Friday, November 20, 2009

Back to school

People are always giving up their time, energy and money to help others, especially in the holiday season. Me, I've only given my time to Sopranos re-runs and football games during this time of year. So I figured: I have some time. Why not help out somewhere?

So I did. I volunteered in the Harvest Drive at Western High School in Davie, Florida today. Yes, I'm just a great person. Father Theresa, you can call me. No. Mr. Father Theresa.

This drive helps out over a thousand families in the community, giving out canned food, clothing, toys, books, you name it. Trust me, there were lots and lots and lots of things donated to this drive. And there was certainly enough room. This high school is gigantic. It has its own campus. It looked like a college. Multiple buildings. Very wide hallways. Student parking.

When one of the leaders told me the big gym they were using for all the food was a mini-gym, I rolled my eyes. My travels have taken me to quite a few high schools since I graduated from Cranston East, and every single one has been bigger. Much, much bigger. They have fields, big parking lots, stairways that aren't as narrow as those one would find in medieval dungeons. It ticks me off a bit. East consisted of one-and-a-half buildings, separated by City Hall, accompanied by very limited student parking and coffin-sized stairwells.

Anyway, the place was gigantic. I showed up at around 3 p.m. and got to work immediately, moving tables into the auditorium and boxes into the so-called mini-gym. I spotted two high school kids struggling mightily with a hefty box of shampoo so I took it and carried it myself about a hundred yards. They were amazed at my strength.

They also asked me what class I was in, like senior or junior. I told them it's been a long time since I was in high school. Back then, we had dial-up modems and cell phones were exclusive items. They weren't the only people to ask me what high school I attended. I guess I look younger in a hat.

While sorting out the toys and books, I came upon a few things that sent me straight to nostalgia land. One, the etch-a-sketch. What a marvelous invention. The second, a book on the TV show Dinosaurs. Remember that one? Didn't last too long. I was telling a young whipper-snapper about how that show was a take-off on The Simpsons. The kid had never heard of Dinosaurs.

Yeah, I'm getting old and out of touch.

Also, the ring lady of the toy/clothes/books department helped me sort the books by age. Baby books in one box. An outdated book on the perfect Gosselin family in the adult box and so forth. But there were some books I thought were for fourth graders that she said were for first or second. Was I just a dumb child? I don't remember what I read until sixth grade, when I got hooked on Goosebumps and Michael Crichton/John Grisham novels.

I sorted and utilized my muscles for most of my six hours there. At the end, I broke up cardboard boxes outside the gym and bunch of smaller boys started stomping on the boxes. They were just goofing around. Accidentally, I spilt one of the kids soda because he put it on the ground next to my feet. When he saw the spill, he screeched, "You spilled my soda!" He seemed a bit perturbed. Then he looked up at me. Way up. And, I'm being serious, he gulped and said, "It's OK. No problem."

Oh yeah! It may be ten years too late, but I'm a frightening, intimidating figure! I'm a bully!

Yes, it feels awesome. Sensing other people's fear is intoxicating. I have to start picking on little kids from now on.

I left at 9 p.m., taking a piece of candy from one of the nice leaders of the drive. I ate the dark chocolate bar with the satisfaction of a day spent doing something worthwhile ... and the realization that it's been almost ten years since I was in high school and a lot has happened since then. Like this.

All in all, a good day. Now, I just have to wait for these people to pay me.

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