My Community Service Journal by Paris Hilton, by Ali Ruth

ORIGINAL PROMPT FROM THE STUPID IDEA JUNK DRAWER
Paris Hilton gets a DUI and is forced to do community service by sitting around a low rent indoor water park in the Poconos “being nice to normal people.” Preferably story is from her POV.
— Dave Housley


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Day 1:

Soooo I'm stuck here at Dancing Dolphin Indoor Waterpark for, like, a million hours until my probation officer says I'm done.  I'm missing all of spring fashion season because I have to sit at this shitty sign-in desk all day, talking to parents and their bratty little orphans and giving them orange plastic wristbands and keys to the locker room.  It sucks.  

Booooo journals.  Journals are for weird little brunette girls who wear glasses and have no friends.  I have a lot of friends, and one of them is even Lil Wayne.  

What I learned today:
Journals suck

Day 3: 

My probation officer says that my "What I learned today" section needs to be longer.  Which is stupid but also fine, because today I actually learned a lot.   

Zach (the lifeguard manager) came by the sign-in desk today.  Zach is a 2, but he could maaaaybe be a 3 if he were wearing sunglasses big enough to cover his weird eyebrows.

"Zaaaaaach," I said.  "Can I sit in the throne-chair?"
    
"You can't sit in that chair, Paris.  It's only for lifeguards."

"But it looks like the most important chair.  I wanna sit in it."

"No."
    
I pouted at Zach.  He didn't look at me. I pouted more.  He kept not looking. 
    
"What if I buy the throne-chair?  Then can I sit in it?"

"No."

Nevermind - Zach is definitely a 2.  He could never be a 3 because of his shitty personality.
    
What I learned today:
Zach has weird eyebrows and a shitty personality


Day 4:

My probation officer says that instead of writing about Zach's weird eyebrows, I should be writing about how I'm helping people.  Today I totally helped someone learn about friendship.  It was so special that I almost cried, and she actually did.  

This girl came up to the sign-in desk dripping wet, wearing an adorable little ruffled toddler bikini.  She was probably, like, three days old. She had a total model walk - a fashionista-in-training.  I decided that she might be a cool friend for me to have, so I gave her a friendship test:
    
"Hey," I said, "What's your name?"
    
She smiled at me.  She was missing tons of teeth. She was an orphan, for sure.
    
"MY NAME IS ASHLYN!"
    
"I like your bikini top, Ashlyn.  Can I have it?"
    
She yanked off her bikini top and handed it to me, still smiling.  But I didn't take it.  
    
"That was a friendship test, Ashlyn.  You failed.  Real friends don't steal each other's clothes.  That is, like, the main rule of friendship."
    
Ashlyn started crying.  I gave her more real talk -   
    
"See, now you have no friends and you're just topless and crying and wet.  I mean, I've been there.  But seriously, learn how to make friends."  

What I learned today:
Orphans are bad at making friends

Day 5:

My probation officer says I need to "connect more" with people.  Today I think I really connected.  Like, I connected so hard.

This dad came in with his four kids and was super friendly.  He told me that he had saved up for a year to take all his kids on vacation.  My face can't show that many emotions, but I tried to make an understanding face.  
    
"Hey - I know what it's like to struggle.  Ever since I got my eyelid enhancement surgery, my eyes get stuck sometimes when I'm trying to blink and I have to manually lift them back up. I even had to hire someone to open my eyes for me in the morning.  It's exhausterating."
    
He just stared at me, eyes wide open, like he was trying to rub it in that his eyelids worked perfectly.  Asshole. 
    
Later, I saw the dad and his sons in the hot tub through the glass window behind the sign-in desk.  It was so sad seeing them in there, splashing and laughing in all that hot water, like a poor person stew.  I told Zach how sad it made me feel and he just ignored me.  

What I learned today: 
Zach still sucks

Day 6: 

Today I asked Zach another important question.

