgrace to their family name.   How was I supposed to measure up to employers who were predominantly basing their decisions based on GPA and on-point brownnosing? Should I buy a more skin-tight suit? Not wear socks with my shoes? Perhaps pay $50 for a faded haircut?  Or get suit pants that cut off just below the calf? All of these traits gave the impression of a seemingly successful candidate within the Marriott School of Business.

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Only the students with the highest GPAs can wear a suit on a beach

Admittedly, I am not a very good classroom learner.  I find it hard to focus, fidget constantly, and come out looking average on paper.  Instead, I have focused more heavily on experiential learning, participating in various part-time internships while I went to school (which could have contributed to my lower GPA).  How is someone who is working to put themselves through school supposed to put in as much time to schoolwork as those who receive scholarships or have their parents pay for school?

Around January, having been put off by the extremely competitive and cutthroat atmosphere of the Tanner building and world of finance (we were actually told by a teacher that “investment banking is the sure road to divorce”), I began considering a career in healthcare administration.  I found a local internship through Intermountain Healthcare at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center which provided great exposure to the healthcare industry.  Although it was unpaid, it provided the hands-on learning I thrived on.

Very few industries I know are so generous and willing to help students succeed as healthcare administration.  Through the internship, I was given valuable time with CEOs and executives of different hospitals, direct access to other influential leaders, and guidance in creating a solid foundation in healthcare through graduate school programs.  Through the work we did, the impact we were having by implementing evidence-based tactics and the positively coinciding hospital scores was obvious.

All of this was done independently of the business school.  Additional support to send us to a national healthcare conference came from outside the business school.  If anything, I felt a sense of disapproval stemming from the finance program from not going through a Fortune 500 company and for participating in an unpaid internship.

Nevertheless, I ended up having a great internship that fit my interests and skillsets over the summer.  Contrast this with some other individuals I had gone through the finance program with.  They were in the same boat in that they also lacked that competitive edge offered through a resume.  No offers came their way.  They ended up becoming insurance agents for the summer.  There’s nothing wrong with insurance agents, everyone needs insurance.  But if you are going to school for a specialized degree, what good does it do you to get a job that doesn’t require a degree? Especially if you don’t plan on sticking with it.  To my knowledge, they have acquired more relevant jobs now, but at the time, it was stressful to have everyone securing internships except for you.

Where I’m at now

I am applying for Masters programs in Healthcare Administration and have been accepted to some of the best programs in the nation.  As usual, my GPA and GRE scores were average, but I attribute the healthcare experience I have accumulated over the past three years outside of the classroom to my being a competitive candidate.  These programs only consider GPA and testing scores as a small part of the application, placing more emphasis on experience and potential.  Each program is known for placing nearly 100% of their students in jobs and internships across the nation.

Had I not decided to go a different route, I’m sure things would have worked out somehow.  But the process of never being considered for dozens of applied for positions because I couldn’t match the GPA of other candidates became wearing.  I felt like my program had shot me in the foot by accepting me but not being able to secure an internship due to the high reliance on GPA.  To get to where I am hasn’t been easy.  I have done an immense amount of personal networking and put in hundreds of hours into my internships at no pay.  But I realized the experience was invaluable in preparing for the future.

I am grateful for the education I received.  But remember those students who may not seem as smart on paper are willing to work just as hard as anyone else.  If I ever have excess money to give away and BYU comes asking for more money, I’ll give a bit to my program, but will be more likely to give to the departments and faculty who provided more opportunities to succeed.

Realistic New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year when we make the same resolutions as last year and ultimately set ourselves up to fail once more!  You’ve had 11 months to think about where you went wrong last year and how to become the new, best self you’ve never been.

Start with the excuses you made last year:

  • “I wanted to go to the gym, but didn’t have any cute outfits to wear.”
  • “Eating healthy was a top priority for me, but kale is disgusting and I don’t know how to pronounce quinoa.”
  • “I wanted to be in a serious relationship, but a great personality only gets me so far.”
  • “This year, I planned on using my time effectively, but Netflix.”
  • “I almost began a juice cleanse, but then I came to my senses.”
  • “I was going to travel the world, but then I saw my computer’s screensavers and was content.”

