Volunteering sucks. I know this because I was in the honors program for all of a year until I deemed it a pointless waste of time, and one of the program’s requirements was volunteering—because there is no better way to help a community than by forcing the nerdy kids to feed undercooked gruel to the overcoked homeless. Okay, cool, I need to find somewhere to donate my time. Things that apparently don’t count: giving people constructive outfit criticism as they go by and gracing the world with my beauty.
I’d been getting spammed all semester about volunteer opportunities, so I assumed it would be easy to find somewhere. Not so. I called animal shelters, libraries, museums, and state parks. Nothing. I finally got someone at a Latino festival to agree to let me volunteer in the children’s area for two hours. Perfect! Except when I got there they no longer needed me, even after I demonstrated the fluency that nine years of Spanish had given me with a perfectly-pronounced “Oye puta, dime una otra Corona!” I don’t know what it means but my old neighbor used to yell it at his girlfriend all the time so I assume it’s some sort of endearment.
So I called everywhere again, tried the local volunteer center to no avail, and ultimately called some guy whose number I got off of a church website. Apparently he helped coordinate volunteers to give out food at a soup kitchen. After an awkward conversation with his wife in which we determined that no, I had not found Jesus but if I saw him I’d tell him she said hi, I finally got hold of him (her husband, not Jesus), so he called the guy who was the actual volunteer coordinator, at which point the entire thing took a sketchy turn towards, “Well actually no, sir, I’m really not comfortable meeting you at a warehouse after dark to distribute boxes, but thanks ever so much for the offer.”
I ended up at the soup kitchen. I thought that would be fine, since the people I pleaded with on the phone seemed nice enough. I was wrong. My supervisor was a tiny old man named Sid who mostly wandered around the kitchen talking to himself, but I was told that the main volunteer base was people who had been sentenced to community service because the jail was too crowded. Awesome.
I got paired with a giant scary guy with face tattoos named Mike, and we spent two hours arranging cupcakes on plates. When we served everyone dinner he somehow managed to bend two of the metal ladles beyond recognition, and then made a toddler cry by smiling. Once he got bored of proving his ability to inspire fear, we talked about our dogs and used a spoon to carve a stale roll into a butt. Before we could try to serve it to anyone Sid stopped loading paper plates into the dishwasher to microwave a can of tuna for one of the stray cats and the resultant bang had me scurrying out of the kitchen to sweep and clean tables in the relative safety of the dining hall.
Dancing around with the broom was easily the most fun part of the day, except for the guy in the corner who kept gesturing to his crotch and telling me I had missed a spot. He wasn’t being creepy, he had peed on the floor. At that point, I decided to leave.