I am an unsuccessful slacker. I waste tremendous amounts of energy in futile attempts to do nothing. At any meeting I’m always the one in the back row with my head down, pretending to search for a pen while I’m really planning to make a mad dash for the nearest exit before they can ask for volunteers.
With all the effort I put into NOT volunteering you’d think I’d be a little more successful at it. So how did I end up being a Scout Leader, Kindergym Teacher, Great Books Instructor, Field Trip Chaperone, Party Planner, Skate Night Supervisor, Muffin Maker, Cookie Baker, Halloween Mummy Wrapper, Gingerbread House Builder, Food Drive Collector, Christmas Stocking Stuffer, Easter Basket Stuffer, Basket Basket Stuffer? (And those are just the glamour jobs.)
The first step on the road to involuntary volunteerism was simply joining the PTA. I paid my dues. And then I really paid my dues.
The phone call came faster than the canceled check. “Would you be willing to volunteer for a few activities?”
I heard myself uttering the catchphrase that would change my life: “Only if you can’t get anyone else.”
After a chuckle that translated into ‘nice try’ the voice said dryly, “We can’t get anyone else, that’s why we’re calling you.”
You mean I’m not the biggest slacker? I thought, with pride (I’m an underachiever). Hook in place, they reeled me in as I asked naively, “What do you need?”
They needed plenty and they’ve been getting it ever since.
The highlight from my volunteer blooper reel (aside from almost being locked in a walk-in freezer, Lucy Ricardo style) was the eleventh hour construction of not one, but two International Fair Booths at a school my children no longer attended! The kicker of that extravaganza was having a mother whose child DID attend the school but who DIDN’T volunteer, critiquing my booths while giving me pointers on how I could improve the presentation. Thanks for the tips, sister, but where’s YOUR booth?!
After years of working like a happy mule, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s probably much less dangerous to actually volunteer for something up front. My advice to aspiring slackers: offer to donate paper plates and then follow up with a typo in your phone number.
Recently, despite wearing dark glasses and running serpentine through parking lots, I was (tackled) approached by some acquaintances trying to launch a writing group to meet weekly and brainstorm ideas.
“I don’t have any ideas,” I pleaded when cornered. “Forget about writing, I couldn’t even come up with a title.”
“But we need more people,” they begged. “Please, won’t you join us?”
And then I heard myself saying it: “Only if you can’t get anyone else.”
Needless to say I’m currently involuntary chairman of that group, but at least the lousy catch-phrase finally ended up being useful for something.