These are all valid excuses.  It’s important to take them into account before making the same resolutions again and how to remedy the problem.  Maybe you need your friend to change their Netflix password so you can’t access it anymore. Throwing your computer out the window would solve your traveling problem (and create others, but that’s not important).  It’s pronounced “keen-wah,” as in “I’m not keen of that food.  As for your great personality, I can’t help you with that.

Everyone has always heard of the SMART method of making goals.  They should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.  Obviously no one applies this while making resolutions since they ultimately fail.  I would like to focus on making realistic and achievable goals.  If you want to meet your goals, then simply lower your expectations!  Here are a few suggestions:

Binge watch an entire new series

I’m not talking about rewatching The Office or How I Met Your Mother.  New Year, New You right?  Get hooked on a new show you can put off more important things for and can talk to your friends about.  If you really want to push yourself this year, Law and Order: SVU has 17 seasons to lose yourself in.  For more ambitious people, Sesame Street has 46 seasons and 4,378 episodes!  With its move from public televison to HBO, there may be a grittier feel to it.  Educational!

Be fat and lazy

Traditionally, this is the culmination of most New Year’s resolution.  If most resolutions are broke, then why not give this a try?

Stop hanging out with people who ask about your New Year’s resolutions.

Isn’t that why you make them in the first place?

Look for loopholes

Taking a note from Ron Swanson: “Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.”  If you already know you won’t set realistic expectations for yourself, try justifying your actions.  For example, there are now more overweight people in America than average-weight people.  So overweight people are now average.  Which means you’ve met your New Year’s resolution.  Congratulations.

I would say happy New Year, but it’s not happy; it’s exactly the same as last year except colder.  The best resolution you can make is to stop lying to yourself every year about making lifestyle changes.

A Year End Review

 

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What an eventful year it has been!  I am so grateful to Facebook which reminds me that one of my biggest events this year was purchasing a shirt displaying a cat in an astronaut (a cat-stronaut, if you will) suit. #blessed

Similar to the individual who writes the family updates, this year-end summary will be written in the first and third person perspective.  Keep in mind, the same person is being talked about the whole time (Matt).

Like most people his age, Matt decided to start a blog this year.  Unlike most people, he has managed to write more than five posts without relapsing and going the way of most New Year’s resolutions.  Originally, he wanted to be featured on the many LDS web sites to “go viral.”  Now he realizes that to be featured, you must make obscure references on how being LDS is like [insert pop culture reference here], or make absurd, eye-rolling lists.  Refusing to lower his writing abilities to these levels, he now uses blatant sarcasm to make fun of these same things.

Having seen his writing skills improve with each post, he became inspired to write a memoir of his life – until he realized that no one wants to read about the time he stuck two rocks in his ear, or when he sliced his butt open while working in a kitchen.

In April, I concluded a 7-year road to obtain a 4-year degree and graduated with a degree in finance (pronounced “fin”-ance by graduates to appear more mature (pronounced ma-tour by old people)).  Although I was constantly made fun of by both students and teachers for my decision to go more into nonprofits, that hasn’t stopped BYU from continually asking for donations.  My friends who graduated in film and humanities have yet to be solicited.

Matt has decided to pursue a career in healthcare administration and has been spending the year working towards that goal.  In March, he attended the ACHE Congress (which means nothing to most people) and had the opportunity to brown-nose with some of the biggest names and leaders in healthcare.  Unfortunately, most of these people will not remember him due to the fact there was an open bar during the closing banquet.  While the leaders of large healthcare systems and the deciders of national health policies were getting plastered and saying things they’d regret later, the straight-laced Mormon kid stood in the corner finishing off the hors d’oeuvres.

I had the opportunity to travel to Asia this summer for business and pleasure.  To avoid swarms of Asian women (and ladyboys) attempting to come back with me to the States, I shaved my head.  It wasn’t until I arrived that I realized my mistake: I am Caucasian and hair had nothing to do with it.  Being able to maneuver out of some potentially compromising situations, I made it back to America single and alone.

