Somehow, through a series of events that’s a little hard to explain, I ended up running the administrative part of one of our local ski programs. Well, co- running it. On the one hand, certainly I am better off running it than I am at teaching kids to ski–I don’t mind coaching them at Nordic skiing, but I refuse to ride a ski lift with any child I’m not related to–but primarily, I’m deeply aware of what a huge mistake this was. I don’t care enough to do it really really well, or even at all, until it sneaks up in me and I realize that if I do not do it now now now, a couple hundred kids and coaches will be standing around on the mountain in even worse disarray than they will be if I at least try.
The program should have started today, but the roads were so bad that we cancelled, thus giving two hundred parents who think their kid should be in a different group more time to email or call and complain. It isn’t all my problem–the whole thing works like a phone tree, and there are people in charge at each level. It’s not THAT big a deal. Lots of other people do lots of work too. But it’s made me muse about the whole volunteer thing. This isn’t a case of make-work school volunteering. Without the volunteers, there would be no local ski school. But many, maybe even most, people would rather just pay a professional ski school, so that when they had an issue they could complain, and not get me on the other end of the email, snarkily reminding them that we are an all-volunteer organization, and since they are clearly frustrated and have some ideas on how things could be better run, gee we could sure use their help!
I do not think that is what people want to hear.
There are some parts of community life that just don’t happen without volunteers. I take advantage of them all the time, and I promise never to bitch about one again. So in some sense, I’m glad to pay some dues. That said, I do NOT LIKE volunteering. I get a small amount of pleasure when this goes smoothly (not happening right now) and a whole lot of stress when it isn’t, and I am constantly bothered by the amount of working time it inevitably takes. My kids are too young for me to be able to hit a spreadsheet, pile papers all over the floor or cope with several hours worth of email and phone calls when they’re around. This morning, as we decided to cancel and I needed to start the phone calls and was also wrestling all the people who called to see if it was cancelled, the instructor’s dad who thought it SHOULD be cancelled and the ones who had just noticed they didn’t have their kids’ group assignments, all on a snow day, the house achieved a level of chaos I really thought we’d grown out of. I’ve taught them that I won’t talk to them when I’m on the phone but after twenty plus minutes, they’re doing everything short of bleeding to get my attention. It was awful.
I do believe there are people out there who actually enjoy this. I would just like to note, post-rant, that I am not one of them.