At the suggestion of a friend who thinks that I could benefit from filling my days with something more than Pilates, shopping, and lunch, yesterday I dipped my dainty, well-shod toe into the deep end of craigslist: the section entitled “volunteers”. I waited the requisite two hours after lunch, of course, to avoid abdominal cramping. But still, that doesn’t mean I didn’t suffer a fair bit of well-deserved nausea.
Now, I know that the idea of me volunteering makes you laugh until you get a “stitch” in your side (the kind that attacked Alice whenever she tried to keep up with the Bradys), but trust me: I’m laughing harder than you are and may require stitches from busting my sides wide open what with all the hilarity. Because, really, I don’t do anything if I’m not promised something in return. You can keep your “payment” of a warmed heart or cockles. Please. And spiritual growth is no substitute for the growth of my bank account. So unless you’re paying me in real live do-re-mi, I’m just not going to fa-so-la-ti-do.
However, every once in a while, in a moment of rare magnanimity, I decide I’d like to give a little something back. Sometimes I think I’ll help out at a homeless shelter. Other times, I think I’d make a really snappy Big Sister. And still others, I think I’d like to deliver food to shut-ins. One constant, however, is my attempt to convince myself I’d like to help out around Thanksgiving. Not with my own family, but with the discarded families of other people. I think, “This year, I’m going to find one of those churches or community centers or warehouses or gorgeous old converted barns with stained glass windows and random-width plank floors in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where they serve turkey to the homeless, and I’m going to ladle stuff onto unbreakable dishes, while serving up a heaping portion of smiles and good will.” This idea usually springs forth around May or June, when Thanksgiving and ladles are still a safe distance away, in Fantasyland, U.S.A., population: ME, IN A PRETTY LINEN APRON WITH A BORDER OF EMBROIDERED CHERRIES.
By the time November rolls around, of course, I have completely changed my tune. All of a sudden I remember I am opposed to both the turkey and the downtrodden. I realize that I would ruin my manicure while helping to clean up after the serving portion of the day. And realize that I wouldn’t even help clean up and would instead do what I do when at my mom’s or anyone else’s house: find a cluster of bloated deadbeats crowded around a TV with poor horizontal hold and watch reruns of Walker, Texas Ranger.
Still, despite my aversion to altruism, I paused when reading this plea for help:

Yes, it would be a good idea if you clicked on
and read this before continuing.

For the briefest of seconds — about as long as it took you to read those five words (unless, of course, you’re a very slow reader … and then I have to praise you for getting this far … or just hate you for wasting your time reading this when you should be listening to it on audiotape [send a SASE for details!]) — I considered responding to this one. Then I remembered that I have my own Leaning Tower of Pisa of detritus that needs attention and sorting through and burning. And even though remuneration was offered in the form of a “healthy lunch” — a deal you’d think I could sink my teeth into given my love of the lunch (well documented on this site, and directly addressed here) — I still wasn’t biting. There really is no such thing as a free lunch. No, this would come at a price.
The price would be my sanity, as this person filled me in on the details of her (yes, I assume it’s a woman) “survival”. And then, given her short attention span — the result, as she says, of the attempt on her life, because naturally one follows the other — she’d forget what she already told me, and I, ever so eager for my little sandwich (on non-wheat bread … I’ve been wheat-intolerant ever since an attempt was made on my life), would have no choice but to listen and relisten to her recount the trauma. Ad nauseam.
And then I’d have yet another no choice but to succeed in my attempt on her life. But not before she provided the healthy lunch.
So, in the end, I decided it was better to just not contact her at all, and went to Pilates instead. As punishment for my selfishness, though, I ate an unremarkable lunch at home and did not set even one one-shod foot inside a store.
Yet I survived! I’m a survivor!