Angels Disguised as School Volunteers



Today was picture day at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School.  My youngest goes to school there and I agreed to help out in the multi-purpose room.  I received an e-mail last week asking for help.  I'll make it perfectly clear right here right now that I absolutely despise volunteering at school.  I do it for one reason and one reason only.  I do it for my kids.

  It means the most to the youngest one.  If everyone else's "mudder" is there, Quincy wants his "mudder" there.  I do not want any child of mine to wind up paying some clown $200 an hour to lay on a couch and tell the good Doc how my not volunteering at his school 20 years ago has caused his downward spiral.

  So when the request came from the PTA Volunteer Coordinator last week I figured I'd sign up and get a leg up on the school year.  The PTA President responded back to meet in main office at 8:00 sharp this Friday, to e-mail if I wasn't going to come (she didn't want to be left high and dry), and to plan on being there until 11:00 a.m.   Oh, yeah, there was a P.S.: she looked forward to meeting me.  Sure, she did.


Quincy got out of the car in the drop off lane at 7:45.  It gave me just enough time to run to 7-11 and get a SuperBig Gulp.  Three hours in a gym with third, fourth and fifth graders required a diet coke and the 44 ounce cup fit the bill!  Folks at Lincoln Elementary should be thankful I didn't bring along some rum as a mixer.

  Thanks to traffic and wet pavement-never a good combination, I arrived back at the circle drive in front of the flag at 8:04.  Into the main office I flew, but had to wait behind "Chatty Cathy" and her daughter Precious' paraprofessional from the previous year.  Chatty had four children, three in school and one just beginning pre-pre school this fall.  Seems Forgetful Frank left his folder at home and Mom was bringing it to him she didn't want to just leave it, she'd rather hand it to Forgetful herself, thanks.

  She gave the para the lowdown on all of them.  She even leaned herself up against the counter right in front of the sign-in book.  Chatty kept shooting daggers at me--seemed like she was wondering what the heck I was doing eavesdropping on her conversation.  Just as I was wondering if Forgetful Frank somehow forgot how to find the office, the door opened and in came Chatty's oldest son.

  HUG TIME.  There were hugs for mom, hugs for soon to be pre-preschool brother, hugs for Precious' paraprofessional from last year.  Sadly, there were no hugs for me.  Hugs were happening right in front of volunteer book.  Finally, Forgetful headed back to class, but not before kissing mom and pre-preschooler goodbye.  Chatty and her stroller exited right over my sandal-clad foot, through the main door.

   I limped up to the volunteer book, signed my name and was headed to the multi-purpose room when I heard the shriek....STOP!!  Seems new volunteer laws were passed over the summer.  Upon arrival, volunteers must surrender driver's license to be scanned.  If there are no current warrants issued in your name (yep, for some reason they do not want anyone wanted in the tri-state area to roam their halls freely anymore) a volunteer lanyard is issued.

  I crossed my fingers as she scanned the license...I'd give anything for a night away from home even if it did involve bail.  No such luck, she returned my license along with the bright red VOLUNTEER lanyard.  At 8:13, I was headed to multi-purpose room.
When I walked in the room, I noticed there were three photographer stations set up but thankfully no smiling faces needing pictures had arrived yet.  There was a group of about fifteen women huddled in deep conversation.  Let's be perfectly honest, no one who volunteers at the school is interested in actually helping--they just want the latest scoop on the other mothers and their bratty kids.

  I was looking for the PTA president and made my way over to the huddled hens.  Last years' president was overthrown in a heated meeting the previous May, to the dismay of none.  I looked for a friendly face to ask where I could find Madame President.  I was directed to the middle of the huddle where a woman wearing an Abe Lincoln Elementary Rocks t-shirt, elastic waisted "mom jeans", and a pair of bright blue comfy crocks.  Do PTA presidents get a group rate on crocks?  My older son attended What Would Jesus Do Catholic Day School and their president was also a fan of the crocks.

  Whatever, I introduced myself and gave her my most confident smile.  I remembered the e-mail in which she suggested she was looking forward to meeting me.  She didn't seem like it now.  The only thing she was looking forward to was getting back to the huddled conversation.  She asked me my name again, handed me a schedule and then suggested I hand out combs and make sure kids w/glasses were at the back of the line...something about a special lens to protect from glare would be used and the photographer only wanted to change it once per class.

