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Answering the call of duty
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Of all the many things I’ve done in my life, I’ve never been much of a club joiner, or anything  that requires being among a group of people on a regular basis.

I have volunteered, on occasion, and it’s usually worked out OK. “In” just long enough to get a job done, and “out” before anyone notices I’m gone.

I had the opportunity to get The Kid involved in a volunteer situation the other day, as part of his “civic duty” and extra credit.

The job was at the food bank at the next town over. Which takes about a half hour to get to.

From what I gathered, we would be pulling items out of bins and off of shelves and making boxes that would be distributed to the local agencies that feed the hungry, homeless and seniors.

I felt like it was a good thing to do, and it would be a good experience for The Kid to do something charitable for someone else.

Upon arriving at the food bank, we were greeted by a lovely woman named Meg, who explained where we would be working.

She was a full-time volunteer at the organization. I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around to find Popeye the Sailor Man standing behind me, who told me what a great gal Meg was.

After Meg thanked him effusively, he walked out, sorta limping, and adjusting his sailor cap. She then commented that he was a regular volunteer, even though he himself is homeless. He’d been volunteering there for going on 12 years.

All right, Popeye! Way to go!

The door opened and in walked the teacher in charge of the day’s project, so we introduced ourselves and she commented that there were two more children coming to help out, along with their mothers.

They pulled up just as she was mentioning them.

We went outside to meet them and once all introductions were made, we went off across the street to the annex, where the warehouse supervisor greeted us.

Nice fella.

He had been laid off by UPS quite a few years prior, but had managed to find this particular job only within the last six months. He said he loved it. I was just happy that we’d managed to find someone with a sense of humor among the group.

He gave us a whirlwind tour of the warehouse, explained how all the donations and subsequent deliveries were done, and that our job that day was not to fill food boxes, as another group before us had already taken care of that.

He instead turned around and waved his arm across a sea of jumbo bright yellow trash cans. The big industrial-sized ones.

We were to label them with the pre-made bumper stickers — two stickers on each bin — and then affix the plastic sleeves that held the poster to each bin.

Easy enough, right?

I reckon there were close to 200 bins.

The warehouse supervisor said, “Uh, the only thing is ... you have to apply velcro to the backs of the plastic sleeves ... a bit in each corner ... and the velcro needs to be cut.”

No problem, we all said. We can do it.

He pulled out the big boxes of velcro strips and a few pairs of scissors. I got to work right a  way, and realized this was not for the faint of heart.

The scissors had big globs of glue on them, and were dull as butter knives. He pulled out this huge pair of old sewing shears and those wouldn’t even cut butter.

I asked to borrow his box cutter, and that was a disappointment. I couldn’t have even slit my wrists if I’d wanted to, which I did want to by the end of the two hours.

He was a good egg, though, he stood there scraping off as much glue as he could, and I kept pumping the heck out of those scissors to get the scraggliest of cuts. We managed to get all the posters done, especially once The Mother Who Tends To Be The Bossy Boots decided to quit bossing everyone else and start cutting herself.

Isn’t there one in every crowd?

The teacher barely spoke two words, except to say that she’d taught at a private school but had decided to try being a teacher for the homeschooling program. I could see why. She did not have the kind of personality it takes to deal with kids face-to-face. She didn’t crack a smile the whole time we were there.

It occurred to me that there was a reason why they were not having as much success with their “get togethers” as they’d hoped.

The kids seemed to be fine, joking and getting along, but the parents ... if those two parents who were at the food bank were the same two who showed up at every other function were what I would have to contend with, I’d rather just stay home and help The Kid on art projects and science labs.

The warehouse supervisor was such a great guy, just full of life and fun. The two Moms With Attitude — who were also long-time friends — were just too much for me.

The Big Momma Hen started off being fairly pleasant but as the two hours wore on, it was clear to me that she likes to be busy, and likes to brag about all of her accomplishments.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give her the “Oh aren’t you wonderful!” that she was looking for. I wanted to take that dull box cutter and slit my wrists ... but like I said before ... it wouldn’t even cut butter, never mind my delicate, lily-white wrists.

The next outing is going to be at a park in the same vicinity as the food bank. The kids are to bring board games and Legos.

These are 12- and 13-year-old kids we’re talking about.

I dare not do that to The Kid. He’d want his own box cutter.