"Zaaaaaaach," I said. "What do lifeguards even do, anyway?" 
    
"They save people from drowning."

"Drowning in debt?  Like if their brand goes under?"

"No, like if they are literally drowning.  In water."

It didn't sound that hard.  I could definitely do lifeguarding.
    
"Zach, I'm very comfortable in water.  I'd be a good lifeguard."
"Do you even know how to swim?"

I squished my boobs together and tilted my head at a cute angle.  I feel like one day I might get so bored here that I'll want to hook up with Zach, so I'm trying to keep my options open.

"I don't swim actually, mostly I just ride in boats.  Where's the waterpark for people who ride in boats?"

"The lake? It's a couple miles from here. And you definitely cannot be a lifeguard there."

I looked out the window but I couldn’t see the lake.

"I want to go to the lake."

"Well, you can't."

What I learned today:
You know who should actually be arrested for a DUI?  Zach.  Because he sucks.


Day 8:

Today I gave this amazing advice to a little girl whose mom was yelling at her.

The mom was dragging her kid towards the parking lot.  The girl was crying and saying "NOOOO!  I wanna stay, mommy!"

The mom shook her head and whispered really loud to me, "We had to leave because Jasmine couldn't stop chasing Dylan and trying to pull down his swimsuit, even though Dylan asked her to stop."  Then she turned to Jasmine and said in this annoying voice, "We need to spend more time listening to what people want and less time chasing boys, don't we?"

Jasmine glared at her mom.  I knew that look, but I also knew in my heart that Jasmine's mom was right.   

“She’s right, Jasmine.  At your age, what you should really be focusing on is your personal brand. Personal brand first, hot guys second. Once you've monetized your personal brand, you won’t even need to chase hot guys – you can just pay them to sleep with you.”
    
I should honestly be getting paid for community service.  I am doing good work.

What I learned today:
New business idea: Community service - how to monetize it as a brand?

Day 9:

The worst thing about community service is that it's boring.  The second worst thing is that I hate the people.  The third worst thing is that there aren't even any cameras around when I have a fight with someone.

Like, today this little girl recognized me.  She came up to the sign-in desk and said - 

“Pawis Hilton?  Fwom the TV?”

"Yeah, that's me. Hey, I like your goggles.  Can I have them?"

I didn't like her goggles - they were hideous.  But I was giving her a friendship test, and she passed.  The girl squinted at me and said,
    
"NO!  Mine."
    
Then a few seconds later, she said - 

"My name is Kayla!  Do you want to be my fwiend?"

"Sure, Kayla.  Why not.  It's not like I've found anyone cooler here."

Kayla smiled and said, "You have ve-wy pwetty hair."

"Oh, this?"  I said. "Yeah, I was worried 'cause it got so dried out when I was in prison, but it's gorgeous again now.  You should never go to prison, Kayla.  It's gross and everyone has to wear, like, the exact same outfit." 

Kayla nodded super fast.  

"I know, I know!  My stepbwother went to pwison once!"   

Hmmm, I thought.  I decided to let Kayla in on my newest business venture, since it seemed like she'd get it.

“Kayla, most people only know me for my hotness, but I’m not just a pretty face..."
    
I flipped my golden hair and paused so I could let the next words sink in:

"I’m also a freelance DJ.”
        
 Kayla smiled again and started jumping up and down.

"My stepbwother is a DJ!  He lives in the basement and watches TV.  Sometimes he comes up the stairs to ask Mommy for money."

I spit out my vodka-spiked Tazo.

"OMG, you have a beggar literally living in your house?! That is so gross."
I tried to make a grossed-out face.

"Ewww.  Anyway, my house has six basements."

Kayla stared at me for a while.  Then she said,  "You...you do not make a good fwiend."

I tried to throw my spiked Tazo in her face, but instead it just soaked the sign-in sheet.