  I was responsible for Camera 2.  There was a group of about seven ladies who were pleading their case to be the mom in charge of going to the classrooms to get children at the time they were due for pictures.  It was all documented on the piece of paper she handed me.  Each teacher was assigned a time and a camera.  The teachers at this particular school seem pretty sharp.  I'm sure they didn't need some mother knocking on their door to announce picture time when it was already clearly written on this chart.

  Seriously, if your name is written next to 10:10 and below camera 2, how difficult is it to figure out that your class should be lined up behind Camera 2 at 10:10.  Seems simple, right?  Like most volunteer jobs, it seemed pointless and it seemed like a job one person could handle.  One did, while the other Queens held court back near the east wall.  Madame President had the floor.  Gums were flappin' and hands were waving as the overthrow of last May was recounted.  Once discussion of overthrow was exhausted, there was an entire summer's worth of other gossip to catch up on. 

To the left of the Camera 2 line was the Camera 1 line.  One of the "eager seven" (apparently she drew the short straw) was in charge of that line.  She was the type of volunteer who signed up for each and every opportunity.  My guess is she wasn't doing this because her kid wanted her there.  Nope, this lady fit the "I missed my calling as a teacher" volunteer type.  She had her hair in a pony-tail with 80's bangs, she wore brown cargo pants and a red t-shirt along with smart tennis shoes.

  I'm sure you know the type, her personality is exhausting. She brought her peppiest voice along with her sheer "love for the children" attitude.  When each class would arrive, she would give them a toothy grin.  Then she'd tell them how to line up and give them the lowdown on what was about to transpire.  As she combed each child's hair she had them practice their happiest smile, wished them luck as they stepped up to the photographer, and escorted them to back of the line offering congratulations when they were finished.

  In between classes' arrival, she got on a first name basis with the photog in charge of Camera 1.    All I could do was roll my eyes.  Camera 2's line seemed to move along quite nicely and all managed a fine picture without a pep talk.  I was completely entertained watching the kids in the line parade up to the photographer.  Most enjoyable was the amount of children giving a special shout out to Michael Jackson via sequins.  One girl, in particular, was stunning.  She had a pink and black tiger print leggings and top number with a silver sequin tie.  Pink high-top converse gym shoes completely covered in silver and pink sequins.  The outfit was topped off with a hot pink fedora.  When the camera flashed and hit the outfit I seriously thought I might be blind.

  Another girl was giving her tribute to Poison.  She had their '91 Blood and Sweat Tour T-shirt on along with a pair of basketball shorts.  I felt bad for the kid thinking the out-of-date clothes might be all her family could afford, until I saw the $200 pair of Air Jordan's on her feet.

  Also popular for the 09-10 School Year was striped polo's for the boys and scarves for the girls.  Most shocking was the amount of children with skulls on their t-shirts.  I wouldn't find a skull t-shirt dripping with blood appropriate for a normal school day, let alone for a picture to document the day for a life time.  I found myself completely mortified by what some parents let their kids wear for a year book picture. 

 Camera 3's line was being handled by another mother.  Peg Professional had agreed to help out at the last minute.  Seemed one of the other fifteen volunteers had called in this morning with a migraine and she agreed to step in.  This gal looked pissed.  Peg kept glaring at the queens holding court on the east wall...kept mentioning she had a million other things she could have been doing...kept nervously drinking from her bottled water.

  She also continually checked her cell phone and blackberry secured on her belt loop--she later explained she had taken vacation from her Vice President Position at the Bank...she always took first week of school as vacation in order to get the kids off to a good start.  This lady seemed like she was completely out of her comfort zone.

  I kept passing out the combs and counting the minutes until the next class showed up to Camera 2.  Time seemed to fly by and before long all children and staff had been photographed.  The only three volunteers left standing were the gals in charge of Camera Line One, Two, and Three.  I said good bye to the teacher-want-to-be and the Vacationing Vice President.  I looked for Madame President, but she had left thirty minutes prior according to the sign-out log.
  I turned in my lanyard and headed for the parking lot.  Another volunteer opportunity finished and Quincy seemed happy to see me.   I can't say the day was completely terrible, but there were a million other things I'd rather be doing.  Volunteering is a sacrifice; I do it for my kids.

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