“Here’s a thing we should do,” David says as he sits behind his computer, gazing at the screen, reading glasses perched.
“What?” It’s feigned interest. The last thing I want to do is something I should do.
“Hand out lunches to kids during the summer.”
It has its appeal. This sounds like a thing we can do together. David has become so busy volunteering in the community that he has little time to do things with me or even to keep up with his responsibilities here at home. On the other hand, I’m protective of my time.
“Are you competing to see who can do the most good works?” I ask with a dubious squint.
“No.” But he sounds defensive. “Come on, it’ll be fun.”
So he signs us up to attend the mandated orientation meeting. Because this is a federally funded program there are hoops to be jumped through before we can come in contact with food or kids. We expect to hear about these hoops at the meeting. But in actuality what we’re subjected to is the muddlement of two women who take up positions between the flags at the front of a large room and wonder aloud why they’re there and what it is they’re supposed to be communicating.
To the bewilderment of the potential volunteers, the women mainly talk to each other about what they should be talking about. At one point they discuss different hand-out locations throughout the county and which ones will offer chocolate milk. One of them gives a power point presentation that tells how many children are fed by the program each year and how important it is for kids living below poverty level to have lunch. The pair spends a lot of time apologizing about how we were required to attend this meeting.
As I said, I value my time and this has been an hour wasted. We exit the building with only the knowledge that we’re required to take and pass two exams—one concerned with food handling and the other in civil rights. We are not told the names of these courses, where to find them, what’ll they cost, or how much time they will consume.
“I want nothing to do with such a disorganized program,” I say to David.
The lack of forethought that went into this meeting is appalling. Standing unprepared in front of a group is the stuff of nightmares. Apparently not for these two women.
“I’ll figure it out,” he says.
When we get home he emails everybody he knows who might be able to point us to the courses. Eventually he hears back from someone and he sends me two links.
The food-handling course is geared toward restaurant workers. It teaches the different types of food contaminants, the temperature at which bacteria stops proliferating, how to properly put on rubber gloves, how to wash a dish, how to empty a trash, what to look for when you suspect an insect or rodent infestation. I reiterate: we will be handing out prepackaged sack lunches to children. The food exam takes three hours from my life, hours I could have spent playing spider solitaire or checking out the deals on Zulily.
The civil rights course and exam isn’t quite as long. It consists of six simple chapters that give rules about being sensitive and treating all people uniformly; except, of course, those with special needs, and them we must treat better while maintaining the illusion that they’re being treated equally.
Believe it or not, there’s a fine line between treating someone in a wheelchair equally and giving a person in a wheelchair special treatment. As a class, handicapped people seem to want both.
Civil rights, to sum up: be kind to all, but not overly kind to anyone. I already know this and feel the course to be a waste of my time. An hour and a half.
I’m to begin my lunch duties tomorrow and have just received a reminder that I must clear a background check before I can take my position behind the sack lunches. This is the first I’ve heard about it, though I suppose it’s best to make sure I’m not a pervert. Will there be time to get this done before tomorrow? I can’t be bothered to care.
Oh, and the way this project is laid out, David and I will not be doing any of it together. I anticipate a chaotic farce. I agreed to this misadventure during a few fuzzy seconds when I forgot who I am and what I was taught by my father:
Jennifer, do never volunteer.