Monday, November 30, 2009

Committee Me Not

In my world "committee" is a negative word.

I am not much of a joiner, not much of a committeewoman type. Nor do I wish to be.
Today, I had enough exposure to the classic committee woman to last me quite a while.
Here in our region there is an annual "Festival of Trees" fundraiser for Hospice. The
Hospice folks get sponsors to pay for lighted artificial trees, wreaths, mantle swags etc, then get others like designers , event planners, florists to decorate them as a themed object . All of these decorated objects get auctioned off at a "gala", pay to play, event. Okay, it is the biggest fundraiser of the year for this group and every opportunity to net funds is the goal. I get that. Obviously I participate by doing a tree, donating the time to do the tree as well as donating all the adornments which will grace the tree. I am good with that too. What I am not "good with" is THE committeewoman. UGH.

So today was come decorate your tree day. You have to go to the social, hall where the gala takes place and do your tree there. Since all the trees must be delivered to the winning bidders there are rules to ensure the buyers will receive their purchase in reasonably good condition.
One of the "rules" to facilitate this goal is all objects must be wired to the trees. This is actually a good idea but it vastly increases the time commitment and it makes for very sore fingers.

So in addition to the committee women who check you in, escort you to your tree, advise which electrical outlets you can or cannot use, there is a room full of women clustered in their groups of those in charge of table settings, those in charge of the auction, those in charge of food and beverage, those in charge of the funds, those in charge of reserve bids, and so forth, there is also some who are in charge of the tree trimmers. Oh bother.

So once I got escorted to my assigned tree by a tree trimmers committeewoman I was sternly reminded about the wiring rule.
" No problem, I have wire and wire cutters and I agree with this precaution", I say with a smile. The response was,
" See that you do, this is for charity you know".

That comment did not exactly ruffle my scales but it also didn't sit too well with me. But what the scribble, I was just there to do my bit. I started unpacking boxes, plug in my tree then
zap lights. I turn to find yet another committeewoman standing in a confrontational posture with the plug in her hand. Waving near my nose in fact.

" Did you plug in this tree ", she demanded
" Yes. I am Fishy the designer. I am about to start transforming this tree so having the lights on will help me with placements."
" Well I am on the circuits committee and we need to make sure there is not too much demand"
I am thinking, well fiddle woman, if this one tree is too much demand how the heck are you going to light them all for the gala? Instead of speaking my mind, I smile pleasantly and say,
" I think we are just fine, no circuits blew out when I plugged the tree in, no smoke, no fire, I think we are good".
" I have to do the plug-ins you know, this is for charity". Then with great ceremony she plugs in the tree exactly where and how it had been done a minute before. It was already clear I needed to focus on my tree business and not on what I was thinking she could do with her plug.

I barely get the first box of goodies wired onto the tree when along came a woman just bubbling over with self importance. She introduces herself as the committeewoman of all committeewomen and graciously asks if there is anything I could think of that would improve the experience. I tell her all is lovely and I am glad to be there doing my part, etc. Then I blow it because I mention I missed the music.
" What music?" the Cof C inquired.
" Last year there was Christmas music playing while we did the trees. I thought it helped get everyone in the mood for the activity and generally livened things up."
" Did you bring your Christmas Cd's and your portable Bose?"
" No"
" Well then you are not very prepared are you? I'll see what I can do but really you should just carry on with your tree".

Really? I was ready to carry me out the door.
Shortly thereafter wonderful music abounded and the CofC returned to my station to ask,
" Is this music satisfactory?"
" Yes, it is brilliant. Thanks very much".
" Well you tree trimmers are a demanding lot but after all, we must make the effort because this is for charity you know".

During the course of the day numerous little pods of committeewomen hovered about, mostly saying dreadful things about the other committeewomen or elaborating at length on every minute contribution they had/were making because of course, one suffers for " charity".

I tried hard to keep focused on my tree trimming and let all the other stuff roll on by. I did okay until the food and beverage committeewoman came visiting. She wanted to know if I and any other personnel from our business would be attending the thank you party for sponsors. I told her I had RSVP'd via e-mail the previous week and we were looking forward to the evening.
"Well, I did not ask you about when you RSVP'd, I am asking you now if you plan to be here?"
" Yes"
" How certain are you?"
" Reasonably"
" You understand we do not want to be providing refreshments for people who change their minds. This is for charity you know."
Maybe I should rethink that RSVP.

I went back to my tree only to be interrupted by yet another committeewoman. This one came to move the table all my trimmings, wires, wire cutters, glue guns, etc were occupying.

" We have to move this table," this committeewoman stated.
" I beg your pardon?"
" The table. We must move it now."
" Whatever for?", I asked.
" We are checking spacing for circulation once people are seated at the tables."

The gala is not until Saturday, today is Monday. They have us do the trees early for the public to preview the trees in print media, local broadcasts, the website and the online bidding sites.
None of which required the movement of tables on Monday.

"7 feet"
" What?"
"7 feet is the minimum space you will need between the tables. I will be glad to move this one, and chairs , into position once I am through with this tree. For the moment, I would be very grateful if you would continue to allow me to use this table."
Committeewoman went away to talk to another committeewoman to see if it would be okay for me to continue to use the table. I began to evaluate the potential of using a glue gun as a weapon.
Clearly I was getting cranky from spending so many hours surrounded by committeewomen.

While I was teetering on a ladder placing the tree topper here came yet another committeewoman leading one more. They came to check my tree. To make sure all trims were wired into place and that the theme on the tree matched the theme publicized. I came down the ladder and said,
" Hi Joan, it's nice to see you again".
" Who is that?" Joan said.
She was standing just inches away.
" It's Fishy."
" Fishy! I heard your name was on the list and hoped I would be here when you were doing your trimming."
" Are you well settled into your new townhouse? Did we do a good job for meeting your needs?"
"Oh yes indeed Fishy, it's just been wonderful and much easier than I had feared."
" I'm glad".
" Well onto business now Fishy we came to check your tree", said Joan.
" How exactly are you going to do that Joan?"

I asked because Joan is blind. As in legally blind from macular degeneration. As in blind to the point we designed her townhouse to help her navigate, to help her be able to function in her home when she was there alone. As in she sure as hell could not check this tree.

" Well", said Joan, " This year I am the Super Committeewoman and I must see that all the other committeewomen are meeting their obligations. It is hard on me for sure, but of course I must do this. it's for charity you know."