It’s A$$hole Tuesday

As if Tuesday isn’t one of the more depressing days of the work week as it is, my coworkers informed me as soon as I started that it’s known in our office as “Asshole Tuesday.” Maybe the fact that the week isn’t even close to over amplifies our general frustration toward dealing with jerks, or maybe the assholes all just decide to come out on Tuesday, but it really never seems to fail.

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The only thing worse than Monday would be an Asshole Tuesday happening on a Monday.

Unfortunately, even though we like to pretend at work that the assholes only come out in droves on Tuesday, the sad truth is that people, in general, tend to suck every day of the week.

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Ok, so that sounds kind of bleak. We could just feel that way because we’re in Williston … which also sounds unnecessarily negative. Don’t get me wrong – Williston has its fair share of great people, but many Willistonites agree that some of the people who come to the area in search of work aren’t simply down on their luck and looking for an earnest way to start over and make a living. Instead, this group of people are the type that blame everyone and everything but themselves for the trouble they’re in. Naturally, working in a law office, we get the joy of encountering a lot of these kinds of people.

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But, hey, we could deal with them, if they were the only ones who sucked. But they’re not. There’s a commercial that runs in western North Dakota, that starts out by saying, “There are 50 states in the nation, and every one of them wants to be North Dakota.” Until I lived in Williston again, I didn’t realize how true that statement was.

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For how mountainous this graph looks, the peaks only count for jobs. North Dakota is still flat as a pancake.

I would have never imagined that my boring little hometown would be a place anyone would want to live, let alone be jealous of. We are extremely fortunate to be experiencing economic happy times with the oil boom in our area. The sad thing is that money breeds conflict.

Random people living all across the country who never even knew North Dakota exists find out some long, lost relative of theirs that they never met owned mineral interest on land that’s got a producing oil well on it, and they’re instantly wanting and expecting more. They’re upset with me because I can’t get their paperwork done fast enough; they’re even fighting against their own family members to scrap for more.

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Come on, people! To come upon money just because you’re related to someone is an amazing stroke of luck – Isn’t that enough reason to just be happy? If you’re not okay with that, I’ll certainly take your pile of money …

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There’s my vent for Asshole Tuesday. All you assholes out there can crawl back in your holes now.

P.S. Just a heads up, I finally made a Facebook page for the blog. The link’s over on the right margin of this page, near the top, if you feel so inclined to click away. I’ll put some awesome little tidbits up, and links to every post, of course.

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P.S. Here’s an adorable picture of my cat, Sperry, being an asshole and hogging the remote. For the record, I did not stage this. She’s actually this much of a freak.

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Wild Wild Williston: Part III

My hometown of Williston, ND, is definitely in its own little bubble. The entire state of North Dakota pretty much is, but Williston and other boom towns are a breed of their own.

I haven’t lived in Williston for an extended period of time since the summer of 2009. A lot was changing even then in the steadily growing oil town, but it wasn’t even close to approaching the radical changes it’s undergone in the years since then. Changes that have gained national attention, happening right in my “boring” backyard. (If you haven’t checked out Part I and Part II, there’s some more information about Williston there.)

Williston High School's gymnasium, the Phil Jackson Field House (Williston is his hometown, too). Brings back memories of high school dances, basketball games, and graduation.

As a senior in high school in 2008, after working my way up the “corporate” ladder for the past three years at the local Subway restaurant, I was finally making $10.25 an hour as a supervisor slinging sandwiches. (Yay alliteration!) When I tell my friends this, even friends from North Dakota, they’re usually pretty amazed I got that kind of pay working at a Subway restaurant. (And, I’ll admit, I miss it a lot.)

But things are even vastly different since then. My 16 year-old brother just got his first job this summer working on an asphalt crew. The team consists mostly of females, because all the older guys who would normally be working construction are working on the oil rigs. His starting wage is $15 an hour. I’ve never made that much in my life, and I’m jealous. When I first went into sandwich slavery, I was making a mere $5.50 an hour, and happy with it.

But why do manual labor for 16 hours a day under the hot sun for $15 an hour when you could work in a fast food restaurant for the same wages?

This ad was in Williston's local classified newspaper, "The Shopper," the last week in May.

And the $10.25 an hour at Subway that I’d worked through blood, sweat, and tears for? Yeah.

Ouch.

But that’s what employers need to do to entice help in Williston — A place where there are tons of jobs, tons of people, no place to put them all, and very little for them to do recreationally.  After all, if you or your significant other could be making more than people with college degrees, especially in this economy, why wouldn’t you?

Exactly. Which is why a lot of people from all across the country are doing that.