Despite putting it off as long as possible, Matt has finally embraced adulting (not to be confused with adultering).  After he returned from Asia, he subscribed to the Wall Street Journal to become a more informed citizen, was hired at SelectHealth, dresses up for work, and listens to NPR during the commute.  His friends still in school have noticed these differences and do not like who he has become.  It’s a good thing he is making new friends twice his age at work.  Now instead of discussing things such as dating and marriage with his old friends, he now talks about the shifting political climate, pet health, appliances, and health insurance.  He lives an exciting life now.

It has been a good year.  I have my health, family, and a new recipe for Oreo Truffles.  This time next year, I will be in graduate school based out of either Washington, Texas, or Alabama with my shiny new gift from Uncle Sam: $100,000 in student loans!

Singing Hymns and Hymns about Him,

Matt

Even More Stuff BYU People Like

This is the stunning conclusion to the trilogy that no one really asked for, but got anyways.  It’s like the Transformer movies.  No one really likes them, but they’re popular and people keep showing up so they keep getting made.  Really the only difference is I don’t waste my $200 million budget (I also don’t have a $200 million budget).  Despite the many stereotypes and culture I so fondly make fun of, I really have enjoyed my time spent here.  That being said, I highly look forward to leaving next year.  Can you imagine anything worse than being a single, white male living in Provo, UT at age 26?*

Husband/Wife Titles

Dating is so much fun.**  Couples meet, fall in love, and before you know it, two weeks have gone by and they’re ready to tie the knot.  Many people are familiar with the custom of the woman taking the man’s last name, but the couple also unknowingly enters into their own custom of never referring to each other by name again.

Try initiating a conversation with the spouse of a former best friend and take notice.  A common conversation could proceed as:

“I was talking with my husband the other day and….”

“Oh, you mean Chris?”

“Yes, my husband.”

“We’ve clarified that.”

Or

“My wife is the best!” She can…”

“You mean Sarah?

“Ya! She’s my wife!”

“It’s been 4 years.  Please stop.”

Another common outlet for this sort of thing is through social media, the perfect platform for humble bragging about how your nameless husband or wife is better than everyone else’s.  Besides using the husband and wife title, many people will go to great lengths to avoid using their spouse’s name by using other synonyms (these have actually been used):

  • Hunk
  • Handsome face
  • Stud
  • Sexy specimen (unisex)
  • Bae
  • Magic-princess
  • Apple of my eye
  • Pizza of my pie
  • Hubby
  • Wifey (also wifey-poo)
  • Schnooky lumps
  • Favorite companion
  • Handsome hiker
  • Dreamboat
  • Honey
  • Love-muffin
  • Sugar
  • Sugarplum (?)
  • And a slew of other food terms.

I know these people are just happy to be out of the single pool.  But the next time someone wants you to #SavetheDate, just remind them to #SavetheName.

There’s also a lot to be said between the unspoken competition between couples.  But i’ll let the hashtags speak for themselves:

  • #wehavebetterdatesthanyou
  • #myhusbandiscuterthanyours
  • #marriedlife
  • #youshouldtryit
  • #mylifeisgreat
  • #marriedlifeisthebest
  • #[insertcouplecelebritynamehere,[currentyear]]
  • #winning

Photography

Provo is a fantastic hub for photographers.  There will always be a constant supply of customers needing pictures for engagements, weddings, baby pictures, mission pictures***, and roommate portraits.  Many people have begun to see the earning potential in such a job and have invested heavily (or just upgraded) in the newest IPhone.

Personal digital cameras are becoming a rarity, because who doesn’t have a cell phone camera already capable of taking fantastic pictures?  If not for the older generation, who just got used to the transition from film cameras, this industry would be no more.  Why carry around a separate camera when a phone can do all the same things?  While watching the annual Apple Conference, your dreams to become an above average photographer were bolstered when Tim Cook focused on the newest camera with its new image signal processor, advanced pixel technology, improved local tone mapping, and optical image stabilization (this description is directly from the Apple website).  Most people don’t know what this means.  But it doesn’t matter because you saw the demo pictures this camera can take and have been inspired.

