Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Friends of the Cherry Hill Library

Oops! I did it again. I volunteered. I broke that most sacred of vows, to never ever volunteer to do anything for anyone. And as usual, I got my bitch slap. Happens every time.

It's hot as Hell here, and muggy as a sauna, so when Mr. J  suggested I help him set up for the semi-annual Friends of the Cherry Hill Library book sale, I said yes. Mr. J has been lugging boxes of books for these Friends for about twelve years. He is a collector, and he does quickly peruse the boxes as he stacks them on the carts ... but he's there to work.

So was I. On a hot day it's good to have a workout with meaning.

We got to the library at about 10:00. I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that there were 40 pallets, each with ten to twelve boxes full of books. Think of a banquet hall filled end-to-end with books, VHS (why?), CDs, and DVDs. The task was to move all of these books out of the storage area into the selling area, which was two long hallways away.

When Mr. J and I arrived, there were five people loading boxes onto carts: a woman about my age who was having back trouble, another lady I recognized from many book sales, an elderly man, and a guy of about 60-65. We all set to work.

I'm very spry for my age, but I know my limits. I lifted whatever I could safely lift. Whenever I had a chance, I opted for the paperbacks. I was moving fast, but I was on the lookout for young adult books that my inner city readers would like. Of which there were nearly naught  -- Cherry Hill is a snowy white suburb of keen snobbery.

About midway through the morning, a woman came up to me and said, "I don't know you." Well, that was true. This is the first time I ever helped Mr. J at a sale. So I said, "I'm Mrs. J," and nodded toward Mr. J, who was laboring like Hercules.

Readers, my hands are numb and my arms are tired. I worked my butt off in there. When I'm tasked with something, I do it to the best of my ability. I took one bathroom break. I found one precious Paul Volponi title. (Ever tried getting a 16-year-old boy who hates to read to actually do it? The author Paul Volponi is one of my go-to guys for this difficult demographic.)

Time passes quickly when you're moving stuff around. It was just before noon when the same lady who said "I don't know you" came back to where we were still stacking books. In 90 minutes we had reduced the number of pallets from 40 to 6. There was little left to do.

Nevertheless, the lady said to us, "You need to stop looking through the boxes and hurry up. I have corporate volunteers out there who are leaving at 12:30."

Mr. J, who never suffers a fool easily, pointed out the obvious. "We're volunteers," he said.

To which she replied: "I know you're volunteers. Hurry up. Stop looking at the books."

Giving Mr. J the props here. He said, "What the fuck?" He put down the box of books in his hands and walked out the door.

I tarried. You see, the Paul Volponi book I found (a library discard) was about inner city boys in a basketball tournament. I had never seen this book before. Darling Amazon does not list it as a "people who like this also liked" under Paul Volponi. And as for looking through the boxes, they've already been sorted. It's easy to find the young adult lit. And of course I fully intended to pay for the book. THE book. The ONLY book I had set aside.

Luckily, the other lady helping load the carts was a good ol' regular. She said I could give her the money for the book, and she would pay for it. So I handed her the ducats and hoofed it with Mr. J, the precious Paul Volponi library discard in my trembling hands.

When I think of being poorly treated as a volunteer, I have to go way back to my days as a United Methodist Church Lady before I find the kind of rudeness I got in spades today.

Free advice to people who are coordinating volunteers: Treat them kindly. After a thorough upper body workout lasting 90 minutes, I just didn't want to hear, "Hurry up." As for the "I don't know you," I've thought of about 25 witty responses that I should have used on her -- and would have, if only I had known she wasn't through cracking the whip.

With friends like Friends of the Cherry Hill Library, who needs enemies? Sermon over, sweet Pagans.


Lucretia said...

What a haggis! Volunteers should NEVER be treated like trash, because they're sheer GOLD, especially the repeats like Mr. J. I'm glad you two walked out on her and her "corporate volunteers", whatever THOSE are. A great line (which as you say, you NEVER think of until it's too late!) would have been, "Yes, well, I don't know YOU, either."

And three cheers and a tiger for Mr. J!!!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

A wise and judicious use of the F-bomb, I must say, Mr J.


Cliff said...

I think that nameless woman was an apparition of the Goddess, giving you a not-so-gentle reminder of your conviction: Do Not Volunteer.

I work for a county library system in PA. We move 1.2 million books and CDs per year... and I myself move 25% of them! So I know a thing or two about moving books. Let me speak for the gods and tell you, 'thank you, Anne, and Mr. J, for your support.!' Despite that terrible treatment you received, (not to mention the stories I could tell!) I'm still a great believer in libraries.

Anne Johnson said...

Cliff! I checked your profile ... if you are interested in a Lughnansadh ritual to be held in your general vicinity, leave me another comment with an email.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that you are talking about Cherry Hill New Jersey correct?

If so I left the state and that area 17 years ago and never looked back.

Mary said...

Awesome!! Go forth and do good--but take no crap. :)