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."


Buzz Kill said...

Wow! Its been my experience on volunteer work that there are never enough people organizing the volunteers or doing all of the preliminary prepartion to be ready for the day of the event. What you seemed to experience is the other extreme. They should have had a committeewoman tree for them to decorate (although it probably would have tripped a breaker). And charities wonder why volunteers are down.
I'm all for having handicapped people participate in charities but assigning Joan as tree inspector is a little much. Be thankful she wasn't driving a shuttle bus. Bwahahaha

fishy said...

Hey Buzz,
exactly so! Far too many retired ladies milling around with nothing to do. A few of them were smart enough to take a look around and make their exits. Most stayed the day falling over each other and aggravating the bejeebers out of me and the other tree people.

Joan is, at this point, a figurehead. In fact, they must assign other volunteers to go and fetch Joan if her hubby is busy golfing and they must assign someone to look after Joan as she busies about. Literally they use another volunteer as Joan's seeing eye helper. There actually is a " see after Joan" cadre of assignees. There is no doubt Joan has done a lot of good for this charity and, no doubt she is eager to keep her place of recognition. Sadly, I think there are many good souls who shy away from this event because it is just outside their tolerance level to deal with all the irritations. I get that, it probably took me 2 hours longer than it should have to get my tree done.

About that shuttle bus, yeah, I'm definitely thankful.

Pam said...

AAARRRRGHHH!!! I feel your pain. You have no idea how much I feel your pain. I can't wait until Kymmie reads this because her job for 3 years involved similar events on a regular basis. We have a man at church, a long-time member, who will do anything you ask him to do, as long as he doesn't have to work with a committee. I have pretty much adopted this rule too. The women's group keeps asking me to join in and I can think of nothing worse than a bunch of women trying to organize a volunteer event. In your case, throw in trying to supervise people who are professional decorators and make sure they are decorating to standard? I don't THINK so!!! God bless for your patience my child!

Jenny said...

and this is why I officially STOPPED all volunteer work over ten years ago and I'm happy to write checks. What a waste of valuable time. What a waste of your valuable talent. The problem with volunteers? You can't fire them!

Pam said - bless you for your patience.

Aunty Belle said...

uh...yeah, life is jes' too sort fer this kinda thang, Fishy.

But we'uns would love ya to post a photo of yore tree-wired as required, of course.

fishy said...

To tell you my sad truth I did resist agreeing to do a tree this year for the longest time possible. But two of my employees are appreciative of this organizations service to loved ones past. It means a lot to them for me ( not them) to do a tree.

I am sure it would be very entertaining to hear Kym's"committeewoman" commentary. So Kym, if you read this ....spill it girl!

On your point about church committees .... I find them the worst, the absolute worst , of all committee groups. In fact, last weekend I had a conversation with our pastor who invited me to share my " time and talents" for a proposed expansion to our buildings. I VERY politely declined and told our pastor, " I am sorry to disappoint but i am not a good committee person." He pressed onward with his recruit Fishy mission until i held my hand up and said, " I cannot do this. I learned the hard way working on church committees seriously impairs my ability to believe in the goodness of mankind. I certainly appreciate the good accomplished with many working toward a common goal. But! I DETEST that weird psychosis thing that happens when a group mentality gets rolling. I find it maybe one shade off of the mentality of a gang member who will trash his fellow man for wearing red on blue Wednesday or even worse, like demented, hormonal high school bitch cliques." Our pastor looked at me hard for an extended time then busted out laughing and finally got around to saying , "Amen".

I should follow your good example.
I SWEAR to you a few years back, I signed Mermaid and I up to make sandwiches for the homeless on Saturday mornings in December. In our area the soup kitchens are not open on weekends so volunteers are needed to make meat and cheese sandwiches for Saturdays and peanut butter and jelly for Sundays, because there is no refrigeration available for the Sunday sandwiches.

Once Mermaid and I arrived we were assigned to do PB&J because it was less complicated (with fewer components) than the meat and cheese sandwiches. Mermaid was assigned the duty of setting up the bags to receive the made sandwiches.
I will always remember the shock on Mermaid's face when some overbearing, officious witch came to loudly chastise me for not spreading the peanut butter correctly. In the car , on the way home from this " enriching and awareness" outing with my daughter, was the first time I ever heard Mermaid cuss.
I should have learned then.

fishy said...

Aunty Belle,
Maybe next year I will be smart enough to read this post when they call to say Fishy come do another tree.

fishy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kymical Reactions said...

Oh dear lord. Fishy. Just who the heck are these women? Are they well off bored housewives looking for a "cause"?

I've worked with my fair share of committee women, and trust me when I say, I feel your pain.

The most recent witch, er, committee woman, happened to be the event chair. And she made darn sure everyone was aware of that fact. She just isn't a nice person. Local real estate agent, who won't sell a home under a $400k price tag. She liked to show off her flash, too. Nothing modest about her. The humorous thing was that we all could tell that she was trying to fool us that she didn't care about fancy things. plu-hese. I didn't know one person could give so many back handed compliments.

She demanded all of these elaborate, marvelous ideas about what the event needed, but never did anything to make the ideas happen. No, she left the execution to the staff. Which actually meant me. And our intern. God bless that intern. If it weren’t for her, I might have slit my wrists during that event. This woman was so incredibly brutal, that one of the decision factors of me leaving and accepting my new job, was that I’d never, ever have to do that event again. It was that bad.

The icing on the cake was the night of the event, when she went on stage to make a small speech to the guests, took all the credit. Not one thank-you to the staff. Not one thank-you the paying guests who paid good money to buy a table. It was sick. I do believe the following week we got an email from her, and again in her back handed compliment way, she said something along the lines of what a fabulous event it was and how pleased she was it turned out so well. It still makes me mad to think about her. Ugh. I could just spit.

fishy said...

You have just described what I call the "hollow people". Those coreless beings who can only define themselves by their trappings because there is nothing else to them. For those empty ones there is no such thing as enough recognition, enough self promotion, enough trappings, enough PROPSs to help them maintain their illusions of self.

I hate hearing one of these wretches was a facillitator in your decision to exit a job, and job family ,you loved. On the other hand I hope the new gig is great for you personally and professionally.
The good news Kym, is you are
unlikely to be teetring on a ladder, getting judged by the blind, when you reach my age.

moi said...

I've done my share of volunteering AND organizing volunteers and agree that no one can be more dictatorial or have a greater sense of entitlement than a volunteer. Especially a Volunteer With A Title. Ugh. Then again, charitable work is necessary work, so sometimes, you just gotta grin and bear it and bust through the caca. And, yes, por favor, a photo of your tree!

LaDivaCucina said...

Egads, they sound like horrible women! Reminds me of the time I went to help for an event and La Diva was being directed how to TAPE a paper table cloth on with two other women. Yep, THREE WOMEN to tape a table cloth on. When the one started telling me HOW to do it, I just smiled at her and said, "you know what? It's all yours!" and off I trounced to the bar across the street, had a drink, and called my husband to come and pick me up!

Would love to see how your tree came out! Don't let the dictators get you down!

Also, I wanted to remind you of the culinary throwdown for Dec 9! Hope you can participate!

Click here for info

Have a great weekend!

h said...

Overheard at a Church-Charity event:

Curious Cathy: Why was the Troll put in charge of this? He's scary.

Reverend Smart: Because it's important and none of the busybody
know-it-alls will bother him or his team.

h said...

Note: The Scary Troll wasn't me. This guy made me look sociable.

Aunty Belle said...

Fishy!! COME BACK --mah link was not workin'--I fixed the PAris link--youse gonna love it!