The number one rule of bullshitting: If you know you don't have the tools or experience, think of someone who does and pretend to be them. So for one evening, I was Laird Hamilton, soul surfer and fitness guru. But let's back up a bit.
Upon finishing up my philosophy degree at UCLA, I found myself working at an upscale oceanside resort/great timeshare opportunity in LA; frankly, this was my best and only offer after college. Here at the resort, I roll towel pyramids, move umbrellas, and liberally apply Moroccan oil to burrata/bikini enthusiasts. This is my job until I get a better gig.
When not oiling up bikini babes, and the occasional dude, I work in the recreation department as a professional bullshitter. This description was not listed on the career opportunity website when I applied. If you ask various guests of the resort, you might find that I am a wildlife expert, tennis pro, local historian, or even a professional runner. I am not actually any of these things. Though I did play tennis in high school, I joined a rock band freshman year, and my respectable rank at the bottom of varsity plummeted.
While all this bullshit is undeniably impressive, my magnum opus remains my performance as a certified nutritionist.
You may be interested to learn that many of the foods I eat share a common denominator: they are white. Whether I'm chowing down on Easy Mac while watching the Food Network and congratulating myself for the precision with which I was able to execute the three steps on the side of the box, tending to an overflowing pot of Cream of Wheat and a girlfriend with a concern about the concrete-like nature of this substance on her stove, or simply guzzling whole milk straight from the carton, the "white" food group is woven into the fabric of my life. This probably doesn't qualify me to speak to anyone on the subject of the new nutrition pyramid.
On a standard workday, I wake up to "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire (the most refreshing way to start a day), grab a slug of milk, a quick shower, and give yesterday's socks a quick smell test, as I am both environmentally friendly and low on clean socks. One of these mornings, I got out of the shower and was startled to find eight missed calls from my boss. This is actually not too out of the ordinary, but it is always startling. It usually means that she has a bullshit assignment for me. I was expecting a jog or possibly a whale-watching trip, where I could marvel at the pageantry of the dolphins and point out to guests that the whales were clearly feeding today. I donned my not-necessarily-dirty-socks and called my boss on the way to Starbucks for a red-eye.
This would be a significantly more difficult bullshitting experience than the time I had to take a woman on a bird walk and could only identify the murder of crows. At the other end, I heard my boss, Kirsten, a chipper morning lover, willing to do just about anything to get the job done: "Hey Pete! I've got a special assignment for you today."
"Whale-watching?" I responded hopefully.
"Nope," she said, exceedingly upbeat. "So I told this corporate group that I hired a certified nutritionist for their party this evening. And with the crazy stuff going on in Kid's Club today, running out of s'mores and cuddly creations (teddy bear kits from Target), I couldn't find a nutritionist to come in under budget. So I'm gonna need you to come in today ready to rock it."
I responded hesitantly, "I mean, I'm down, but you must understand that I don't know the first thing about nutrition. I haven't exercised since that last jog you sent me on."
Still upbeat, but with a slight annoyance in her tone, she insisted, "Haha Pete. You got this! You know firsthand that in recreation we rock a lotta hats. You'll do awesome. Just Google it! You're a rockstar!"
Apparently the employees of this corporate group were in desperate need of some major 21st century lifestyle adjustments and alternatives to gluten, sugar, and other foods I enjoy on a daily basis. With my naturally slender physique, despite my white-food diet, Kirsten assumed I had the answers. I didn't mind too much; however, at the pre-event briefing with her, I happened to catch a glimpse of an invoice she had made out to the company for my services that evening for $400. I remember this number quite well because it was at this moment that I realized I was being underpaid by about $364.
Now, I am highly confident about the quality of my bullshit, but even I was slightly nervous about taking on this challenge. It would be a significantly more difficult bullshitting experience than the time I had to take a woman on a bird walk and could only identify the murder of crows. That was just one woman, and I gained her trust early on by telling her that there were many new species to the area that flew here during a forest fire and I hadn't read up on them yet.
I decided to use the brief time before my booth opened to consider who exactly this nutritionist should be. Every bullshit assignment requires me to be a different expert at the top of his game, boldly leading the way in his given field. When I am a wildlife expert, I am the rugged Brit, Bear Grylls, trustworthy and unafraid to urinate in his own shirt on national television, if it comes down to it. When I am a tennis pro, I am the competitive hothead, John McEnroe, not shy about challenging line calls or using intimidation tactics, within reason (I can't scare the guests too much, and they find out pretty quickly that I'm having what must be one of my few off days).
The paragon of nutrition had to have a definitive stance on every dietary issue. He had to have the right combination of spirituality, knowledge on the science of food, and chiseled good looks—but not too much science because my guests wanted an experience, not facts. Come to think of it, not too much spirituality either; after all, these people were here to party, not reflect on their chakras.
I guess that left chiseled good looks. No problem.
At first I thought Matthew McConaughey would be this luminary, but upon further research, I realized he was a bit unorthodox in his workout regimen. I wasn't really sure what he meant about venturing deeper and deeper into a cave every time he did his run. I was worried that perhaps it was a sexual metaphor.
Then it struck me that the enigmatic and inspirational words of Laird Hamilton, legendary soul surfer and probable subject of a future biopic starring McConaughey, would make me look like a very wise man, wise beyond my years, yet still attractive, and that would definitely make up for my lack of specificity.
My personal favorite Laird Hamilton quote was (and still is), "Your body is like a car. If you put garbage in, it's going to perform like garbage." My immediate thought was of how many times I'd ingested a burrito in college that was literally called "The Garbage Burrito" by the people who sold it because it was mostly made up of meat trimmings and other things they were about to toss out. I would keep this memory to myself.
The next three hours were a blur. People of all body types and levels of knowledge surged at me, wide-eyed, eager, asking me how to lose weight, how to gain weight, how to maintain their current state of relative perfection. At first I felt guilty. Here these people were, in good faith, earnestly asking for the secret to a good complexion or the right foods to combat menopausal hot flashes, and here I was telling them that their body was a car.
However, more often than not, I found myself able to lend real advice. I told one man who ate egg whites for breakfast and McDonald's for lunch to eat the occasional yolk—hell, once in a while, make an omelet without removing any yolks… just cut out the fast food. I may have gone too far when I told another man that if he cut out the fast food, he could occasionally make himself an all-yolk omelet. He looked at me skeptically, but I still think it was good advice. I told a young lady looking to gain some weight that while her car might very well need a fill up, she must select high-octane fuel. She looked briefly puzzled, then smiled and moved on.
While answering these questions, I had an epiphany (maybe just a thought). I realized that this information I was sagely spouting was actually pretty decent advice. These eager-to-be-fit lifestylers knew what I knew, which was not much—basically, what's remembered from 9th grade health class—but enough to create a healthy diet. Eating more green stuff, less white stuff, and limiting sugar, fat, sodium, and meat is common health knowledge, that, if followed, seems to work out pretty well. These people already knew what to do; they just needed a guy to remind them. And I was glad to be that guy. Maybe someday I'll start practicing what I/Laird preach. Maybe I'll start listening to my own bullshit.
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