"That's a falsery!  But you know what?  Whatever, Kayla. If you don't want to be my friend, fine.  Be that way.  You can’t come to my birthday party.  And Lil Wayne is going to be there, so that really sucks for you."
    
I paused so the cameras could film my "You just got burned!" expression.  Then I remembered that there weren't any cameras.

Kayla looked mad.  "You can't come to MY birthday party, either! And it's got a clown!"  

What I learned today:
If there are no cameras then what is the point even? 

Day 10: 

My probation officer says that I'm still not done with my hours - I won't be done until I "demonstrate a learned, lasting generosity of spirit."  She said blow jobs don't count.  So today I tried to honestly be giving.

I saw this old man in a bathing suit looking through the contents of a trashcan.  He was so old - probably a grandpa's grandpa.  I figured he was looking for food, so I left the sign-in desk to help him.  I walked over to the trashcan and handed him a Tic Tac on a paper plate.

"Here," I said.  "You should have this.  It's my favorite dinner.  It's totally filling, plus you don't even have to use Listerine before you go clubbing later."

He didn't take it, probably because he was embarrassed.  So I said - 

"It's ok - you don't have to be ashamed." I winked at him, but my eye got stuck.

"I'm - I'm looking for my son's goggles," he said.

"You mean your grandson?"

"No, my son.  Excuse me - what's wrong with your eye?"

I tried to lift my eyelid back up, but it wouldn't budge.  The man backed away from me and said - 

"You should see an eye doctor."

"Ummm, I can't, dummy - my octologist is on a yoga retreat."  

"Octologist?..."
    
 What I learned today:
 Need to hire a backup octologist


Day 12:

Today I had a major breakthrough.  I was sitting at the sign-in desk, bored as usual, when suddenly everything came together: I realized that my new crème foundation only looked shitty because the lighting at the sign-in desk was weird, not because my skin is blotchy.

"Zach," I said, "I just had a major breakthrough."

Zach wasn't listening - he was distracted by the voices on his dorky walkie-talkie thing.

"Zaaaaaach," I said again.

Zach turned around and yelled at me, his weird eyebrows jumping around - 

"What, Paris?!  What is it?  It better be important, because I'm kind of busy right now! Some kid just pooped in the baby pool, so unless you wanna come help me clean poop out of the baby pool, I don't wanna talk to you."

"Baby pool?  Is that, like, a pool for babies?"

"Yes."

"Is everyone at the baby pool a baby?  Like, even the lifeguard is a baby?"

Zach must not have heard me, because he just walked away.  But then, a mom came running up to the sign-in desk - 

"My daughter Madison is missing!  I have no idea where she is! What if she's been kidnapped?!"

I looked at her sad, wrinkly face.  She was holding a ratty little Louis Vitton bag from a million seasons ago.  She looked so poor - she probably couldn't even afford Ray Bans for her children.  I calmed her down with comforting words - 
    
"I doubt that she got kidnapped.  Her ransom would only be, like, five dollars."

The mom started crying.  

"Madison was just playing with Kayla, and then I looked away for a few seconds and suddenly Madison wasn't there!  I've searched the whole pool!"

Kayla!  That bitch.  Now I was interested. 

"Oh, Kayla's super bitchy.  I bet Kayla just said something mean, or tried to wear Madison's clothes or steal Madison's boyfriend.  That would be so Kayla."

The mom was still sniffling, but she looked at me with a wrinkly face full of hope.

"Would you help me look for Madison?"

I tried to think of where I hid the last time I was sad.  Then I had an idea.

"This one time, my friend Nicole and I got drunk on a kid's playground and then we got in a fight and the next thing I knew I woke up curled up in a ball inside of a spiral slide because I went in there to hide and cry because Nicole was being such a bitch."

The mom blinked through her tears and ran off to the water slide.  I watched through the glass window - there was a super long line of kids waiting at the slide.  The mom climbed up the little plastic stairs, squeezed her way into the slide and wriggled down. Eventually she slid out, holding Madison and hugging her and crying.  I saw the mom yell at Zach, who was walking by in rubber gloves.