Once you get the new phone, you need to begin assembling a clientele.  Making another Instagram account is effective! Usually with the format [First name,Last name, “Photograhy”].  Post a few of the pictures you have taken of like that beautiful sunset last night, or the first day of skiing (please see previous post about Utah Weather).  The added filters will show that you know what you’re doing and know your stuff.  Why would anyone spend money on editing software when you can do it on your phone for free (occasionally you may need to purchase filter packs to appeal to a wider audience: $5-10)?

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Start small – with something that can’t give you negative feedback

The next step is to solicit your friends and family to let you take pictures of them.  Couples with new babies are a great place to start since it’s an opportunity to show off their baby even more.  Beat around the issue of cost.  But don’t be so presumptuous as to ask for money yet.  They have their own IPhones they could be taking these pictures with after all.  If they are willing to pay you, then congratulations! That should get you another filter pack.

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Coworkers will let you take their picture if it doesn’t interfere with lunch

If you decide to upgrade to a DSLR camera, you either know what you’re doing, or you’ve decided it adds credibility.  Unless you are willing to fork out more money for editing software, you will lose all your clients.  That enhanced resolution will bring out bad complexions which filters just cannot hide.

Keep in mind, if you plan on staying in Provo forever, your clients will grow up, move on, and do adult things.  So constantly be on the lookout for new clients/friends.

 

*The last piece of pie, the same Maroon 5 song on every radio station, and three guys riding a scooter to the gym are all worse things than being a single, white male living in Provo, UT at age 26.

**No, it’s not.

***Make sure the sisters bring their mission’s country/state flag to wrap up in!

More Stuff BYU People Like

Ethnic Food

Provo is a melting pot of cultures.  Not to be confused with other melting pots such as Salt Lake or New York, where you will find a gaggle of people from other cultures.  In Provo, you will find plenty of white, young adults who spent a few years abroad and came back cultured.  Often, with a few of their other cultured friends, they’ll rent a space or build a shack to start a restaurant selling the freshest cultured food with ingredients directly from the foreign foods aisle at the local grocery store.  Do you feel like Hmong food tonight? How about something Sri-Lankan?  Perhaps something Dutch? You got it!  But you better hurry since 9 out of 10 of these establishments won’t make it more than a year; especially when they relocate to certain housing complexes guaranteed to alienate their customer base.

Sometimes people consider themselves more cultured than they actually are.  Go ahead and ask someone what their favorite type of food is.  Common answers may include

  • “Mexican food is my favorite!  I always get the pork salad at Café Rio!”
  • “I love Chinese food so much!  The Orange Chicken at Panda Express is divine!”
  • “Most people don’t like sushi, but I don’t know why.  That California Roll was so good!”
Mexican food

That’s hilarious! We all love Mexican Food! Lolz

These people have obviously never been to a Chinese Buffet that reeks of fish and lacks Orange Chicken.  A common rule of thumb with Mexican Food in Provo is that if you don’t find yourself running to the toilet later in the day, it probably wasn’t authentic.

Not Buying Sport’s Passes

The last home football game of the season has passed, and just in time for basketball season!  This means there will be more opportunities for people to borrow your sports pass!  Usually a few days before game day, a few people will begin asking around for passes.  As game day approaches, the pleas will become more desperate and offers of baked goods will be offered (please see previous post about baked goods).  No one ever seems inclined to offer to purchase the pass for that day.  When people do request payment, those seeking are appalled that a friend would make them pay!  Yes, why should they pay for something that someone else paid even more money?  Life is unfair.

Utah Weather

It’s not that people like the weather here . . . except when they do . . . or don’t.  Utah weather is a love/hate relationship, and most people are pretty vocal about it.  Here’s a challenge: the next time you consider looking at forecast, pull up your social media.  Odds are, somebody has already vented about the climate.  Trends commonly follow the four seasons:

  • Spring: Pictures of budding flowers and trees, disgust at late winters.
  • Summer: #sunsoutgunsout, pictures at the lake, pictures at the top of a mountain, any national park
  • Fall: Leaves. Leaves. Leaves. Leaves. Leaves. Leaves. Leaves. Engagement pictures with leaves.
  • Winter: First snow of the season. Every time someone goes skiing, black ice

Throughout the year, there will be the occasional, beautiful sunset.  You’ll be able to see this sunset posted online with various filters.  With everyone posting, you’ll never have to go outside and enjoy nature for yourself again!

