As a school volunteer, I have really good intentions. I like volunteering, actually. There. I said it. But only when I feel like my time is actually being utilized. When you feel valuable, and know you’re really making a difference, it’s as addictive as crack. When you feel like your time would have been better spent watching cat videos on YouTube, that’s a big Debbie Downer.
I am one of the people in charge of the concessions and the flower/candy sales at the high school play, which Oldest Daughter is in this weekend. These are the “break a leg” messages, so it’s a really fun job. We have a system in place so if any of the cast or crew don’t get anything during the show, our group buys those kids a flower on the last night and say Thanks and Great Job so no one watches everyone else get treats during the show and they get nothing. I love making sure everyone gets something, and I also like doing it all Secret Santa undercover-like.
To get all of the candy for the show, I look at last year’s order, and give a list to the school activities office so they can write a purchase order for me to take to Sam’s Club. I did it, and I’m not going to lie, when I picked it up from the office on Monday, I felt pretty cocky. “I’m SO on top of this!” I thought. Went to Sam’s, loaded up the cart (including four cases of bottled water) and in the checkout, I gave the cashier my PO. She looked at it blankly, and said “So how are you going to pay?” I looked blankly right back at her, and said, “With this PO from the high school” and she said “You have to have a card to pay.” I had her call over an assistant manager, and yup,you need a card to pay. Shit. I had no card. I paid for it. Arrogance gone.
How it felt at the beginning.
That night, I was at the school for the drama cast dinner, and since the tech director was there with his keys, I had him unlock the door and I unloaded my van in a cart and unloaded it in the closet. COUNT: I have now lifted four cases of bottled water four times.
The next day, I sheepishly walked into the Activities Office, and said, “I’m really sorry, but that PO you gave me for the candy? There wasn’t a card with it. I had to pay for it. So can I fill out the reimbursement form?” The person in charge, who is awesome I might add, said, “What! They already charged the high school card. Let me call them!” She called, and it turns out that since this was my first time purchasing school items at Sams Club, I didn’t know that when a PO is sent over ahead of time, they pull the items on it and have them waiting for you. OH.
SO. I had to return my purchase.
I had to find the guy with the key to the closet, steal the grocery cart from the Student Hunger Drive, load up all of the candy and four cases of water bottles, roll them out to my van, load them into my van, drive to Sams, unload them from the van to the cart, and into Sams. Where they essentially berated me for not doing it “The way I’m supposed to.”
RANTY MINUTE: I’m a volunteer, people. All of the volunteers out there, holla! You take time out of our day or night when you’d rather be doing paid work, or finishing “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” or watching Pride and Prejudice again, or doing freelance work, or cleaning our house, or taking a nap, or working on the book you’re supposed to be writing, or making dinner. I would literally rather be doing ANYTHING than lugging cases of water around town for no pay. But to then walk up to the “Customer Service” counter, only to have them tell me what a dumbass I am? Uh, NO. I know full well I’m a dumbass without your help, thank you.
I told the manager at the “Customer Service” counter that perhaps everyone’ s communication could have been better. Perhaps I could have asked more questions, or the person at the high school could have given me more explicit instructions, or the CASHIER AT SAMS COULD HAVE SAID, “OH, PO’s go over to the customer service counter.” I said this, and she started telling me how it works, again, and I let her finish, because I’m sure that’s her job. Then I said, with a smile on my face: “I understand how it works NOW. Honestly, all I really wanted was someone to say, “I’m sorry that happened to you.” I’m a volunteer who has hauled water across town three times now, for free, on my time off. And now I’m left feeling a little sad.” She looked me up and down, gave me a tight little smile, and walked away, clearly thinking I’m psychotic, which I will admit was a possibility at that point. I looked at the cashier who was scanning in and refunding my money on the original order. She smiled, and in a nice, quiet voice said, “I’m sorry that happened to you.” I said, “Thank you, Robin. That is like a big Band-Aid on my heart.” And I meant it. She probably exhaled and thought “Thank God this crazy bitch isn’t going to unload her martyr-y bullshit on me!” I wouldn’t blame her for thinking it.
I took the new cart of candy and four cases of bottled water out to my van, unloaded it, drove across town, stole the Student Hunger Drive cart again, unloaded my van, rolled the cart in the school, found the guy with the closet key again, and unloaded it all into the closet. That makes it seven times that I lifted those four blasted cases of bottled water, and I’ll have to lift them again tomorrow when I move them to the concession area. But I’m not bitter and that’s what’s important.
How it felt at the end.
What is important? Is that even though concessions are not the sexy part of the show, there is candy available that someone can buy and put together with a card that says, “Hey high school play cast or crew member – you are awesome!” and maybe they’ll remember when they’re 44 and hauling cases of water back to Sam’s Club and say, “Yeah, it’s totally worth it.”
Because it is. When you see the kids all excited about the show, and their friends and teachers and relatives all proud of them? Totally worth it.
If you’re in the Quad Cities, go to the Bettendorf Fall Play, “Rumors” by Neil Simon, at the fantastically amazing Performing Arts Center at Bettendorf High School Thursday through Saturday starting at 7 p.m. There is a picture of George The Superpet in the program…..and buy some bottled water. As a favor to me.