Later, Zach came by the sign-in desk, not looking at me.

"You know, Zach," I said, .  "Even though that mom is poor, she is just like me.  Only one of us is hot, but we are both just people trying to get by.  And I'm pretty sure that both of us spiked our Tazo with vodka."

"PARIS, OH MY GOD.  You can not drink alcohol here!"

"Well, you shouldn't be letting parents lose their kids."

Burn!  Zach was quiet for a while.

"Zach - I'm a hero."

"All right."

"I saved a life today."

"Not really."

I flipped my hair at him, and tried one more time - 

"Now can I sit in the throne-chair?"

"No."

What I learned today:
I would be an amazing lifeguard, Zach.


Ali Ruth has written for The Rumpus and Reductress.  


A Brief Discussion About the Stupid Idea

This story was submitted through our Stupid Idea Junk Drawer, where our editors post their own stupid ideas for stories, poems, essays, or weird literary thingamagigs, and then review and either accept or reject stories, poems, essays, or weird literary thingamagigs based on the original stupid ideas. Following is a brief discussion with stupid idea generator Dave Housley and writer Ali Ruth. 

Dave Housley: This was a more fully formed idea than most of them and I really like where you took it. What was your initial thought when you saw the prompts? What was it that made you think you might want to devote some hours of your life to pursuing this stupid idea? 

Ali Ruth: What really intrigued me about this prompt was the very last bit - "preferably story is from her POV." I wrote a piece a while back for The Rumpus that satirized Susan Sontag, also in first person form.  The piece came together pretty quickly because her main medium is writing to begin with, so I'd just jump start my brain by reading her writing and her diaries and the voice came pretty easily after that.

Not so with Paris Hilton.  She primarily exists as a reality TV and media being, so it was obviously going to be much tougher to capture her persona in a text-only form.  I realized that this presented an utterly unique sort of challenge, and I just had to try it.

It helped that both of my sisters have been lifeguards - one even worked at an actual indoor water park, with slides and fountains and everything - so I've seen the visuals and heard the workday woes associated with that environment.

DH: I thought you did an amazing job with the Paris Hilton POV and that's mostly why I wanted to publish this piece. Things like calling the lifeguard chair the "throne chair" and asking "Where's the waterpark for people who ride in boats?" just seemed spot-on to me. It's like she's an alien who lives among the people at the waterpark but her existence has been so different that it really does feel like she's from another planet. How did you come to that voice, other than, you know, it may be fairly accurate of what it would be like for Paris Hilton to have to be in a place with normal people? 

AR: Ah, I'm so glad that came across! So in one episode of "The World According to Paris," Paris refers to incarcerated persons as "prison-people" and a police siren as a "light-thingy." She frequently uses wacky turns of phrase, and that is exactly what I was trying to mimic with phrases like "throne chair."

DH: This is the first round of Stupid Idea Junk Drawer prompts (more coming soon -- stupid ideas are a renewable resource at Barrelhouse) and to be honest I wasn't sure anybody would actually write to one of these things. Were you worried at all about spending some time writing a story based on a stupid idea of mine? 

AR:  I think the stupid idea junk drawer gets at something cool about the earliest part of the writing process - just the sheer mass of ideas that get thrown around.  Sometimes I have an idea that I think I might not be able to pull off or might not have time for, but I'm left wondering how it would have turned out if someone else had tried it. 

Also, I was thrilled by the opportunity to write a funny piece involving a totally unique process, and a process other than just submitting a random piece to Mcsweeneys and nowhere else.  The pop culture-ey creative/humor writing market feels really small and resistant to change sometimes, and I was just so excited to discover Barrelhouse and this feature. I hope it becomes a regular one. Even the ideas themselves made me laugh. The freshness was exciting, similar to how I felt when I started writing for Reductress.