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You can’t get a filter like this outside.  Beautiful!

Stuff BYU People Like

After spending five years as a student in Provo, you become attuned to the peculiarities and odd fixations of the students and people in the area.  However, you don’t need to have spent that long here to notice the Stuff BYU People Like.

If that phrase rings a bell, it’s because it’s a popular knock-off blog of the even more popular blog-made-book Stuff White People Like.  Stuff BYU People Like provided an “in depth exploration” of Provo’s culture and more importantly, a “flagrant mockery” for the same reasons.  Unfortunately, the blog hasn’t been updated since 2011, leaving many readers disappointed.  Yet, the culture continues to churn out clichés and stereotypes that must be addressed.  Here’s my attempt at a few:

The LDS Film Collection

I’m not talking about LDS Cinema (The Single’s Ward, Saints and Soldiers, etc.), but movies that BYU people love to watch.  These include

  • The Princess Bride
  • Cool Runnings
  • The Prince of Egypt
  • The Lord of the Rings (be sure to emphasize that it is the extended edition)
  • Monty Python
  • Frozen/Tangled

And the seasonal favorites:

  • Hocus Pocus
  • Elf

Most of these films aren’t particularly terrible (keyword most), but like every Maroon 5 song that is overplayed on the radio, these movies are prone to appear as an option for every movie night.

Bonfires

If your summer Facebook feed wasn’t already filled with enough wedding invitations, it was with Bonfire invites.  Majority of these under planned events boast to be the “hottest” party (pun always intended), with the biggest fire and the best people.

More commonly, these parties will consist of the host gathering a plethora of pallets to burn, having no way to transport those pallets and soliciting anyone who owns a truck, never realizing that said pallets are illegal to burn.  Creating a Facebook event (with a googled picture of a bonfire) with an original name:

  • Bonfire(!)
  • Bonfire Night
  • End of Summer Bonfire
  • Back to School Bonfire
  • Biggest Bonfire Ever
  • Bodacious Bonfire (really)
  • Fire Friday
  • Fireside

Not checking land/property rules and getting shut down by the cops at 10 pm.  Not considering how to put the fire out ahead of time and having to resort to the Boy Scout method.

Don't be fooled that these are people you know.  This image was googled.

Don’t be fooled that these are people you know. This image was googled.

Occasionally, these events can balloon into dance parties.  The hosts of these events are usually graduated, hanging around Provo and do summer sales.  They build up hype for the event by advertising a DJ only known by close friends and family who encourage him to pursue his dream.  That dream remains unreachable with names like DJ Fizbo, DJ Puff, PBaby, and Kevin.  These parties can be a bit edgier: tank tops, NCMO’s, and coolers of Red Bull.

If you missed any of these over the summer, just wait for a “Winter Wonderland Bonfire” invitation.

Baked Goods

Odds are, you’ve been the recipient of baked goods for either doing a good deed or just for living in the vicinity of someone who loves to bake.  No harm in the occasional plate of cookies.  For many, it is what brings people together on weekends and in matrimony.  It is when these palatable plates are used as bargaining tools in return for something greater when they become problematic.

Holidays and the end of the school year bring people to the airport.  Facebook feeds become filled with requests to be taken to the airport – from Provo, the whole trip would take approximately 2 hours.  If it fits my schedule, I have no problem helping people out if they are willing to pay for gas.  However, instead of gas money, people are more prone to offer baked goods.  Brownies won’t fill the gas tank!  To me this sounds like

“Hey, can you give me a ride to the airport? I’ll help you put on a few pounds if you do.”

What about taking the frontrunner which goes directly to the airport?  “But that’s expensive . . .” is commonly the response. Well so is driving there.

These can all be yours . . . for a price

These can be all yours . . . for a price

What are some other activities for which baked goods can be used as payment?

  • Sport’s passes
  • Moving a piano
  • Breaking up with someone for someone else
  • Giving up your Star Wars movie ticket