But finding employees is only half the battle for non-oilfield employers in Williston. Keeping good employees is a big problem, too. People leave jobs in a heartbeat with no warning in favor of better opportunities … or sometimes just in favor of sitting at home. All the restaurants and stores are so busy there, keeping up with the demand gets to be a lot for anyone. (It was even crazy when I worked at Subway before the peak of the oil boom — Our restaurant was considered a “high-volume” store among other Subways nationwide.) For this reason, some employers are taking steps to nip that situation in the bud:

This ad was in last week's issue of "The Shopper." The good part is kind of small in this screenshot, but it says, "Do not apply if you're always sick, late, untrustworthy, can't work weekends, lazy, not dependable, or you complain about everything!"

Housing in Williston, when available, is priced in relation to the competitive wages. I think it’s kind of a chicken and egg situation, but whether the housing prices are in response to the amount people are getting paid, or the amount people getting paid is compensating for the rise in housing prices, they’re definitely both high. Like, you could rent an apartment in New York City for the price of apartments in Williston.


Granted, a lot of apartments in town are certainly much more affordable, they’re definitely more expensive than they used to be, and more difficult to come by.

I was glad to see, though, that while I was perusing The Shopper, some things haven’t changed.

Well, I guess I don’t know if I can say “glad.” The camouflage tux was always something my dates threatened me with during prom season.

Wild Wild Williston: Part II

It’s obvious the once-forgotten town of Williston, a dusty little placed nestled in North Dakota’s back pocket, is undergoing some major changes spurred from the oil boom. Finding housing to accommodate the influx of residents is at an unprecedented high. But that’s not the only thing changing.

Williston's slogan, referring to the Bakken Oil Formation that was discovered in the region. This can be seen emblazoned on bumper stickers, hats, and other apparel.

Williston’s like most other small towns in North Dakota. Everyone knows your business before you even do. Comparatively, Williston is considered a “city” in North Dakota, with a population of around 13,000 before the oil boom. (Williston’s not expected to stop growing anytime soon, as space for another 4,500 people in man camps is being planned.) Still, somehow everyone either knows everyone or knows of everyone through the grapevine. You know that whole six degrees of separation thing? Williston natives probably have about one or two degrees of separation from one another, at a generous estimate.

Obviously this is a little dated, but you get the concept.

Still, Williston’s always seemed a little behind the curve. Up until a few years ago, the few radio stations that didn’t play country almost exclusively played music from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. Because of this, I know every word to songs like “Diamond Girl” by Seals and Crofts and “Missin’ You” by John Waite. (Most non-country stations have since shifted to Rock or Top 40 formats.) For these reasons, in the few years since I moved away, I’m happy to see the Williston Herald, the local newspaper, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau get online — even on Facebook.

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More and more social media sites are being put into place to get people familiar with the city, since many who come from around the nation had no idea Williston even existed until they heard about the job availability. WillistonWire is an e-Newsletter that compiles all Williston-related news from surrounding news outlets. One of my friends has recently created a forum for Willistonites called Williston Basin Forum to gather and weigh in on issues that affect them.

Facebook pages surrounding Williston have been popping up for a while. They never seem to pick up much speed, but one in particular caught my eye. Called Williston Rumor Mill, it definitely perpetuates the online component of the city’s physical rumor mill that churns daily. Some people take it really seriously, while others post outlandish joking rumors. Regardless, it’s updated often by users and has 912 fans (and counting). Taking a look at the page, it’s pretty much the Facebook version of my high school experience. And I think that’s what makes it so interesting.

Hm, never noticed that on my last trip to Williston.

While I’m sure social media has been a great way for people new to the area to make connections, it’s definitely got a creepy factor. Growing up, Williston was never really a haven for creeps. From the time we were about eight until we got our drivers’ licenses, my best friends and I would ride our bikes throughout town all day, going to stores and restaurants without having to worry about traffic, let alone creepers.

But today, girls my age who still live in town often say how many inappropriate comments they get from guys of all ages, even just going to Wal-Mart (the only major store in town). Even six hours away, I periodically get Facebook messages from guys moving to the Williston area for oil work, sometimes asking for me to be their “friend” and “show them around,” and sometimes just saying things like, “Yo hun I’m moving to Williston! What’s yo number so I can get atchu?!” Creepers.

"Do the creep!"

The times, they are a-changing in Williston and surrounding areas, and it’s interesting to hear about its evolution from friends and family and see the transformation myself when I make my seldom visits.

What do you think about the changes happening in Williston, whether you’re from there or not? What have your experiences been?